All eyes are glued to the sex trafficking trial of Ghislaine Maxwell, the accused co-conspirator of Jeffrey Epstein, who allegedly recruited the young and underage girls that he sexually abused.
For Sarah Ransome, who counts herself as a survivor of Epstein's abuse, Maxwell's trial is long overdue.
"I'm following the trial every single day," she tells Yahoo Life. "I just pray every day that she's found guilty because she needs to be taken off the streets so she can't hurt anybody else."
In her new book, Silenced No More, Ransome recounts how her tumultuous upbringing in South Africa led her straight into the dangerous web of Jeffrey Epstein. Ransome's parents divorced when she was a child, leaving her to be raised primarily by her mother, who struggled with alcoholism. At the age of 11, Ransome was raped by one of her mother's boyfriends and stayed silent about the attack. At 14, she experienced a second rape at the hands of a 17-year-old boy, whose wealthy parents paid local police to make the case disappear. Both attacks left Ransome feeling vulnerable, bullied and blamed.
"I came from a broken home," says Ransome. "I needed people to really understand my family upbringing, which effectively, almost groomed me to be a target for predators like Ghislaine and Jeffrey."
In 2004, Ransome attended university but struggled to balance her classes, work and past traumas. With no family financial support, she scraped by with a waitressing job, but she soon discovered that she could make more money working as an escort. Today, she takes full accountability for her choices but remains resolute that her past life in no way warrants the abuse she would eventually suffer at the hands of Epstein.
"I was a survival sex worker because I couldn't even afford a cup of hot soup. I couldn't even afford a meal. I had to make a really hard choice. And the reason why it was important to be honest and open is because that does not excuse being raped and trafficked," says Ransome.
Two years later, Ransome packed her bags and moved to New York City in search of a fresh start and a new life. Low on money and staying with a friend, she started applying for modeling jobs and networked with other models who helped her to book gigs. A few weeks into her new life, she met a woman named Natalya at a nightclub, and the two bonded on the dance floor. Natalya plied Ransome with compliments and cocaine while asking her personal questions about her upbringing and career ambitions. A few days later, Natayla called Ransome and revealed that she knew a man who could help her pay the tuition she needed for fashion school. His name was Jeffrey Epstein.
"I was approached by a girl my age, who very quickly and deliberately found out where I was from my family, what I was doing in New York, my dreams, my aspirations, the fact that I just come from an abused relationship," says Ransome. "I didn't know a single soul. I didn't know anybody. So I just wanted a female friend to go for coffee with, or go for lunch or go for a stroll through Central Park."
Instead, Natalya invited Ransome to the movie theater, where she was met by 10 young women about her age and Epstein. "When I met Jeffrey, he was charming," she recalls. A few weeks later she was invited on a girls' trip to his private island, and her personal nightmare began.
"As soon as I arrived on my very first trip on the island, my cellphone's taken away, my camera's taken away, my passport's taken away, and lo and behold, that's where it started. It was that very first trip on the island where I was told, 'You will never escape me,'" says Ransome.
As Ransome recounts in the book, Epstein raped her on the second day of that trip. The attacks continued for the duration of her stay, sometimes up to two or three times in the same day.
"Jeffrey's island was designed for rape and trafficking," said Ransome. "And once you're there, you can't get out."
For Maxwell's part, Ransome says that she was aware of the abuse. In one case, she says, Maxwell forced Ransome into a room where Epstein raped her. In another, Maxwell saw Ransome crying after a brutal attack and smirked but offered no support.
"Ghislaine would break you down to such a point, but as soon as she broke you — like a Jekyll and Hyde — she would almost be motherlike and maternal, and caring. And that was effectively done to build a trauma bond," says Ransome.
Even with the abuse, it would take months for Ransome to free herself from Epstein's world. With no money and no family, she agreed to stay in an apartment that Epstein offered her. The sexual attacks continued, as did the emotional and verbal abuse. Ransome says Epstein threatened to kill her family if she told authorities or tried to run. Financially, he kept her compliant by promising to help her pay for college and help her to attain a visa.
He never kept his promises, though, and in May 2007, after months of abuse and manipulation, Ransome fled to London to reconcile with her mother. She was free, but she would spend the following years looking over her shoulder, fearful that Epstein would track her down.
In the years that followed, Ransome worked hard to rebuild her life. In 2016, she shared her story of survival for the first time and was met with vitriol from critics online who were critical of the time she spent as a sex worker before moving to New York. “For anyone that thinks it's okay to say that someone like me, or any other woman deserves to be raped, because they've had to make hard tough choices to survive, shame on you. Rape is rape. I was trafficked,” says Ransome.
Ransome later served as a witness in a defamation case filed by Virginia Giuffre, another victim of Epstein's sex trafficking ring, against Maxwell. Over the years, she has met with other survivors who were taken to Epstein’s island and experienced similar trauma. In the future, she hopes to continue working with other victims of sexual abuse, and she wrote Silenced No More to let other survivors know they aren’t alone.
"Don't be silenced, stand in your truth, be brave, and you're not alone. I'm with you in spirit and you're in my prayers, but never be silenced and never live in fear," says Ransome.
– Video produced by Jacquie Cosgrove
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