Law & the Courts

First Epstein Accuser Sues Estate under New Child-Abuse Law

Jeffrey Epstein (center) appears in court in West Palm Beach, Fla., July 30, 2008. (Uma Sanghvi/Palm Beach Post via Reuters)

The first accuser to sue the estate of Jeffrey Epstein, the late billionaire accused of raping and sex trafficking minors, filed her lawsuit Wednesday in New York, aided by a new state law.

Jennifer Araoz, who has accused Epstein of grooming and then raping her when she was just 15 years old, sued his estate and several associates the first day she was able to under the law, the Child Victims Act, which suspends for a year the statute of limitations for civil cases concerning child sexual abuse.

“Standing up to the entrenched network of power and wealth that surrounded Epstein is scary, but I am no longer afraid. Reliving these experiences is tough, but I’ve learned to be tougher,” Araoz wrote in a New York Times op-ed published Wednesday.

Araoz claims one of Epstein’s “recruiters” approached her outside her performing-arts high school and offered to introduce her to him, promising that he could help her modeling and acting career and provide financial assistance to her family, which was on food stamps at the time after her father’s death.

“The trap was set,” Araoz wrote.

Araoz visited Epstein’s Upper East Side mansion about twice a week for over a year, she said. The first visits consisted mostly of talking, but Epstein eventually began to have her massage him and touched her inappropriately. During her last visit, she alleged that the financier raped her after she attempted to reject his advances.

“I used to feel alone, walking into his mansion with the cameras pointing at me, but now I have the power of the law on my side,” she said. “Like many survivors, I struggled with anxiety and shame for what I had experienced. The power structure was stacked against me.”

Afterwards, Araoz changed high schools, because hers was too close to Epstein’s residence, and eventually dropped out of high school altogether.

Epstein was found dead, apparently having committed suicide, in his Manhattan jail cell Saturday morning, sparking a Justice Department investigation. His death came a day after court documents were unsealed detailing allegations that the billionaire operated a sex-trafficking ring that abused underage girls as young as 14.

“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,” Araoz said.

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