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The Trial of Ghislaine Maxwell

by Naomi Halpern, Director, Delphi Training and Consulting

On 1 April 2022, in New York, NY, Judge Alison Nathan denied Ghislaine Maxwell’s motion for a new trial. Judge Nathan stated, “To infer Juror 50 was biased – simply because he was himself a victim of sexual abuse …. would be tantamount to concluding that an individual with a history of sexual abuse can never serve as a fair and impartial juror, that is not the law, nor should it be.”

Social media lit up. Commentary ranged from relief to outrage. Greg Barns SC said it was “A disgraceful decision. This juror admitted making his decision on information other than the evidence. In Australia and UK a retrial would be ordered.”

Lawyers for Maxwell argued that her four accusers were motivated by the hope of financial gain and that their memories were flawed. I explored casting dispersion on the memory of sexual abuse victims in ‘False Memory Syndrome’: A Short History and the complexities of memory Trauma And Memory: What We Know, What We Don’t Know And What We Know But Don’t Know We Know  .

On 30 December 2021, Maxwell was found guilty on five of six counts she faced. She requested a new trial in January when Juror 50 told the media he had been sexually abused as a child. It was found he answered ‘no’ to a question in a pre-trial screening questionnaire asking about past sexual abuse. Maxwell’s lawyers said they would have disallowed Juror 50 from the panel if he had answered honestly. Questions arose as to whether he deliberately lied about his history of sexual abuse, someone who had been sexually abused could be impartial in such a trial, he made his decision based on information other than the evidence and he influenced other jurors.  Maxwell’s lawyers argue that she has been denied the right to a fair trial.

The Maxwell case has changed direction. It began questioning if the accusers’ memories were faulty and motivated by financial gain. It now centres around whether Maxwell received a fair trial. This is a case that understandably triggers strong emotions and opinions. However, the above are separate issues and should not be confused or conflated.

Maxwell’s accusers’ memories may be faulty in parts but two things, even though they are seemingly opposed, can both be true. A memory can be by and large accurate, but also prone to errors.”  I agree with Judge Nathan that a person with a history of sexual abuse can also be a fair and impartial juror in such a case. Further, given the prevalence of sexual abuse, assault, rape and other traumatic crime (55 – 70% of adults experience some kind of traumatic event at least once in their lifetime and 14 – 43% experience at least one traumatic event during childhood), screening such people from jury selection would make exclusion criteria unrepresentative of society and discriminatory.

As a trauma therapist following the trial of Maxwell (and the charges against deceased Jeffrey Epstein), I believe the plaintiffs accusations. I add, this is not indiscriminately believing any allegation of abuse but from decades of experience working with victim-survivors.  I will discuss the complexities of therapists’ opinion and clinical considerations when working with clients who allege abuse in my next article about therapeutic neutrality.

I am not a lawyer and cannot comment on the rules of law Judge Nathan applied to her decision.

Maxwell is before the court for sentencing on 28 June. She faces up to 65 years in prison.


False Memory Syndrome Foundation: a short history

What did the defenses of Ted Bundy, O.J. Simpson, Michael Jackson, Phil Spectre, Bill Crosby, Harvey Weinstein and Ghislaine Maxwell have in common? Each of these sickening cases used the misnomer, ‘False Memory Syndrome’ (FMS) as a strategy to discredit their accusers. The other common factor in these cases is calling Professor Elizabeth Loftus as an expert witness on memory.

Read More »

“Do you believe me?” – Therapeutic neutrality in a post #MeToo and #TimesUp era

The final of the memory trilogy explores complexities in navigating historical memories of child sexual abuse in psychotherapy with adult victim-survivors.

In the five years since the #MeToo and #TimesUp movements, a chorus of victim’s voices has broken the silence and cover-ups surrounding sexual harassment and assault. The alleged perpetrators were predominantly but not only men, typically in positions of power over the victim’s employment and career. Many of the accused claimed allegations were false and that their careers and reputations have been ruined unjustly.

Read More »

The Problem is not the Problem but a Solution to another Problem: The role of self-harm, addiction and other ‘apparently’ sabotaging behaviour

“Is your foot sore?”, I innocently asked. Part way through a session I noticed my client pressing her foot into the floor. Her face froze. She looked like the proverbial deer caught in the headlights. Her expression was a combination of shock (at my noticing) and shame (for something of which I had no idea). I was perplexed by her reaction. I sat quietly and waited. After a few seconds she replied, “No. I have a thumb-tack in my shoe and I’m pressing my foot down on it.”

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Vicarious Trauma and Compassion Fatigue: Organisational and Personal Rights and Responsibilities

“The expectation that we can be immersed in suffering and loss daily but not be touched by it is as unrealistic as expecting to be able to walk through water without getting wet” Rachel Naomi Ramen.

Mental and allied health professionals, lawyers, the judiciary, and corrective services staff intersect the lives of others at critical and often traumatic junctures. These professions are frequently indirectly exposed to trauma through listening to accounts of traumatic events, exposure to distressing images, reading police, psychological and medical reports and victim impact statements.

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Psychedelic assisted psychotherapy: The Australian landscape

On 3 February 2023, the Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA) announced approval of the psychedelic substances in magic mushrooms and MDMA for use by people with certain mental health conditions, specifically PTSD and treatment resistant depression. This makes Australia the first country in the world to recognise psychedelics as medicines. In this interview, I explore the current psychedelic research in Australia with Martin Williams, PhD.

Read More »

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