“I was terrified and I was telling him to stop, please stop.”
Jennifer Araoz says that’s what she told Jeffrey Epstein as he raped her when she was 15 years old.
Araoz told NBC’s “Today” show in an interview aired Wednesday that she had started going to Epstein’s Manhattan home a year earlier, and gave him massages dressed only in her underwear.
“I was 14 years old, what the hell do you know when you’re that young?” Araoz asked.
The encounters began after a woman Araoz called a “recruiter” talked to her outside her school in meetings that spanned over a year.
She said “that he (Epstein) was just a great guy,” and that he could probably help Araoz with her career.
When she first began visiting Epstein’s home, Araoz said he was very nice and told her he’d heard a lot about her. She was served wine, she said, even though he knew her age. “I don’t think he cared,” she said.
She went to his home once or twice a week, Araoz said. After each visit, she said, she was given $300, and the visits eventually began to include massages.
There were several sexually suggestive items in Epstein’s home, Araoz said, including “prosthetic breasts he could play with while he was taking a bath, it was very odd.”
Next to the massage table was a painting of a nude woman who Epstein said resembled Araoz.
She says she wasn’t completely comfortable with the massage sessions, but she was “afraid he would get angry” with her if she didn’t do as asked.
After she finished massaging him, she told NBC, he would turn over, “finish himself off and that would be the end of it.”
After about a year, Epstein asked Araoz to take off her underwear and get on top of him, she said.
“I said I didn’t want to … he kind of very forcefully brought me to the table and I did what he wanted,” she said.
“I was terrified and I was telling him to stop, please stop,” but he didn’t, she said. She didn’t recognize what happened as rape at the time, Araoz said.
“I thought it was my fault, I thought I was obligated. I didn’t know better.”
Araoz said she never went back after that, even though Epstein’s staff continued to reach out to her. She even stopped attending her school, which was in the same neighborhood as Epstein’s home.
“I didn’t want that to happen again.”
Lawsuit to seek identity of ‘recruiter’
Araoz has filed a petition and has announced her intention to file a lawsuit against Epstein. The earliest she can file is August 14, when a new law takes effect giving adult survivors of child sexual abuse one year to sue their abuser or a negligent institution for offenses in New York, no matter how long ago the abuse took place.
The “pre-commencement petition” seeks the identity “of the recruiter who conspired with Epstein” to identify Araoz as a potential sexual abuse victim to be groomed “as part of the readying of Ms. Araoz to be sexually assaulted by Epstein,” court documents show.
Araoz’s lawyers are requesting a deposition of Epstein, who they believe may know the recruiter’s identity, all records identifying who he employed between January 2000 and December 2003, as well as all logs of who entered or exited his New York City home during that time period in an effort to identify the recruiter so that she can be added as a defendant to a civil action Araoz’s attorneys plan to file.
Araoz said she feels guilty she didn’t alert authorities earlier about what happened.
“Maybe he wouldn’t have done it to other girls,” she said. “I was too scared, I didn’t want to go public with it.”
Araoz’s account is similar to the stories of other women who have come forward with allegations against Epstein.
NBC reported that Araoz told her mother, her then-boyfriend and two close friends several years ago about the encounters.
Kimberly Lerner, one of Araoz’s attorneys, told CNN Wednesday her client didn’t know there were other Epstein victims until her ex-boyfriend sent her an article about it in 2008. That’s the same year Epstein secured a non-prosecution deal with federal prosecutors in Miami and pleaded guilty to two state prostitution charges, serving just 13 months in prison. He also registered as a sex offender and paid restitution to the victims identified by the FBI.
CNN has reached out to Epstein’s lawyers for comment about the latest allegations but has not yet heard back.
Epstein indicted for sex trafficking
Epstein was indicted Monday for allegedly running a trafficking enterprise between 2002 and 2005 in which he paid hundreds of dollars in cash to girls as young as 14 to have sex with him at his Upper East Side home and his estate in Palm Beach. The court documents said Epstein worked with employees and associates to lure the girls to his residences and paid some of his victims to recruit other girls for him to abuse.
Epstein, 66, was arrested Saturday night at Teterboro Airport in New Jersey aboard his private jet upon returning from Paris.
Later that evening, federal agents executing a search warrant of Epstein’s mansion in New York City seized a “vast trove” of lewd photographs of young-looking women or girls, prosecutors said in a court filing.
He is charged with one count of sex trafficking of minors and one count of conspiracy to engage in sex trafficking of minors. He faces up to 45 years in prison if convicted of both counts.
Epstein pleaded not guilty to the charges in Manhattan federal court on Monday afternoon during one of two proceedings.
US District Court Judge Richard Berman ordered Epstein’s bail hearing postponed until July 15 to allow his defense lawyers time to file a written bail proposal. Epstein is being held at the Metropolitan Correctional Center, a federal detention center in lower Manhattan.
His 2008 deal with federal prosecutors came under intense scrutiny last November in a Miami Herald investigation that examined how it was handled by then-US Attorney Alexander Acosta, who now serves as labor secretary in President Donald Trump’s Cabinet.
Araoz’s story part of the ‘MeToo’ movement
Lerner told CNN that Araoz’s decision to come forward now is a “continuation of the ‘MeToo’ movement.”
“Victims are no longer feeling ashamed … We’re getting to a point where people are no longer saying, ‘You asked for it’ and … blaming the victims. We’re getting to point where we’re starting to blame society for allowing predators to prey,” the attorney said.
She also noted that wealth seemed to change things in cases like this, and said Epstein had high-powered friends, such as Bill Clinton.
“These people knew something was wrong with him. Think about it – if this guy (Epstein) had no money, they’d think, ‘This guy’s a perv.’ We see that with power and wealth all the time.”
CNN’s Elizabeth Joseph, Erica Orden, Eric Levenson and Emanuella Grinberg contributed to this report.