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Opinion: Abusive Women And Double-Standards in Justice

"Is Ghislaine Maxwell our latest little Scapegoat for this much larger sin of indifference to or even profiting from the suffering of others?"

Phyllis Chesler
Phyllis Chesler

Who angers women more? The incestuous, pedophile father? Or the mother who looks the other way, sometimes out of fear for their survival?

I think you know the answer. Always, always, the mother is blamed because she was expected to protect her daughter, not blame and ostracize her, not evict her from the family.

If you talk to therapists, you’ll hear that patients who’ve been incestuously abused are far angrier at their mothers than at the fathers who tried, and often succeeded, in ruining them.

Who enrages women more? The man who batters or neglects a child—or the mother who looks the other way because she, too, is either battered or still needs the batterer’s paycheck?

Again, we know that many women, like men, expect men to be violent and are taught to overlook or forgive such behavior; but no one really respects the women who put up with being mistreated. Often, they are blamed for not having left.

”Men who kill women have usually received shorter sentences and parole.”


Who has gotten jailed for life: The batterer who threatens to kill his female victim or that very victim who’s defended her life in the only way she can—when her batterer is asleep or when she has finally wrested his gun away from him?

Historically, women, including those who’ve been bloodied and broken, but who have finally killed their batterers, are treated not just as criminals but as patricidal, regicidal, Father-killers, King-killers, and they are seen as the most dangerous of traitors. Men who kill women have usually received shorter sentences and parole. Women who have defended themselves and killed their abusers have usually gotten life without parole.

Historically, we have demonized, ostracized, and jailed prostituted women but not their Johns. The shame and danger of male lust clings only to the prostitute who is scapegoated for all that we find disgusting about the male use of female bodies.

Traditionally (except in TV dramas and movies), we have rarely rescued girls and women who’ve been kidnapped, tricked, or trafficked into sexual slavery. We have even more rarely found and arrested their pimps and traffickers.

We know that some trafficked girls and women, in order to spare themselves, have instead been given the tasks of monitoring, or punishing rebellious or runaway female victims. Some such “Save Myself First” women become pimps or madams.

I think of them as Kapos. Don’t you? And yet, while I understand their choice, their moral dilemma, I do not condone it.

Now that we have some context—let’s talk about the trial of Ghislaine Maxwell which began on Monday.

In Maxwell’s case, whatever she is alleged to have done was not due to escape extreme poverty or in order to escape beatings, torture, or death. She did what she did in order to enjoy a luxurious life style, one to which she was addicted.

Unlike the monster Jeffrey Epstein, Ghislaine has been kept in solitary confinement (which is a form of torture) for one whole year. While I might despise what she has allegedly done, no one deserves such punishment, not even if she’s been found guilty—which is not the case. She has not yet been tried or convicted.

”In Florida, Epstein was allowed out for many hours each day.”


Ghislaine has allegedly been constantly monitored and has had no privacy. She has also been fed disgusting food and kept in truly odious conditions—something that Epstein was spared, both in Florida and most recently in New York.

In Florida, Epstein was allowed out for many hours each day. In New York, he spent many hours out of his cell meeting with his team of lawyers.

Ghislaine has also been chained as if she were an animal or a violent criminal.

The double standard of (in)justice prevails here as well as everywhere else—and this bothers the hell out of me.

It is hard to summon sympathy for such a desperate but ruthless, Society Girl. She was such a Daddy’s Girl, she just had to continue Having It All: The parties, the travel, the clothing, the real estate—and the delusion that Epstein was actually her boyfriend? Husband? Daddy substitute?

I wonder how different she is from other such Society Girls, or, for that matter, most women of all races who enjoy class privilege. Don’t most women look the other way as the most vulnerable, poor women are sacrificed in every way imaginable?

Is Ghislaine Maxwell our latest little Scapegoat for this much larger sin of indifference to or even profiting from the suffering of others?

I will have more to say about this case, some of it a bit surprising.


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Opinionchild sexual abusesexism

Phyllis Chesler

Phyllis Chesler is an Emerita Professor of Psychology, the author of 20 books, including Women and Madness (1972), An American Bride in Kabul, and Requiem For a Female Serial Killer (2020).