What Prince Andrew & Virginia Giuffre Settlement Really Means

Though far from an admission of guilt, it is still a significant win in many ways.

by Shahed Ezaydi
MANCHESTER, ENGLAND - JULY 01:  Prince Andrew, Duke of York, attends a commemoration service at Manc...
Christopher Furlong/Getty Images News/Getty Images

Trigger warning: This article discusses themes of sexual assault, as do many of its outbound links.

On Feb. 15, it was revealed that Prince Andrew and Virginia Giuffre (formerly Roberts) had reached an out-of-court settlement in the civil sexual assault case filed by Giuffre. The civil case was brought against him by Giuffre in August 2021, claiming that she was trafficked by Jeffrey Epstein - a convicted sex offender who died in prison in August 2019 - on three occasions to have sexual relations with Prince Andrew. Giuffre alleged that these incidents occurred with Prince Andrew knowing both she was under the age of 18 and that “she was a sex-trafficking victim.”

In a statement to ABC News at the time the lawsuit was filed, Giuffre said: “I am holding Prince Andrew accountable for what he did to me. The powerful and the rich are not exempt from being held responsible for their actions. I hope that other victims will see that it is possible not to live in silence and fear, but one can reclaim her life by speaking out and demanding justice.”

Details of the out-of-court settlement remain to be undisclosed, but a letter sent to the United States District Court stated that the Duke of York would make a “substantial donation to Ms Giuffre’s charity in support of victims’ rights,” and that Prince Andrew understands that she has “suffered both as an established victim of abuse and as a result of unfair public attacks.” The Telegraph reported on Feb. 15 that this settlement is worth around £12 million and that the Queen may be helping Prince Andrew with the payment.

As to be expected from such a harrowing story like Giuffre’s, the news of the settlement has garnered a range of responses this week, including from survivors of sexual abuse and violence. One survivor, Anna*, 24, shared the disappointment and heartbreak of seeing this case settled out of court but said it was sadly what she’s come to expect from sexual violence cases. “Abusers avoid prison all the time, even when there's a tonne of evidence proving their crimes. Of course, Prince Andrew's power and money makes him an extraordinary case, but this does happen extremely often.” In fact, recent Home Office figures in January showed a sharp drop in prosecution and conviction for rape, with only 1.3% of cases now being prosecuted.

“Whilst this happens every day and survivors practically expect abusers to avoid punishment, a case as public as this one might further prevent survivors from reporting their experiences,” she adds. “A lot of survivors will have had their hearts completely broken over this.”

My heart dropped when I saw that the case was settled out of court and felt as though survivors everywhere have once again been silenced.

Lina*, 21, another survivor of sexual violence, describes a similar feeling when she first saw the news of the civil court case. “I was disgusted but also wasn’t surprised because sexual assault isn’t taken seriously at all, and even less so when you’re rich and privileged, but it’s still so deflating. I honestly just feel for Virginia Giuffre who has been so brave throughout this whole ordeal.”

Echoing *Lina, another survivor, Sarah*, 27, also describes feelings of emptiness when she first heard the news. Sarah has come to feel a growing strength and pride in women coming forward with their experiences, though. “My heart dropped when I saw that the case was settled out of court and felt as though survivors everywhere have once again been silenced. But after sitting with the news for a couple of days, I actually started to feel a sense of pride in us, that we’re still out here sharing our stories and fighting against the abusers who have silenced and traumatised us for so long, which is exactly what Virginia did.”

Deeba Syed, the Senior Legal Officer at Rights of Women, explained what settling out-of-court in sexual violence cases actually means, especially for survivors. “With such appallingly low conviction rates in the criminal justice system, it makes sense that many survivors of sexual violence will turn to the civil courts instead to seek justice and redress,” she says. “Settling has the advantage of avoiding the often aggressive, brutal and re-traumatising experience that litigating, and the court processes involves, which regularly lets down survivors and is no guarantee of justice.

“A civil court cannot give survivors the vindication of proving guilt that a violent crime has been committed,” Syed continues. “However, reaching a financial settlement can go some way towards rebuilding their lives, recognising the harm that has been caused, and serving as an effective means of holding a perpetrator to account.”

It’s not an admission of guilt on his part, but it’s far more than we would usually see in these types of settlements, and that’s a huge win for Giuffre.

Lucia Osborne-Crowley, one of the few reporters who covered the Ghislaine Maxwell trial in December 2021, is a legal reporter for LAW360 and author of two books about sexual assault, I Choose Elena and My Body Keeps Your Secrets. She explains that even though the instant reaction to the Prince Andrew settlement was one of disappointment, it’s also a significant moment for survivors of sexual violence for a number of reasons.

“It’s important to remember that the public statement made by Prince Andrew in this settlement is hugely significant in terms of accountability, which is what Giuffre always wanted,” Osborne-Crowley tells Bustle. “He acknowledged that she was an abuse victim and that Jeffrey Epstein trafficked ‘countless’ girls — that wording leaves the door open for other survivors to come forward and my guess is that Giuffre was very intentional about that language.”

“It’s not an admission of guilt on his part, but it’s far more than we would usually see in these types of settlements, and that’s a huge win for Giuffre,” she continues. “She’s done an amazing thing by forcing a hugely powerful man to hand over £12 million to someone he previously pretended he’d never met, as well as make the public statements he’s made. She should be applauded.”

*Names have been changed to protect identities.

If you or someone you love have have experienced sexual violence of any kind, please visit Rape Crisis or call 0808 802 9999.