Prince Andrew, who was stripped of his royal patronages and military titles earlier this month, is currently facing a civil sex assault trial in America later this year, following a failed attempt to have the case thrown out.
The Duke of York has been accused of “sexual assault and battery” by Virginia Giuffre on three separate occasions when she was just 17.
Who is Virginia Giuffre?
Virginia Louise Giuffre (née Roberts), 38, is an American campaigner and the founder of Speak Out, Act, Reclaim (SOAR), formerly known as Victims Refuse Silence, which is a non-profit organisation which strives to “empower survivors to reclaim their stories and bring an end to sex trafficking”.
She is one of many victims alleging sex trafficking and abuse at the hands of Jeffrey Epstein, and is at the heart of one of the most high-profile legal battles in the world as she leads a civil case against Prince Andrew for sexual abuse.
Giuffre was born on 9 August 1983 in California to parents Sky and Lynn Roberts, and suffered from abuse at a young age, having been molested by a family friend at the age of seven.
She told Panorama in 2019: “I was just so mentally scarred already at such a young age, and I ran away from that.”
Speaking to the Miami Herald, she said that she went from being in “an abusive situation, to being a runaway, to living in foster homes” and at the age of 14 found herself homeless, where she found nothing “except for hunger and pain and [more] abuse”.
Whilst living on the streets, Giuffre was picked up by Ron Eppinger, who would later plead guilty to the FBI for smuggling immigrants into America for prostitution. Living with Eppinger, Giuffre was drugged and raped.
When did she meet Ghislaine Maxwell and Jeffrey Epstein?
When Giuffre eventually reunited with her father, it was through him that she started working at Donald Trump’s Mar-a-Lago resort as a spa assistant at age 17 in 2000, where she would meet Ghislaine Maxwell.
Talking to NBC News, Giuffre described Maxwell as a “beautiful, well spoken, well mannered woman with an English accent, prim and proper”. Maxwell approached Giuffre with a job offer to be a “travelling masseuse” for an “older gentleman” - Epstein.
Giuffre told the BBC that she initially thought that Epstein and Maxwell were “nice people”, and that she had opened up to them about her difficult past.
“I told them I’d had a really hard time in my life up until then - I’d been a runaway, I’d been sexually abused, physically abused.
“That was the worst thing I could have told them because now they knew how vulnerable I was,” she said.
It was in the employ of Epstein that Giuffre was groomed and abused, travelling between his homes in Florida, New York and his infamous private island over the course of two years.
She recalled being “passed around like a platter of fruit” amongst Epstein and his associates.
When did she meet Prince Andrew?
In 2001, at the age of 17, Giuffre met Prince Andrew. In a Dateline interview, she recounted how Maxwell had woken her up that morning and told her “you’re gonna meet a prince today”.
It’s Giuffre who is in the now famous photo with Prince Andrew’s arm around her waist, with Maxwell smiling in the background.
She told the BBC that Maxwell said that she “had to do for Andrew what I do for Jeffrey”.
Giuffre said: “It was a really scary time in my life… I wasn’t changed to a sink, but these powerful people were my chains.”
In a statement, Giuffre said that she was “holding Prince Andrew accountable for what he did to me” and that “the powerful and the rich are not exempt from being held responsible for their actions”.
Who is her husband?
Giuffre is married to Robert Giuffre, an Australian martial arts expert, who she met in 2002 when Epstein sent her to attend a massage school in Thailand - a trip she would not return from.
After 10 days, the two eloped together and she moved to live with him in his native Australia. Guiffre also cut all ties with Epstein and Maxwell.
Together the couple have three children, two sons and a daughter.
Giuffre has credited her daughter for being the reason behind her decision to speak publicly about the abuse she suffered at the hands of Epstein, Maxwell and Prince Andrew.
During a round-table discussion with other Epstein survivors for Glamour, she said: “I made the decision [to come forward] on January 7, 2010. It was the day my daughter was born.
“And not that my boys don’t matter, but I looked at this baby girl, and before we even named her, I just had this overwhelming [feeling].
“My husband has pictures of me crying over this little girl. I just couldn’t imagine bringing her into a world where I know what happened to me, and I know what I went through.
“When you have this child in your arms, it then becomes your responsibility not just to protect her, but to protect others as well.
“When I saw her, that was the turning point. That was when I said, “We’ve got to do something. We’ve got to hold these people accountable.””
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