The Handbook
The Handbook

Last week, Netflix released the long awaited Jeffrey Epstein documentary, Jeffery Epstein: Filthy Rich, a four-part series directed by Lisa Bryan, which delves into the shocking case of the billionaire’s international sex-trafficking ring.

While the series doesn’t necessarily offer any new information, the way it outlines the case, documents the true horrors of what went on and interviews Epstein’s brave victims, it makes for four-hour’s worth of uncomfortable, shocking and at many times, deeply sad viewing.

Epstein was, and in some ways still is, an enigma. It’s reported his wealth came to somewhere in the realm of $600million, he was friends with the world’s most influential and powerful people – everyone from Hollywood A-listers like Kevin Spacey to President Clinton and his well-documented friendship with Prince Andrew.

He was good looking, supposedly charismatic and lived a life of luxury property in all corners of the world, high society parties and private islands. But other than being a financier to the filthy rich, why was he so powerful? That proximity to the world’s most protected and formidable people (when you’re not one of them) is unheard of.

Amidst all this, it’s slowly been revealed over decades of injustice and a tangled web of cases and sweetheart deals, that Epstein’s personal wealth and personal investment in these people was in fact thanks to something more harrowing.

In 2019 he was arrested and charged with sex trafficking and conspiracy to engage in sex trafficking. He was denied bail ahead of his trial and just a month into his sentence that given his age would see him serve out the majority, if not the rest of his life behind bars, Epstein was found dead in his cell. Supposedly suicide, the story didn’t add up and the victims, the public and the media questioned whether he was able to do this to himself or, more shockingly, get someone to do it to him to avoid a life without freedom. Even in death, how could someone still hold so much power?

The first episode goes back to his first victims who came forward over 20 years ago. Maria, an artist, was lured into Epstein’s world with the promise of opportunity, education and experience – he had offered to give her a leg up in her painting career thanks to the high society, New York set he associated with. He also managed to lure in her younger sister Annie, who was just 16 at the time, with the guarantee that he would send her on a once-in-a-lifetime educational trip to Thailand and invited her to his ranch in New Mexico beforehand, where he said he was gathering a number of students before they embarked on the trip. When Annie arrived it was very apparent that it was just her, Epstein and his on/off girlfriend Ghislaine Maxwell.

Both sisters, in these separate situations were abused by Epstein. In 1996, the sisters went to the NY police who did nothing and sent them to the FBI. They did nothing and the sisters lived with the shame and trauma of their experiences for decades.

By 2008, many more girls had come forward, most of which had been victims at his Florida home. Most were local girls and from a world the polar opposite to his. Poor, from vulnerable situations, troubled family lives and the lure of Epstein’s luxury, beachside home, chauffeur driven cars, private jets and ultimately comfort and supposed safety was appealing. They were also young, some as young as 14, and incredibly vulnerable and impressionable. Yet, when the case went to court, they were vilified as “prostitutes” and “sex workers”. They were in fact children or very young adults, and the Netflix series is the first time these women, these survivors, have been given a platform to have their voices heard for what really went on. The abuse ranged from forced massages to rape. Some were flown out to Epstein’s private island in the Virgin Islands, known as “paedo island” or “Little Jeffrey” as Epstein labelled it himself. Here abuse continued for weeks, months, years for some, with a revolving door of high profile visitors that ranged from Prince Andrew to Bill Clinton – all of which have fervently denied taking part in any sexual acts with the girls.

Seeing the women bravely recount what went on for so many years is truly heartbreaking.

In a cruel twist only capable of someone like Epstein, the trail resulted in a deal made between his lawyers and the US Attorney for Southern Florida, Alexander Acosta – who later went on to be Donald Trump, a friend of Epstein’s, Labor Secretary.

Coined the “sweetheart deal,” shockingly Epstein was given only 18 months in prison, 13 of which he served out and was given 12 hours a day “work release,” six days a week, allowing him to go to his own office outside of the prison. It’s sickening to watch, knowing that someone could avoid being given the retribution they deserve, but heartbreaking to think what it must have been like for these women who were part of it all.

Sarah Ronsome in FILTHY RICH. Cr. NETFLIX © 2020 Netflix

One of the most harrowing threads running through the series is Ghislaine Maxwell, Epstein’s on-off girlfriend, madam, long-time associate and alleged kingpin of the whole operation.

The Oxbridge educated, supposedly charismatic and vivacious society girl is mentioned countless times by Epstein’s victims, both as a recruiter of the girls and as an abuser, herself engaging in many of the lurid, forced sex acts. She was present at many of the first meetings with these women, which regularly followed the same script – luring the girls into Epstein’s massage room, one of which it seemed he had in every property around the globe, before asking them to strip. The abuse sometimes stopped there but often went on to be something far worse and deeply scaring, and by the sounds of it, Maxwell was the madam of it all, always there in some way, whether being told through the sad stories of these women or luring, smiling in the background of dozens of photos the documentary shows of Epstein, her, some of their power friends and of course the girls.

And it’s that bare faced brashness and documentation of these meetings with young girls and then subsequent denial of them that is so shocking. The evidence is there, even in photograph ic format, of Epstein, Maxwell, Clinton, Prince Andrew and many more with these victims, yet they all assertively deny anything happening at all. No one other than Epstein has been brought to trial to date.

The final episode is without a doubt the most powerful and takes a closer look at the 2019 case that finally saw Epstein served some kind of justice. Footage of the women together, speaking to the world’s media and finally having their voices heard is very moving and necessary for these women to move forward with their lives.

As news broke on 10th August 2019 that Epstein had been found dead in his cell you can feel what a heavy weight it must have put back on these women. It was classed as suicide but a private investigation taken out by Epstein’s own brother reveals that suicide would have been near impossible from the evidence found, begging the question, did he have help?

From the women finally being heard to knowing that even in death Epstein’s wealth and power gave him the opportunity for freedom is a bitter pill to swallow.

The Netflix series shows that Jeffrey Epstein’s story may have come to an end but his part in this tragedy is just a drop in the ocean of a much wider, corrupt ring. Let’s hope it’s the starting point of bringing all the other perpetrators to justice and a final chapter to these brave survivors.

Jeffrey Epstein: Filthy Rich is available now on Netflix