A woman who says she was raped at age 15 by Jeffrey Epstein is suing his estate, his alleged madam Ghislaine Maxwell and three unnamed defendants, saying they conspired to maintain and conceal a sex trafficking ring.
The accuser, Jennifer Araoz, told reporters Wednesday that Epstein, who died Saturday in prison by suicide, and his “network of enablers” stole her youth, identity, innocence and self-worth.
“While I am angry that Mr. Epstein’s death means he will never personally answer to me in a court of law, my resolve to pursue justice is only strengthened,” she said. “My story and my experiences – those who enabled and facilitated his criminal behavior– none of that is diminished or immunized simply because he apparently chose to take his own life.”
The lawsuit comes on the first day of a one-year period when any adult survivors of child sexual abuse can sue an abuser or a negligent institution in New York state court, no matter how long ago the abuse took place. The one-year window was created as part of a law signed in February.
“Fortunately, New York’s Child Victims Act now affords survivors like me legal recourse,” Araoz said. “Today, I am exercising my rights under that law. Today, I am starting to reclaim my power.”
Araoz alleges Epstein repeatedly committed sexual assault and battery against her when she was 14 and 15 years old and that he forcibly raped her. Araoz has not interacted with Maxwell, her attorneys said, but the lawsuit alleges Maxwell conspired to maintain and conceal the sex trafficking ring.
Three Jane Does who also allegedly participated in the scheme are not named in the suit, which refers to them as “recruiter,” “secretary,” and “maid.”
Araoz alleges that all the defendants “have intentionally inflicted emotional distress” upon her, as well as “committed negligent infliction of emotional distress,” causing her to suffer “extreme emotional injuries.”
Attorneys for Epstein and Maxwell did not respond immediately Wednesday to requests for comment about Araoz’s suit. Maxwell and her representatives previously have denied she engaged in sexual abuse or sex trafficking. Epstein had pleaded not guilty to federal charges of conspiracy and sex trafficking of minors.
Araoz came forward to authorities after the criminal charges were filed, her attorneys said Wednesday. She had been fully cooperating with federal prosecutors before Epstein’s death and has agreed to cooperate in their investigation of his potential accomplices, they said.
The lawsuit, provided to CNN by Araoz’s attorneys, seeks compensatory and punitive damages in an amount to be determined at trial. A draft version of the complaint was delivered to Epstein while he was in prison, about three weeks before his death.
Araoz previously shed her anonymity and spoke out last month about Epstein’s abuse in an interview with NBC’s “Today” show.
What the lawsuit states
Citing court records, Araoz’s lawsuit alleges Maxwell – the British socialite and Epstein’s alleged madam – “participated with and assisted Epstein in maintaining and protecting his sex trafficking ring, ensuring that approximately three girls a day were made available to him for his sexual pleasure.”
It also alleges she provided “organizational support to Epstein’s sex trafficking ring, identifying and hiring the recruiters of underage girls” and “scheduling appointments with these underage girls” for Epstein’s “sexual pleasure,” as well as “intimidating potential witnesses to Epstein’s sex trafficking operation.”
It alleges Maxwell “identified and hired” the “Recruiter” on Epstein’s behalf to procure underage girls from the performing arts school Araoz attended near Epstein’s lavish Manhattan apartment.
Araoz began visiting Epstein’s apartment in 2001 with the “recruiter,” and at the end of the visits, the “secretary” was directed to give her $300 to purportedly “help” her out, the lawsuit states.
After about a month of making the visits with the recruiter, “upon information and belief, Defendant Maxwell, began contacting” Araoz directly and “scheduling arrangements for her to visit Epstein’s home alone.”
The suit details the alleged encounters, which Araoz has detailed to media. Epstein told her during one of her first visits alone to his Manhattan apartment, “you really should be a model,” “I’ll bet your body is incredible,” and “in order to help you with your modeling career, I will need to see your body,” the suit states.
It alleges Epstein complimented her repeatedly about her breasts and instructed her to take off her top, “then immediately started feeling” her breasts and rubbing her nude shoulders.
He asked her to give him a massage, which she did, and afterward he turned over, removed his towel and began masturbating, the suit states.
Araoz felt “intimidated, so she did as she was told,” the suit says.
Owing to the money Epstein was giving Araoz, he said, “I take care of you, you take care of me,” the suit states. He would tell her not to tell anyone about what occurred during the home visits, which routinely included massages, the suit states.
After that, Epstein would call Araoz directly, and the sexual encounters became more aggressive and escalated, the suit states. The encounters would continue on a “weekly basis” and a “maid” would leave $300 in cash in a drawer in the massage room.
During one encounter, Epstein held Araoz tightly and forcibly raped her, the lawsuit states. After that “brutal rape,” Araoz never returned to the apartment, ignored Epstein’s calls and transferred schools to avoid him, the suit states.