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One by one, 16 women approached the podium in front of a packed federal courtroom on Tuesday and shared their trauma and grief, which they say was caused by a man whose recent death prevents them from getting the justice they desperately sought.
Jeffrey Epstein was being held at the Metropolitan Correctional Center in New York when his body was discovered inside his cell on Aug. 10. His death was ruled a suicide. According to a federal indictment, he allegedly “sexually exploited and abused dozens of minor girls at his homes,” and had been charged with one count of sex-trafficking of minors and one count of conspiracy to engage in sex-trafficking of minors. If he had been convicted, he would have faced a maximum sentence of 45 years in prison.
Before federal court Judge Richard M. Berman ruled on whether to dismiss the criminal case due to Epstein’s death, he invited every known accuser to Tuesday’s hearing and offered them a chance to speak out. Here are some of their words:
“He is a coward.” – Courtney Wild
“He is a coward,” Wild said. “I feel very angry and sad that justice has never been served.”
“It felt like a whole new trauma all over again.” – Jane Doe No. 1
“I’m still learning the ways he impacted me. It felt like a whole new trauma all over again [after he died],” she said. “The whole situation sucks, but maybe it’s a catalyst for change.”
“He was really strategic how he approached each of us.” – Jane Doe No. 2
“He was really strategic how he approached each of us. A lot of us were in vulnerable situations and extreme poverty and didn’t have anyone to speak on our behalf,” Doe No. 2 said. “I didn’t even know I was a victim. … I still don’t feel like I deserve to call myself a victim.”
“My world spiraled.” – Jane Doe No. 3
“I was ashamed. I was embarrassed,” Jane Doe No. 3 said about how she felt after being sexually assaulted. “I left, and my world spiraled. I’m angry he’s not alive to pay the price for his actions.”
“[The pain] will never go away.” – Jane Doe No. 4
“There is irreparable pain and damage,” she said. “It will never go away.”
“I think you are a mentally disturbed human being.” – Jane Doe No. 5
Jane Doe No. 5 wrote a letter to Epstein and read it aloud.
“Please don’t rob us of justice again.” – Chauntae Davies
“Every public humiliation I have endured – I have suffered and he has won,” she said. “I have found my voice now, and while Jeffrey may no longer be here to hear it, I will not stop fighting and I will not be silenced anymore….Please don’t rob us of justice again.”
“I am every girl he did this to, and they’re all me.” – Anouska De Georgiou
“He could not begin to fathom what he took from us, and I say ‘us’ because I am every girl he did this to, and they’re all me,” De Georgiou said. “I was a victim, but I will not remain a victim for another day. I am relieved Jeffrey Epstein will not be able to hurt any more children or women.”
“I was treated like I did not matter.” – Michelle Licata
“I was treated like I did not matter,” Licata wrote in a statement about not being a part of the legal process when Epstein was sentenced in 2008. But this time was different. “I was allowed to be a part of the system. The fact that I matter and other victims matter – I am grateful.”
“I’m coming forward to shine a light on this darkness.” – Theresa Helm
“I’m coming forward to shine a light on this darkness. I’ve worked hard to get where I am now. I will no longer cover up what needs to be brought to light,” she told the court. She named Epstein friends Ghislaine Maxwell and Sarah Kellen as women who also needed to be held accountable. “They need to be held accountable for helping themselves and helping one another to carry on a huge system,” Helm alleged.
Maxwell and Kellen do not currently face any charges.
“He did not act alone.” – Virginia Roberts Giuffre
“They committed dark and cruel acts against me,” Giuffre said. “He did not act alone. We the victims know that.”
“Please, please finish what you have started.” – Sarah Ransome
“Please, please finish what you have started,” Ransome said toward the government prosecutors seated near her. “We all know he did not act alone.”
“Those in power will be held accountable.” – Annie Farmer
“They stole her dreams and livelihood,” she said on behalf of her sister Maria Farmer, an alleged victim who could not attend. She said the government was sending an “important signal to so many victims out there – even those in power will be held accountable.”
“I decided to come forward to be a voice for the victims.” – Marijke Chartouni
“I decided to come forward to be a voice for the victims who cannot tell their story,” Chartouni said, “or at least not yet.”
“He robbed me of my childhood and innocence.” – Jennifer Araoz
“He robbed me of my childhood and innocence. It took me years to tell anyone what he did to me,” she said. “The fact I will never have a chance to face my predator in court eats away at my soul. … He will never steal our inner-strength or ever, ever take away our voice.”
“He gave me a life sentence of guilt and shame.” – Jane Doe No. 6
“Jeffrey Epstein stole my innocence,” Jane Doe No. 6 said in a statement read by her attorney. “He gave me a life sentence of guilt and shame.”
“My life changed because of Jeffrey Epstein.” – Jane Doe No. 7
“I used to be carefree, inquisitive, hopeful, and excited about life, but my life changed because of Jeffrey Epstein,” she said in a statement read by her attorney. “My perspective on life became very dark when I was unknowingly recruited.”
“I am still a victim.” – Jane Doe No. 8
“I am still a victim. This point of closure is gone,” Doe No. 8 said in a statement about Epstein’s death. “I will never get an answer as to why. I will never get an apology.”
“I am fearful for my daughters and everyone’s daughters.” – Teala Davies
“I’m still a victim because the fear of not being heard stopped me from telling my story for so many years,” Davies said in court. “I’m still a victim because I am fearful for my daughters and everyone’s daughters.”
“I remember feeling so small and powerless.” – Jane Doe No. 9
“I remember most vividly him explaining to me how beneficial the experience was for me and how much he was helping me to grow,” Jane Doe No. 9 said about her assault. “I remember feeling so small and powerless. I was laying on his floor and confronted by all the framed photographs on his dresser of him smiling with wealthy celebrities and politicians.”
“I purchased a gun and drove myself to an isolated place to end my suffering.” – Jane Doe No. 10
“His actions cause me into a downward spiral to the point where I purchased a gun and drove myself to an isolated place to end my suffering,” Doe. No 10 said about her trauma. “Epstein is a coward. He died as he lived – taking the easy way out.”
“I had never even kissed a boy before I met him.” – Jane Doe No. 11
“He knew people I looked up to and revered. When I was there, he’d call celebrities or heads of states, which sadly impressed me,” she said. She said she was a virgin when Epstein raped her. “I had never even kissed a boy before I met him, and never throughout the horrific abuse did Jeffrey Epstein kiss me once.”
“It felt like a casting call for prostitution.” – Jane Doe No. 12
“I wanted to be a Victoria’s Secret model. A woman introduced me to Jeffrey Epstein and told me to be nice,” Jane Doe No 12 told the court about her first encounter with him. “Mr. Epstein had a white robe on and we chatted briefly. He took off his robe and got close to me. … It felt like a casting call for prostitution. It felt like hell.”
For many of the women who appeared and a dozen others who sent letters to be read aloud during the hearing, it was the first time they had spoken about their experience in public.
Attorney Glora Allred represented two of the women who spoke, and read aloud four statements belonging to women who couldn’t attend. Allred applauded all of the women who have come forward, and encouraged anyone who might be thinking about it: “It takes courage to speak truth to power.”
At the end of the hearing, the judge dismissed the case, but prosecutor Maurene Comey explained to the court that the dismissal “in no way prohibits or inhibits the government’s ongoing investigation into other potential co-conspirators, or prevents the bringing of a new case in the future.”
She says the investigation remains ongoing.