The details varied from woman to woman as they took their place behind the podium of a packed New York City courtroom on Tuesday, but their message was uniform: When Jeffrey Epstein died by suicide on August 10, he tried to rob them of their voices. He would not succeed.
Dozens of women were given the opportunity to testify in a Manhattan federal court about the alleged abuse they experienced at the hands of Epstein. Judge Richard M. Berman made the decision in this case not to drop proceedings against the deceased financier, saying in court documents that the public may still have an "informational interest" in the process. For survivors it was a chance to be heard after being denied that opportunity for decades.
Survivor Courtney Wild called Epstein a coward and said his suicide robbed survivors of the chance to confront him in court.
"Justice has never been served in this case,” she told the court.
He robbed me of my dreams, of my chance to pursue a career I adored.
"He robbed me of my dreams, of my chance to pursue a career I adored," said survivor Jennifer Araoz. She described Epstein as a “predator, a pedophile, and a thief.”
Many of the women who testified described themselves as "a perfect victim." Young and impressionable, they were easy prey for Epstein, whose powerful connections and network of agents and assistants allegedly allowed him to commit sex crimes for decades.
One survivor, testifying as Jane Doe, spoke of adolescence in a tumultuous household. When an Epstein associate noticed her carrying a violin case, they approached her saying that Epstein would pay to hear her play. She recalled her choice to go to Epstein's ranch as "the end of my childhood” and said that the abuse nearly drove her to shoot herself.
Another survivor, also testifying as Jane Doe, said that Epstein promised to write her a recommendation letter to Harvard University before raping her.
In an indictment unsealed in July, federal prosecutors allege that Epstein ran a sex-trafficking ring for years in which he lured girls, some as young as 14, to his New York and Florida residences under the guise that he would help them with career and personal advancement.
Epstein faced criminal charges more than a decade ago, but received a lenient plea deal that allowed him to escape federal prosecution and potentially life in prison. The plea has been widely criticized, particularly following a Miami Herald blockbuster investigation by journalist Julie K. Brown.
In Tuesday’s hearing, the survivors who spoke emphasized that Epstein’s suicide shouldn’t be the end of a criminal prosecution, citing the many who helped him directly as well as his network of rich and powerful supporters.
“Epstein has once again tried to silence me,” said Araoz. “We need to bring all enablers and co-conspirators to justice.”
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