Four days after Jeffrey Epstein’s apparent suicide, one of the convicted sex offender’s accusers is seeking justice. Jennifer Araoz — who alleges Epstein sexually assaulted her at his New York City townhouse when she was 14 and 15 years old, including a rape in 2002 — has filed a lawsuit against his estate, his longtime associate Ghislaine Maxwell and three female household staffers.
Araoz, 32, publicly revealed the alleged assault in a Today Show interview on July 10th, the same day she filed preliminary paperwork in a New York State court stating her intent to sue. Her suit is one of the first filed against Epstein’s estate following his death on Saturday, when he was found to have hanged himself in his jail cell.
In the suit, filed Wednesday, Araoz alleges that Maxwell and the three unnamed employees — a secretary, a maid, and a “recruiter” Araoz says she met in the fall of 2001 — “conspired with each other to make possible and otherwise facilitate the sexual abuse and rape.”
In a call with reporters on Wednesday, NBC News reports, Araoz called the suit “the first step towards reclaiming [her] power.” She continued, “Jeffrey Epstein and his network of enablers stole from me. They robbed me of my youth, my identity, my innocence, my self-worth. For too long, they escaped accountability. I am here today because I intend to change that.”
Araoz’s civil attorney, Dan Kaiser, said the “adult enablers” in Epstein’s orbit are “culpable” for the abuse. “They shared with each other connections and resources to keep these crimes concealed,” he said, adding, “The pursuit of justice doesn’t end. It begins now.” Kaiser also noted that he would consider adding other names to the suit if the facts deemed it necessary: “Our nation should not tolerate this kind of abuse at the hands of the elite and the Plutocrats,” he said.
The lawsuit is one of the first filed under New York State’s new Child Victims Act, which allows victims of child sexual abuse to bring forward civil cases for the next calendar year, regardless of when the alleged abuse occurred. Following that one-year-only window, victims have until age 55 to file civil suits.
Araoz addressed the timing of her case in a New York Times op-ed, writing, “Epstein was found dead, apparently by suicide, in his jail cell last week. I’m angry he won’t have to personally answer to me in the court of law. But my quest for justice is just getting started.”
She also noted meeting “one of Epstein’s recruiters, a strangers” outside her high school on the Upper East Side. “The recruiter told me about a wealthy man she knew named Jeffrey Epstein,” she wrote. “Meeting him would be beneficial, and he could introduce me to the right people for my career, she said. When I confided that I had recently lost my father and that my family was living on food stamps, she told me he was very caring and wanted to help us financially. The trap was set.”
Araoz said her initial visits with Epstein “felt benign” at the time, and his secretary would give her $300 in cash, “supposedly to help [her] family.” But within a month, she wrote, Epstein asked her to give him massages “and instructed [her] to take [her] top off.” “He said he would need to see my body if he was going to help me break into modeling,” she writes.
“I felt uncomfortable and intimidated, but I did as he said,” she continued. “The assault escalated when, during these massages, he would flip over and sexually gratify himself and touch me inappropriately. For a little over a year, I went to Epstein’s home once or twice a week. The last day I went to his house was during the fall of my sophomore year. This time, when I was giving him the massage, he told me to take off my underwear and get on top of him. When I said no, he got more aggressive, held me tightly and raped me.”
Araoz’s allegations were not included in the July sex-trafficking indictment filed against Epstein. After going public with her claims, the FBI and federal prosecutors for the Southern District of New York interviewed her as part of their investigation.
Recently unsealed documents stemming from a 2016 defamation lawsuit against Epstein shed new light on Maxwell’s alleged role as recruiter for the disgraced financier.
Epstein was arrested in July and charged with sex trafficking and attempted sex trafficking; if convicted, he faced a sentence of up to 45 years in prison. He had been jailed at the Metropolitan Correctional Center in lower Manhattan when, on July 23rd, he was reportedly found unconscious in his cell, with bruising around his neck consistent with a suicide attempt. After being briefly placed under suicide watch and then removed at the request of his attorneys, he was found reportedly found in his cell Saturday morning in cardiac arrest, with a sheet tied in a noose around his neck. He was transported to a local hospital and pronounced dead.
The New York Child Victims Act goes into effect Wednesday, August 14th. Three advocates and survivors of child sex abuse, Joelle Casteix, Jeff Dion and Bridie Farrell, issued a statement about the law, writing, “The sheer volume of lawsuits filed today is both simultaneously heartbreaking and encouraging. It is indictive [sic] of just how deep-rooted the problem of child sex abuse is in our country.”
“Predatory behavior has been covered up for decades by the very institutions entrusted to protect our children — churches, the Boy Scouts, youth sports organizations, schools, and more,” they continued. “However, today is also a demonstration of just how far our country has come in supporting and believing survivors. Just a few short years ago, it would be unthinkable to see so many survivors come forward to seek justice and heal.”