A woman has sued Jeffrey Epstein’s estate and his “madam,” Ghislaine Maxwell, along with three staff members, saying Epstein raped her when she was 15 and that they helped facilitate the alleged crime.
Jennifer Araoz was in high school when she was repeatedly sexually assaulted by Epstein, according to the lawsuit, which was filed in the Supreme Court of the state of New York. The assaults allegedly started when she was 14.
Araoz grew up in Queens, New York, poor, and raised by a single mother after her father died when she was 12, making her “a prime target for grooming by a pedophile like Epstein,” the suit said. She entered high school in September 2001.
According to the lawsuit, during her first semester, she was approached by a brunette woman, who appeared to be in her 20s, just outside the school. The woman, an alleged recruiter for Epstein, tried to befriend her. Araoz says that Maxwell, Epstein’s one-time girlfriend and longtime partner, hired the recruiter to procure underage girls from the high school.
The recruiter asked Araoz where she lived, about her parents, if she lived with her parents, where her parents worked, and where she was born, according to the suit.
“The recruiter approached Ms. Araoz repeatedly over the course of a week or two, offering to take her for lunches close by the school, and during the meals, would continue to ask personal questions about her,” the suit said.
The suit says that at one point, the recruiter began talking about Epstein, calling him a “nice guy” and saying he took care of her and her family. Epstein was wealthy with a house Araoz would want to see, the woman said, adding that Epstein sympathized over the loss of Araoz’s father and wanted to help her. She said Epstein had connections in the modeling world and could help “guide her.”
Epstein was “very caring, very wealthy, very successful, and someone good to know,” the woman allegedly told the 14-year-old. Araoz said she eventually agreed to go to Epstein’s Manhattan mansion and was taken there by the woman.
Epstein gave her a tour of the house and showed her a room that contained “taxidermied animals” he said he had hunted, the suit says. He gave the recruiter a gift—digital camera—after which the woman told Araoz, “You see what I mean, he’s such a nice guy.” Epstein gave Araoz $300 in cash, saying, “I take care of the people I care about.”
Araoz said she returned to the house several days later and he gave her the same digital camera. The first string of visits consisted of similar exchanges. On her first time visiting without the recruiter, Epstein took her to his massage room that was allegedly filled with paintings of nude women. He told the teen that he wanted to see her body and complimented her figure.
He asked her to take her shirt off and began assaulting her. He later warned her not to tell anyone.
“I didn’t know if he would get angry or if I didn’t listen what the repercussions would have been,” Araoz told NBC earlier this year. “So I kind of just followed. I was so young, so I didn’t know better.”
“I felt almost obligated because of the money he was giving me,” she said.
Araoz said in the suit she returned to the home once or twice a week throughout her freshman and sophomore years of high school, getting $300 each time. At one point, Epstein raped her. She never returned.
Araoz is seeking damages for the emotional distress she said she suffered when Epstein raped and sexually assaulted her.
The suit is one of the first filed under New York’s Child Victims Act, which enables victims of child sex abuse to bring cases against their alleged abusers for the next year, even if the alleged crimes happened years ago. Epstein was arrested in July on sex trafficking charges—authorities said he sexually abused and exploited dozens of girls, some as young as 14, in New York and Florida—and died on Aug. 10 after being found unresponsive in his prison cell.
Araoz, now 32, told NBC: “He raped me, forcefully raped me. He knew exactly what he was doing.”
“I was terrified, and I was telling him to stop. ‘Please stop,'” Araoz said.
In the suit, Aroaz’s lawyers said she transferred from her high school because of how close it was to Epstein’s home, causing her to miss out on opportunities in the arts world because of the school’s focus on the arts.