Jeffrey Epstein Accuser Virginia Giuffre Is 'Holding Prince Andrew Accountable' with Lawsuit
"If I did not pursue this action, I would be letting [my family] and victims everywhere down," Virginia Giuffre says of why she's suing Prince Andrew over alleged non-consensual sexual encounters
Virginia Giuffre (née Roberts) has sued Prince Andrew in New York, PEOPLE can confirm.
In a statement shared with PEOPLE, Giuffre says, "Today my attorney filed suit against Prince Andrew for sexual abuse under the Child Victims Act. As the suit lays out in detail, I was trafficked to him and sexually abused by him."
Giuffre has accused the royal of forcing her to have sex with him three times between 1999 and 2002 — accusations the royal has said could not be true.
Giuffre's statement continues, "I am holding Prince Andrew accountable for what he did to me. The powerful and 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 to reclaim one's life by speaking out and demanding justice."
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Giuffre's statement concludes, "I did not come to this decision lightly. As a mother and a wife, my family comes first — and I know that this action will subject me to further attacks by Prince Andrew and his surrogates — but I knew if I did not pursue this action, I would be letting them and victims everywhere down."
Sigrid McCawley, managing partner at Boies Schiller Flexner who is representing Giuffre, tells PEOPLE that Giuffre's case proves no one is above the law.
"The filing of this complaint proves that irrespective of power, privilege or even being a prince, no one is above the law in the United States and all perpetrators of abuse should be held accountable," McCawley tells PEOPLE.
In response to earlier reports of the impending lawsuit, Giuffre's lawyer David Boies told the U.K.'s Mail on Sunday that Queen Elizabeth's son failed to respond to offers to settle her claims out of court. (Under the New York Child Victims Act, Giuffre would have had until next Saturday to file the civil action lawsuit.)
The lawsuit "would be based on her being lent out to Prince Andrew for sex by Jeffrey Epstein and [her] being under 18," Boies told the newspaper. It would include claims of "improper sexual violations, physical and emotional distress."
He added, "To use a common phrase here in the United States, 'Time's up.'"
Now that a civil action has been filed, Prince Andrew may be forced to be questioned under oath and turn over texts, emails and private letters related to the case.
Prince Andrew, 61, said in a 2019 BBC interview addressing his relationship with Epstein and Giuffre's allegations, "I have no recollection of ever meeting this lady, none whatsoever. It just never happened."
Giuffre alleges she was forced to have sex with the royal three times between 1999 and 2002 in London, New York and on a private Caribbean island owned by the disgraced financier, who died in August 2019 in prison.
Speaking specifically about Giuffre's claim that he danced with her at London's exclusive Tramp nightclub before allegedly having sex in a mansion in the upmarket Belgravia neighborhood, Queen Elizabeth's second son said, "No, that couldn't have happened because the date that's being suggested I was at home with the children."
Andrew — who is father to Princess Beatrice and Princess Eugenie — added, "I'd taken Beatrice to a Pizza Express in Woking for a party at I suppose sort of four or five in the afternoon. And then because the Duchess (Sarah Ferguson) was away, we have a simple rule in the family that when one is away the other one is there. I was on terminal leave at the time from the Royal Navy so, therefore, I was at home."
When BBC Newsnight anchor Emily Maitlis raised the issue of a photograph showing the royal with his arm around Giuffre's waist — thought to have been taken inside the London home of Ghislaine Maxwell on March 10, 2001, when Giuffre was 17 years old — the royal claimed he had no recollection of the encounter.
"I have absolutely no memory of that photograph ever being taken," Andrew told Maitlis, before questioning the authenticity of the picture itself because he's wearing his "traveling clothes" as opposed to his regular suit and tie. He even suggested that his left hand has been photoshopped onto Giuffre's side in the image.
"I don't remember that photograph ever being taken," he said. "I don't remember going upstairs in the house because that photograph was taken upstairs and I am not entirely convinced that…I mean that is…that is what I would describe as me in that…in that picture but I can't…we can't be certain as to whether or not that's my hand on her whatever it is, left… left side."
Following the interview's backlash, Prince Andrew announced that he would be "stepping back" from public duties.
"Prince Andrew's recent interview and his subsequent action to withdraw from public life is welcomed news. It is a positive first step towards taking responsibility for his actions," McCawley told PEOPLE in a statement following the interview's broadcast.
"However, basing his decision to step away from his duties due to his relationship with Jeffrey Epstein is only a half truth. He clearly had a long-term association with Ghislaine Maxwell who we maintain was Epstein's co-conspirator and played a central role in devastating the lives of countless women."
Prince Andrew was most recently seen at the funeral of his father, Prince Philip, in April.