The acts of which billionaire financier Jeffrey Epstein is accused of committing are disgusting in their own right, but so are the developing narratives since his arrest last month on charges he habitually assaulted underage girls.
Much of the discussion has focused on his circle of celebrity friends. People want to make it political. Bill Clinton flew on Epstein’s plane. Donald Trump attended parties at Epstein’s Florida estate. The Florida prosecutor who let Epstein off easy in 2008 under a plea deal for having sex with a minor would become a Trump political appointee.
Expand the who’s who of speculation to include Prince Andrew, who was seen saying goodbye to a young woman from the doorway of Epstein’s home in New York City. Actor Kevin Spacey, who would become embroiled in his own unsavory sex scandal, and comedian Chris Tucker also took trips with Epstein. Epstein also told the New York Times he spoke often with Saudi crown prince Mohammed bin Salman.
So many big names and powerful people had connections to Epstein. So many young women have come forward to say how they were groomed to become sexual servants of the financier and those powerful friends. It makes for a salacious story that crosses the journalistic realms of the gossipy “Inside Edition” to the staid delivery of “PBS Newshour.”
Little mentioned are all those victimized young women. Little mentioned is the number of Epsteins with the same monstrous appetite.
The predilection for teenage girls is not reserved for the powerful and wealthy, those with multiple homes and private jets. Teachers caught having inappropriate relationships with students at their schools have become uncomfortably common, including among women educators, once thought to be a rare occurrence.
Headlines focus on clergy, mentors and youth coaches who use their position of authority to groom victims. Provocatively dressed women in television commercials invite men to call them on private lines — for a small fee, of course — repeatedly mentioning how they’re “only 18.”
The temptations of forbidden fruit go back to the Garden of Eden, and there is no shortage of snakes.
All of these seem so far away from conservative Brazoria County, but those who spend just a few minutes paying attention or talking with experts will quickly learn there are plenty of Epsteins right here in our neighborhoods. Some are contractors in weekly rate hotels, others are our neighbors.
And just as the customers seeking teenagers for gratification don’t fit a predefined mold, neither do the girls being victimized. Some come from well-to-do families who became trapped after wanting to rebel. Others turned to drugs to dull the pains of poverty and mental illness. There is no discrimination among those who enter “the life” — trafficked women smuggled across the border, straight-A students, star athletes and those who go to church every Sunday.
We should be outraged by the special treatment Epstein received more than a decade ago that allowed him to walk out of prison after 13 months and pick up where he left off. What we shouldn’t do is turn the trafficking and sexual enslavement of young women into a political finger-pointing exercise as though one’s voting record determines their depravities.
The world is a safer place for young women with Epstein having removed himself from it. That doesn’t mean it’s a safe place. There are too many other Epsteins walking among us.