The recent BBC interview with Prince Andrew about his relationship with US financier and convicted sex offender Jeffrey Epstein attracted to put it neutrally, some controversy.
The interview was unprecedented and the prince explained his “friendship” with Epstein which has come under considerable scrutiny since the American killed himself in August while awaiting trial on sex trafficking charges.
Prince Andrew said it was wrong of him to visit and stay at Epstein's house in 2010 after the financier's conviction but that he did not regret their entire friendship. He also categorically denied any allegations of wrong doing on his part.
In this podcast we are not going to comment on the allegations or pass judgement but what we are going to do instead is talk about relationships, and that is those that are shared with sex offenders.
Before doing so we will recap a little on Epstein to provide context.
Allegations against Jeffrey Epstein started surfacing in 2005 when the parents of a 14-year-old girl told police in Florida that Epstein had molested their daughter at his Palm Beach home. He was accused of paying girls under the age of 18 to perform sex acts at his Manhattan and Florida mansions between 2002 and 2005.
It transpired that a controversial secret plea deal in 2008 saw him plead guilty to a lesser charge of soliciting a minor for prostitution. He received an 18-month prison sentence and was released on probation after 13 months.
In July 2019 he was charged in New York with further allegations of sex trafficking and conspiracy and was due to face trial next year. He pleaded not guilty to all the charges but was facing up to 45 years in prison if convicted.
In his interview Prince Andrew explained his friendship with Epstein and how and why it continued post-conviction and this has led us to choose to explore the issue of relationships with sex offenders.
Most victims of sexual abuse know their abuser. It’s an uncomfortable fact of life that sexual abuse frequently occurs within the familiarity of a relationship no matter how damaged that might be: the father who sexually abuses his daughter, the uncle who abuses his nephew and so on.
Relationships provide a misplaced sense of normality. Survivors will say that they thought the abuse was “normal” because they knew no different. There may have been grooming too on the part of the abuser to manipulate the relationship.
The abuser exerts considerable power not just over their victim(s) but those around them who can also be groomed. We have seen many a case where the survivor has explained that family members turned a blind-eye to what was happening, or were themselves in the thrall of the abuser. There has been many a case where the abuser was considered to be a model citizen – the “pillar of the community” but this was just a sophisticated disguise that took in those close to him/her, enabling them to abuse. There have been many high profile cases of late where the abusers were committing child sexual abuse in plain sight but those around him allowed this to happen by closing not just their eyes so to speak but their minds too.
In summary we can learn what we want from the Prince Andrew interview but we suggest that it gives pause for thought, because it provides an opportunity to understand how child sex offenders operate, and how in particular they use innocent people (the wise as well as the unwise) to achieve their perverted desires.