Jennifer Araoz, who has accused Jeffrey Epstein of sexually assaulting and raping her when she was a teenager, filed a lawsuit Wednesday against Epstein’s estate, his ex-girlfriend Ghislaine Maxwell, and three unnamed defendants.
The suit, filed in New York’s Supreme Court, is seeking damages for “extreme emotional injuries” and accuses Epstein of raping and sexually assaulting Araoz when she was 14 and 15 years old. Araoz’s suit also says that Maxwell “participated with and assisted Epstein in maintaining and protecting his sex-trafficking ring, ensuring that approximately three girls per day were made available to him for his sexual pleasure.”
Maxwell’s lawyer did not immediately respond to a request for comment. Epstein, a convicted sex offender, died in custody last week of an apparent suicide, but a federal investigation into charges of child sex trafficking is still ongoing. At least 80 women have said they were abused by Epstein, according to an extensive report by the Miami Herald.
The three other defendants, named as Jane Does, are referred to separately as the “recruiter,” the “secretary” and the “maid.” All are accused of assisting Epstein in his abuse.
Araoz says that when she was a 14-year-old high-school student, she was approached on the sidewalk outside of her school by the “recruiter,” who she described as a brunette woman in her early 20s. The suit says the recruiter spent nearly two weeks getting to know Araoz, then invited her to meet Epstein so that he could “possibly help her and introduce her to the right people,” because Araoz had expressed interest in becoming an actress and model.
Araoz said that she went to Epstein’s house, accompanied by the “recruiter,” and was given $300. She said that on subsequent visits, the “secretary” would give her $300 and the “maid” would serve her wine, cheese and crackers.
The suit said that after the first month of accompanied visits, Maxwell began scheduling time for Araoz to visit Epstein alone — and that’s when Epstein began sexually abusing her in his massage room.
During their first visit alone, Araoz said, Epstein asked her to take off her top and give him a massage, during which he masturbated. “Epstein insinuated that because of the money he gave [Araoz], she owed him,” the lawsuit states. “Epstein said, ‘I take care of you, you take care of me.’”
Araoz said this behavior continued “once or twice a week” during her freshman and sophomore years of high school, and that Epstein raped her when she was 15 years old.
“Araoz was petrified, felt trapped, and didn’t know what to do, so she just did what she was told,” the lawsuit states.
Araoz said that after the rape, she did not go back to Epstein’s house, ignored his repeated calls, and refused to return to her high school “out of fear of seeing Epstein, who lived just blocks away.” She said the situation caused her to “lose interest in school, drop out, and give up on her career of being an actress, model, and singer.”
The lawsuit was filed under New York’s Child Victims Act, which went into effect on Wednesday and allows survivors of child sex abuse to file suits against those they say have abused them — and the institutions that may have protected the abusers — for the next year. Previously, the state’s statute of limitations prevented survivors over the age of 23 from suing.
In a New York Times op-ed published Wednesday, Araoz laid out the reasoning behind her lawsuit. “I want my story to hold Epstein to account and also his recruiters, the workers on his payroll who knew what he was doing and the prominent people around him who helped conceal and perpetuate his sex-trafficking scheme,” she wrote. “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.”