By Caitlin Kelly
This isn’t a cheery holiday post, but a bit of personal history that the arrest of Ghislaine Maxwell has brought back up for me…
The authorities had been tracking Ms. Maxwell’s movements and had recently learned about her relocation to the New Hampshire home, an F.B.I. official said.
The indictment charged Ms. Maxwell with six counts, including transportation of a minor with intent to engage in criminal sexual activity. She also faces perjury charges for statements she made during a deposition in 2016 about her role in Mr. Epstein’s alleged sex trafficking operation.
“Maxwell enticed minor girls, got them to trust her, then delivered them into the trap that she and Epstein had set for them,” Audrey Strauss, the acting U.S. attorney for the Southern District of New York, said at a news conference on Thursday.
I was never — thank heaven — sexually groomed and victimized.
But I absolutely understand how it happens, and have written here before about this, so I won’t get back into all the grim details.
In 1998, I was a lonely, worried, isolated new divorcee, with no children, living in the suburbs of New York — an affluent place full of people with kids. This was back when we had and read weekly alternative newspapers, whose personal ads were still a thing, when the Internet was newer as a way to meet potential partners.
I answered an ad placed, it said, by a lawyer who liked to play tennis. “Integrity and honesty paramount,” it said.
But of course it did — placed by a convicted con man who had already victimized many people in Chicago, done time and moved to New York to start again.
He was, oddly, extremely kind and apparently generous, bringing me a pot of home-made soup when I was ill, “paying” for a plane ticket to Australia after I missed my flight (part of his set-up since he made me late), quickly cooing at me (which I found creepy and weird) how much he loved me.
It took me four long crazy months, and hiring a former NYPD detective turned private investigator to finally smoke the guy out, to realize what I had allowed to enter my life and terrorize me.
By then, he’d committed at least six more felonies, including opening my mail, activating a credit card in my name, using that card and forging my signature — in front of me.
And the police and district attorney laughed it all off, because it was “only” fraud.
Predators choose their victims carefully.
Maxwell, allegedly, did her grooming very skilfully — finding young, vulnerable women who found her attention thrilling, at first.
What I learned very painfully, as an adult in 1998, is that being vulnerable and alone can leave one very easy pickings for people with nefarious purposes.
Nice isn’t always that at all.
After I recovered from my own experience, I joined a church, shored up my friendships and took a long time to trust again.
The book every girl must read is The Gift of Fear, by Gavin deBecker.
It is a brilliant analysis of all the many powerful ways girls and women are socialized to be delighted by attention and what appears to be affection.
To let a kindly stranger “help” us when we’re lonely and broke and scared.
Being vulnerable means being too open, too trusting, too quick to set aside our intuition that it’s time to flee.
From Wikipedia, and from the book, his useful warning signs that someone is grooming you:
- Forced Teaming. This is when a person implies that they have something in common with their chosen victim, acting as if they have a shared predicament when that isn’t really true. Speaking in “we” terms is a mark of this, i.e. “We don’t need to talk outside… Let’s go in.”
- Charm and Niceness. This is being polite and friendly to a chosen victim in order to manipulate him or her by disarming their mistrust.
- Too many details. If a person is lying they will add excessive details to make themselves sound more credible to their chosen victim.
- Typecasting. An insult is used to get a chosen victim who would otherwise ignore one to engage in conversation to counteract the insult. For example: “Oh, I bet you’re too stuck-up to talk to a guy like me.” The tendency is for the chosen victim to want to prove the insult untrue.
- Loan Sharking. Giving unsolicited help to the chosen victim and anticipating they’ll feel obliged to extend some reciprocal openness in return.
- The Unsolicited Promise. A promise to do (or not do) something when no such promise is asked for; this usually means that such a promise will be broken. For example: an unsolicited, “I promise I’ll leave you alone after this,” usually means the chosen victim will not be left alone. Similarly, an unsolicited “I promise I won’t hurt you” usually means the person intends to hurt their chosen victim.
- Discounting the Word “No”. Refusing to accept rejection.
I admit it — I fell prey to numbers 4, 5 and 6.
I hope this is never your fate.