Virginia Giuffre: Prince Andrew’s accuser in the spotlight after years of fighting to be heard | Prince Andrew

VIrginia Giuffre was a teenager working as a locker room assistant at Donald Trump’s Mar-a-Lago resort in Florida in 2000 when she says she was approached by Ghislaine Maxwell. Maxwell asked her if she wanted to become a massage therapist.

Giuffre had been trying to get his life back on track, and this job was a key part of that plan. She told how she was sexually abused as a child, found herself going in and out of foster homes and, at 14, lived on the streets with even more abuse.

She recalled how she initially thought Maxwell and his close friend Jeffrey Epstein were “nice people” looking to help her earn some extra cash. She had told them about her past. “It was the worst thing I could have said to them because now they knew how vulnerable I was,” Giuffre told the BBC in 2019.

Soon, Giuffre says, she was sexually abused by Epstein, and alleges she was “passed around like a fruit platter” among her high-profile friends, including Prince Andrew.

Now, after years of struggling to be heard, Giuffre is at the center of one of the world’s most watched legal battles, alleging Andrew sexually assaulted her when she was 17.

This week, a New York judge refused to dismiss Giuffre’s civil case against the prince. The ruling could see Andrew, who strenuously denies the allegations, divulge aspects of his personal life in open court this fall.

While it’s possible for the Duke to reach an out-of-court settlement with Giuffre, which could potentially cost her millions, there are suggestions that she wants her day in court.

Giuffre, who has become a prominent advocate for survivors of sexual misconduct, said she wants her allegations against the Duke of York and other high-profile men in Epstein’s orbit to be heard.

“It’s not just Jeffrey and Ghislaine who have been involved in this,” Giuffre said in an interview with New York magazine earlier this week, speaking from her home in Perth, Australia, where she is raising a family of three children with her husband Robert.

“Justice to me looks like the detention of all those people involved in the sex network, those who greased its wheels, named and shamed.”

Giuffre added that she was “sick of carrying this shame. This shame is not mine.

Giuffre said she was somewhat relieved when Maxwell, 60, daughter of the late media mogul Robert Maxwell, was convicted of sex trafficking in December.

Prince Andrew, who failed this week in his bid to have his case thrown out. Photograph: John Thys/AFP/Getty Images

“It’s a bittersweet emotion because I’ve been fighting for so long,” she told New York magazine. “It doesn’t stop at Maxwell. But it’s definitely a relief to know she’s not on the street anymore.

Epstein, a once wealthy and powerful financier, killed himself in a Manhattan jail cell in 2019 while awaiting trial on sex trafficking charges.

The next step in Giuffre’s civil lawsuit against Andrew and other men, including Epstein’s lawyer Alan Dershowitz, who is accused of having sex with Giuffre when she was a teenager, could be discovery. Dershowitz denies the allegations.

Andrew would be asked to provide information ahead of a possible deposition in which he would likely be asked about Giuffre and his associations with Epstein and Maxwell.

The focus on his personal life could prove embarrassing for the prince. “Lawyers file because they know the other side won’t want to answer questions and will pay a lot of money to avoid doing so,” said former sex crimes prosecutor Wendy Murphy.

Murphy says she thinks Andrew “will try to hold it off for years, or he’ll offer a really big sum of money – way more than the deal is worth – because he’ll want to stop himself from answering all the questions”.

This week’s decision comes 21 years after Giuffre allegedly met Andrew at Tramp nightclub, in which she recalled the Duke sweating profusely on the dance floor. In a 2019 interview with Newsnight, Andrew memorably hit back at that claim, saying he was unable to sweat. Giuffre alleges she was sexually assaulted by Andrew later that night at Maxwell’s townhouse in London. The prince denies the allegations, saying he was home after a children’s party at Pizza Express in Woking.

Giuffre, then Virginia Roberts, spent four years as Epstein’s personal masseuse, during which time she claims she was trafficked by the financier’s friends and clients. In a 2009 civil lawsuit against Epstein, under the pseudonym “Jane Doe 102”, she alleged that her duties included being “sexually exploited by Epstein’s adult male peers, including royalty”. Giuffre reached a $500,000 settlement with Epstein in the case before he went to trial.

She also sued and settled an undisclosed sum with Maxwell in a libel suit in 2015. Giuffre brought the ongoing civil action against the Duke for sexual abuse, assault and intentional infliction of emotional distress just five days from closing a window in New York’s Child’s Sex Act that had been opened to clear a backlog of claims against religious institutions.

In the civil case, this week’s ruling marked a first-round victory over the Duke’s efforts to have the case thrown out on the grounds that his deal with Epstein covered all “potential defendants”. Kaplan decided the case could continue.

There are still many legal steps in the process before a possible trial. The Duke’s lawyers will likely argue that Judge Lewis Kaplan’s court is the wrong place to air Giuffre’s claims because neither party resides in the United States.

Should such a challenge prove in favor of the Duke, however, Giuffre is highly unlikely to end his pursuit.

“I think it takes time to heal, and that justice is part of the process,” Giuffre told New York magazine ahead of the ruling this week. “Now I can really start working after Maxwell and thinking about others who need to be held accountable.”

She added: “It doesn’t matter how rich or connected you are.”

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