At first glance, Moscow-born Kira Dikhtyar seems an unlikely candidate for a career in women’s activism. Tall, beautiful, with piercing blue-green eyes, the 32-year-old model, actress, and reality-TV star is a far cry from the traditional picture of feminism or politics. So is her history—a longtime friend of Jeffrey Epstein’s, she is one of the few women who says Epstein did not try to have sex with her.

Dikhtyar is one of the only women’s-rights campaigners who dares speak out against powerful oligarchs. After going public last year with a claim of having been raped as a teenager by a former Putin crony, she has encouraged other women in Russia to do the same. And she’s working to raise the age of consent in her home country and expose the powerful men who prey on under-age girls.

Model turned women’s rights activist Kira Dikhtyar.

Despite all this, Russian #MeToo resembles something closer to kompromat, the strategic use of skeletons in the closet for political gain. In addition to her friendship with the late Epstein during his heyday, Dikhtyar is known to have met with heads of state and diplomats in the former Eastern Bloc, who are intrigued as much by her Rolodex as they are by her message.

Ultimately, her mission is well intentioned but Russian-style. Dikhtyar understands her country’s reality: #MeToo-Up-to-a-Point.

After going public with a claim of having been raped by a former Putin crony, Kira Dikhtyar has encouraged other women in Russia to do the same.

In 2004, Dikhtyar was like any other Russian girl trying to take her rhythmic-gymnastics career all the way. She won gold at the 1998 Junior Olympics at just 9 years old, and by 13 she was a member of the junior Russian national team, training at the elite Novogorsk Training Center. Dikhtyar had shown a natural ability since the moment she started. She had the potential to make it big.

“I had very happy, sporty childhood where we were protected from any kind of danger,” Dikhtyar wrote to me in an e-mail. “We were under the total control of coaches and the bodyguards and other employees.… The worst thing that happened is that I dropped a hoop and lost to Ukrainian gymnast.”

Then, at 15, Dikhtyar was scouted in a Moscow metro station, and before she knew it, she was flown to London by Russian photographer Alexander Borodulin, son of the well-known Soviet sports photographer Lev Borodulin. Dikhtyar’s parents were used to her traveling for rhythmic-gymnastics competitions and naïvely thought this was how the modeling industry worked.

But Kira Dikhtyar was not safe.

Unbeknownst to Dikhtyar and her family, the then 52-year-old Borodulin was on a government watch list in the U.S. for drugging and raping a woman in 1988, and he had been wanted by the F.B.I. since fleeing the country in 1989 to avoid trial. Bouncing between Russia and Israel, Borodulin had remained safe despite his fugitive status in the U.S., partly due to his ties to oligarch Boris Berezovsky, at one time one of Russia’s most powerful men. (Dikhtyar believes Borodulin is presently hiding in Israel.)

Sometimes called “the Godfather of the Kremlin,” Berezovsky claimed to have nurtured a young Vladimir Putin in the 1990s, using his influence with then president Boris Yeltsin to facilitate Putin’s rise to director of the F.S.B., Russia’s infamous Federal Security Service. Less than six months later, Putin replaced Yeltsin as president, Berezovsky’s alliance with Putin deteriorated, and Berezovsky fled to London in 2000, writing apologetic letters over the years begging to be allowed to come back. (He never was; Berezovsky died in exile in England in 2013.)

Boris Yeltsin and Boris Berezovsky in Russia in 1999, before Berezovsky was exiled to the U.K. under Vladimir Putin.

In December 2004, Borodulin arranged a meeting between Berezovsky and a teenage Dikhtyar. Promised that the oligarch could be instrumental in furthering her modeling career, Dikhtyar agreed to meet with Berezovsky at a hotel in London. She was instructed to dress up for their meeting.

The two got along well, discussing their shared interest in math (Berezovsky had been a mathematician in Soviet times). But after a while Berezovsky, then 58, started coming on to Dikhtyar, then 15.

She told him she was under-developed and not menstruating (a side effect of competitive gymnastics). She pleaded with him, saying that she had no boyfriends at Novogorsk and that she was still a virgin. She felt powerless and feared for her life.

Then Berezovsky offered what Dikhtyar saw as a way out: he placed a bet. If Dikhtyar could solve a math problem Berezovsky gave her within 48 hours, he would spare her virginity.

She took the bet but soon realized Berezovsky had left out an essential piece of the equation. He had cheated—the bet was unwinnable. On December 17, 2004, three days after their first meeting, Dikhtyar’s innocence was gone.

Dikhtyar would come to know of many experiences like hers, years before Berezovsky’s chauffeur Mark Pendlebury confessed to the Daily Mail that he had driven under-age girls, including one 16-year-old in a pink tutu, to “meet” with Berezovsky on a regular basis.

The man who saw it all: Mark Pendlebury, a former chauffeur of Berezovsky’s.

She would hear stories of other girls and other oligarchs, of sex and trafficking. A theme would emerge: the girls were almost always under-age.

Laws change from one country to the next, making it difficult to track under-age victims and bring about consequences. The age of consent in Russia was 14 just two years before Dikhtyar’s rape occurred. It was raised to 16 in 2003, but 15 is still considered average for adolescents. The age of consent remains 14 today in Italy, Portugal, and Germany, as long as both parties are of similar age or one is not in a position of power. In Angola it’s 12; in Nigeria, 11.

“If you are under 15, nothing else matters,” Dikhtyar told state-sponsored TV station Russia-1 last October, just before taking a lie-detector test on-camera to corroborate her account. “I believe pedophiles should be in jail.”

After her harrowing experience, Dikhtyar tried and failed to return to rhythmic gymnastics. Her head was jumbled, her confidence shattered, her emotions volatile. She tried to pursue a geopolitics degree at Moscow State University but dropped out. Finally, she returned to modeling—the very industry that trafficked her.

She would hear stories of other girls and other oligarchs, of sex and trafficking. A theme would emerge: the girls were almost always under-age.

A 2002 report filed by the International Organization for Migration estimated that 20 percent of Russian human-trafficking fronts took the form of modeling work, second only to service-industry jobs.

After the Soviet Union’s collapse, Russia was rife with sex trafficking as Westernization gave way to pornography and prostitution—the U.S. State Department estimates that more than 100,000 women were trafficked from the countries of the former Soviet Union in 1997 alone. Liberalization and exploitation became synonymous. (In the post-Soviet 90s, classified ads for secretaries often specified that female applicants needed to be “БЕЗ КОМПЛЕКСОВ,” or “without complexes.”)

This time around, though, Dikhtyar knew how to play the game. Represented by MC2 Model Management until 2007, she graced the pages of Vogue, GQ, L’Officiel, and Beverly Hills Report, for which she posed for a story titled “Lolita’s Dream.” She did photo shoots at the homes of rich and powerful men and became part of an inner circle of elites, building up a Rolodex presidents would dream of, with the top names in business, politics, and Hollywood.

When she was 17, Dikhtyar made an ally through MC2 manager Jean-Luc Brunel: Jeffrey Epstein.

Brunel introduced Dikhtyar and Epstein at an MC2 event in New York. In her account, Epstein took one look at Dikhtyar, detected her damage, and decided never to touch her. They developed a close friendship of the sort newspapers would illustrate in detail after things went south for Epstein; he provided her with anything she needed. He spotted her money in emergencies. He FaceTimed her after the birth of her child. After he was arrested, she wrote him letters to try to lift his mood.

Jean-Luc Brunel, head of MC2 Model Management, in 2001.

“Why don’t they put in jail male population of Russia for example,” Dikhtyar wrote to him in 2008, after Epstein had pleaded guilty in a Florida state court for soliciting under-age girls for prostitution. “Almost everybody are guilty over there… you are probably the only guy I know, who 100% understand magic words: ‘Don’t touch me pls’, and i appreciate this very much. And I do like your craziness in a way, because if you would be any different, its [sic] wouldn’t be you anymore.”

“This is the nicest letter I have received since I’ve been in this shithole,” Epstein replied from prison. “Call lesley [Groff, his assistant] and tell her your apt needs when and for how long, I will instruct them to help.”

Dikhtyar’s correspondence with Epstein reveals the complications and compromises of her feminist stance—friendship with an internationally scorned predator helped pay her bills.

The way she sees it, his crimes paled in comparison to the things she’d seen and experienced. “After Epstein died, I was asking myself, Why Epstein?” Dikhtyar tells me. Why not Boris Berezovksy, her abuser? Or Kazakh billionaire Alexander Mashkevitch, who in 2010 was found on a yacht with several mogul friends and nine Ukrainian and Russian women, two of them under-age, believed to have been trafficked?

Putin honors businessman and alleged human trafficker Mikhail Prokhorov, 2014.

There are many more of these men with troubling histories that Dikhtyar did not name. Potash magnate Dmitry Rybolovlev’s wife, Elena, alluded to her husband’s taste for girls “younger than his own daughter” in her 2009 divorce filings. Caught possibly operating a prostitution ring, which included seven Russian women aged about 20, at the French ski resort of Courchevel in 2007, the nickel-mining oligarch Mikhail Prokhorov was arrested but not charged with human trafficking. Anecdotal reports of oligarchs sharing girls, impregnating them, paying for abortions, and other abuses continue to pile up.

“I said, guys, I mean, don’t fucking tell me about Jeffrey Epstein,” Dikhtyar remembers telling a group of powerful men at dinner one night. “Look at yourself [sic]. Have you ever had sex for money? Trafficking, crossing the border with under-age girls? Please. Don’t tell me that you didn’t.”

Dikhtyar’s version of #MeToo, kickstarted when she went public with her experience with Berezovksy around the time of the Epstein trial, is taking off. She partnered with Putin’s girlfriend, fellow rhythmic gymnast Alina Kabaeva, in her age-of-consent campaign. She even accepted the support of Mikhail Prokhorov, who is eager to clear his name. Influential Russians are lining up.

Friendship with a predator helped Dikhtyar pay her bills.

Dikhtyar’s story was followed by one from Lena Katina, of Russian music duo t.A.T.u, who publicly confessed she was sexually assaulted in her apartment stairwell when she was 11. (Katina made the famous “All the Things She Said” music video with fellow musician Julia Volkova when they were just 14 and 15. Their manager, Ivan Shapovalov, later admitted that the subject of the video was inspired by pornography.)

Then 67-year-old Elena Proklova came forward about her affair with fellow actor Oleg Tabokov when she was just 15.

It took off from there.

Today, Dikhtyar spends her days jet-setting to lobby politicians from former Soviet Union countries (Belarusian president Alexander Lukashenko, British-Ukrainian businessman Len Blavatnik) and Western U.N. representatives to further her brand of #MeToo. Between modeling shoots and late-night parties, she advocates for women’s rights, staying up at night to read the letters, e-mails, and texts detailing abuses that are sent her way.

Dikhtyar has partnered with Putin’s girlfriend, fellow rhythmic gymnast Alina Kabaeva, in her age-of-consent campaign.

There are obvious limits to what the Putin regime will permit. Those she holds accountable are often on the wrong side of history already. Berezovsky’s death has often been suspected of having been an assassination. Unlike the American #MeToo movement, which has dethroned men in power, the Russian one maneuvers within the country’s existing power structure.

Despite her many complicated connections, Kira Dikhtyar appears passionate about her cause. She may not undo the past, or the interwoven network of dangerous oligarchs and other powerful men she is an inextricable part of, but she seems determined to change the global consciousness of Russian sex trafficking for good. She may not get her childhood back, but this is a bet Kira Dikhytar just might win.

Alexandra Bregman has written for The Wall Street Journal, Architectural Digest, and The Art Newspaper. She is the author of The Bouvier Affair: A True Story, about Russian oligarch and art collector Dmitry Rybolovlev