Lady Victoria Hervey Says Epstein Victims ‘Lived The High Life’ Showing How Little We Understand Trafficking

New York Mansions and private planes doesn't make sex slavery any less of a crime.

Lady Victoria Hervey Says Epstein Victims 'Lived The High Life' Showing How Little We Understand Trafficking

by Rebecca Reid |
Updated on

Lady Victoria Hervey went on Good Morning Britain yesterday morning, ostensibly to defend her ex-boyfriend Prince Andrew. During the course of the interview, the topic was raised of her own friendship with Ghislaine Maxwell, who allegedly ‘procured’ young women for Epstein.

Speaking about the victims' experiences, Hervey said: ‘I think, to be honest, the word sex trafficking - that’s a very strong word and I don’t think that’s the correct word to use for this. When you think of sex trafficking, you think of a 12-year-old that’s kidnapped that’s chained in a cage. This is not the same thing. These girls were living the high life.’

While her comments were woefully ignorant, they are unfortunately indicative of a much wider problem, namely the generalised perception that being sex trafficked is always synonymous with being tied to a dirty mattress and forcibly addicted to heroin.

The smiling photograph of Virginia Roberts, now Virginia Giuffre, with Prince Andrew, and the stories of private planes and free-flowing champagne does not play into the public perception of what human trafficking looks like.

Many people's only education about sex trafficking comes from the Taken franchise, where privileged young women are kidnapped by an organised group of traffickers. In reality it’s much more common for people who are victims of human trafficking to be vulnerable due to lack of money, family and education. This is consistent with the methods used by Epstein.

‘Jeffrey preyed on girls who were in a bad way, girls who were basically homeless,’ Courtney Wild, who met Epstein when she was 14, told Julie K. Brown of the Miami Herald in an article published last year. ‘He went after girls who he thought no one would listen to and he was right.’

‘As far as I've been able to find from my investigation, vulnerable children and girls are all the targets. The more vulnerable and the younger the better,’ said private investigator Mike Fisten, who worked on the Epstein case.

The Miami Herald reported that ‘Most of the girls [Epstein victims] came from disadvantaged families, single-parent homes or foster care. Some had experienced troubles that belied their ages: They had parents and friends who committed suicide; mothers abused by husbands and boyfriends; fathers who molested and beat them. One girl had watched her stepfather strangle her 8-year-old stepbrother, according to court records obtained by the Herald. Many of the girls were one step away from homelessness.’

While Epstein's victims may have had the window dressing of ‘the high life’, the reality was that they were vulnerable young women who were being coerced into having sex with people, while being under the age of consent. That is sex trafficking – private jets and expensive alcohol does not change that.

The definition of sex trafficking is: 'human trafficking for the purpose of sexual exploitation, including sexual slavery. A victim is forced, in one of a variety of ways, into a situation of dependency on their trafficker(s) and then used by said trafficker(s) to give sexual services to customers.'

If Epstein's victims were cosmetically polished, or living in expensive accommodation, that does negate their status as trafficking victims. Whether it's a New York mansion or a Peterborough brothel, these women are victims of sexual abuse.

According to sex trafficking charities, it can be extremely hard to spot whether someone is a victim of trafficking. Which is exactly why Hervey’s comments are so troubling - the assumption that someone isn’t a victim of human trafficking because they seem to have the trappings of an enjoyable life, or because they are well-groomed and smiling, leads to women being left in modern slavery.

According to anti-human trafficking charity Stop The Traffick, these are some of the signs that a person may be a victim of sex trafficking:

Is the person closely guarded?

Does the person have any signs of physical abuse, such as cigarette burns or tattoos indicating ownership?

Is the person allowed to keep the money they make? A trafficked sex worker will have restricted or no access to earnings.

Is there any evidence that the person has been forced, intimidated or coerced into providing sexual services?

Does the person have an English vocabulary of only sexualised words?

Are there any signs that the person is experiencing emotional trauma as a result of the work they are doing.

You can also look for significant signs that a location if being used as a brothel for trafficked people:

Do the letterbox or any doors of the property appear to have been sealed from inside?

Do the people potentially selling sex also sleep on the premises? Brothels are not normally used as accommodation for sex workers

Are the people potentially selling sex being moved between suspected brothels?

You can learn more here.

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