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Four long years ago, America went into convulsions over revelations that Hollywood producer Harvey Weinstein sexually preyed on women pursuing careers in show business. Thus was launched the #MeToo era in which women openly spoke of sexual violence at the hands of rich, powerful men.
Numerous cases have since come to the fore, many seemingly of merit but some colored by spite, mental disturbance or money. Not all accusations, even ones with substance, are equal.
Start with the extraordinary case of hedge funder Jeffrey Epstein, who lured underage girls to his palaces in Palm Beach, Florida, and the Virgin Islands. Epstein is said to have committed suicide by hanging, though many suspect he was murdered.
The real scandal was not his allegedly insatiable lust but his procuring of girls younger than 18. The girls, at least one as young as 14, could not legally give consent even if they verbally did.
But some of the injured parties were in their 20s, which makes the extent of their victimization less clear. A wealthy and handsome single man surrounded by vast luxury could have been seen as a conduit to a life of glamour.
“Filthy Rich,” a documentary about Epstein, spends a good amount of time with Sarah Ransome. She was young but in her early 20s when she flew to Epstein’s private island on his private plane. There, she claimed, he raped her several times.
But when they got back to New York, Ransome moved into an apartment owned by Epstein and the sex continued. “I still believed he would help me get to fashion school,” she said. And he was giving her money.”
And she has a book to sell.
What do you do with this? The documentary neglected to mention that Ransome had previously worked as an exotic dancer and escort. On camera, she played the ingenue, saying in a sing-song that when she arrived in New York, “I didn’t know anyone” and “I didn’t have money.” She cried unconvincingly.
Rape is a heinous crime, whether or not the victim is a woman of experience. But Ransome kept going back.
She tried to finesse this by writing that her mother was a severe alcoholic and she was raped twice in her early teens. She said that this traumatic history left her susceptible to abuse by the likes of Epstein. That would be undeniably true, but Epstein came later.
There is the ongoing case of E. Jean Carroll, a writer who accused Donald Trump of raping her, which he denies. She’s currently suing the former president for defamation — for calling her a liar and saying “she’s not my type.” Does making a “crude” remark constitute defamation? The Biden administration doesn’t seem to think so.
The rape accusation is also problematic. Carroll waited 23 years before going public with it in a story for New York magazine and when Trump was president. She appeared on the cover modeling the dress she wore that day.
And she had a book to sell.
The former Elle magazine columnist wrote that she and Trump had recognized each other at the Bergdorf Goodman department store in New York, at which point she agreed to help him find a gift for an unidentified woman. Carroll ended up accompanying him into a dressing room in the lingerie department with a flimsy thing that Trump wanted her to model. She said she was simply joshing.
A very serious crime may have then occurred. But it has yet to be verified, and again, this wasn’t a case of a young girl being plucked off the streets.
The details change the heat of these stories. They matter, even when they involve predators and creeps.