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  • Writer's picturePanthergirl

aiding and abetting

The stunning news that Ghislaine Maxwell was arrested and charged in New York yesterday, as satisfying as it was, triggered a lot of disturbing memories for me. As a free-spirited teenager in the late '60s and early '70s, I was a prime target for people like this.

Some seem shocked that a woman would assist in the recruiting and grooming of young girls but the couple-dynamic is really effective in gaining trust.

I worked in a doctor's office in Manhattan as part of a work/study program when I was 16. Taking the A train from Brooklyn to "the city" after school made me feel pretty sophisticated. I had to wear a nurse's uniform although my job involved sitting at the reception desk or transcribing from a dictaphone. I loved sauntering around during my lunch hour, flirting with men on the street and eating up the attention. My home life was tumultuous and violent. I felt powerless there, so I wielded power over men like a sledgehammer whenever I could. It made me feel alive.

I was approached on the street by couples on more than one occasion, but there is an incident that stands out in my memory more than the rest. It was a Monday afternoon and I was strolling down East 53rd Street when an attractive young couple stopped me, blocking my path. "Didn't we see you on Lexington Avenue yesterday?" the woman asked. I was taken aback and had to think for a moment but then realized that, living in Brooklyn, I hadn't been on Lexington Avenue the day before as it was a Sunday. The two of them insisted it was me, saying they saw me looking into a jewelry store window, adding all kinds of details (of course nothing specific, like what I was wearing)

As I struggled to place where I might have been the previous day, the guy started to tell me about their "modeling business." They would be having a casting later that day at 6pm in their penthouse. They'd love it if I came to audition. Around this point in the conversation I noticed the woman's blouse was unbuttoned down to her belly button. Still, I was intrigued by the offer and asked for the address. He handed me a business card with just his name and address and said "It's an apartment" while simultaneously she said, "It's an office." I laughed a bit to myself because part of me knew this was a dangerous situation. But the presence of this woman, unbuttoned blouse and all, made me think it might be sexual but nothing I couldn't handle. It was the 70s, after all.

Around 5pm I walked over to Grey Advertising where my best friend worked. The offices at Grey were right out of Mad Men. Office doors often closed and locked with married bosses and their young secretaries inside. My friend was a year older and as wild as I was, so I suggested to her that we go to this penthouse together. She blanched and said "Are you crazy? I am not going and neither are you." She might have saved my life that day.

When my daughter was about 13, the internet was just starting to be a thing. One day I was cautioning her about not chatting with people she didn't know and she said, "Mom, I'm not stupid." I explained to her that people who prey on children are extremely good at it. It's their life's work. If they channeled their talents in a better direction they'd win Academy Awards. They are good enough to fool adults. I was mostly thinking about men, as we tend to do, forgetting that my own brush with near-sex-slavery happened because I thought a woman wouldn't be a part of something that could really hurt me.

How wrong I was.

Me in 1971, age 16, in a still from my tiny part in "The Groove Tube", filmed on Park Avenue in Manhattan.

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