Jennifer Araoz alleges she was repeatedly sexually assaulted by Jeffrey Epstein at his New York townhouse when she was 14 and 15, including a 2002 forcible rape.
A new front in the Jeffrey Epstein case opened Wednesday morning, as his accuser Jennifer Araoz filed a lawsuit against his estate, his longtime associate Ghislaine Maxwell and three unnamed female household staff members.
Araoz alleges she was repeatedly sexually assaulted by Epstein at his New York City townhouse when she was 14 and 15 years old, including a forcible rape in 2002. She first disclosed her alleged abuse publicly in an exclusive “Today” show interview with Savannah Guthrie of NBC News on July 10, the same day she filed papers in New York state court saying she intended to sue Epstein.
The complaint Araoz filed Wednesday alleges Maxwell and the staffers “conspired with each other to make possible and otherwise facilitate the sexual abuse and rape of Plaintiff.”
“Today is my first step towards reclaiming my power,” Araoz said during a call with reporters Wednesday after the suit was filed. “Jeffrey Epstein and his network of enablers stole from me. They robbed me of my youth, my identity, my innocence, my self-worth. For too long, they escaped accountability. I am here today because I intend to change that.”
Araoz also published an opinion piece in The New York Times on Wednesday explaining her decision to file suit.
“The pursuit of justice doesn’t end. It begins now,” Araoz’s civil attorney, Dan Kaiser, said.
He said the “adult enablers” around Epstein made his client’s abuse possible.
“Adults closely within Epstein’s orbit — they are all culpable. … They shared with each other connections and resources to keep these crimes concealed.”
Kaiser also said that if any powerful men participated in Epstein’s alleged sex trafficking, they are also enablers, and he would consider adding names to the suit as facts dictate.
“Our nation should not tolerate this kind of abuse at the hands of the elite and the plutocrats,” he said.
Kaiser said it would be important to get a deposition from Maxwell, and any other information in terms of testimony and documents that can help identify an unnamed alleged “recruiter.”
The suit is among the first to be filed against Epstein’s estate following his death by apparent suicide Saturday. It amends a suit Araoz intended to file against him to name his estate as a defendant.
It is also one of the first lawsuits filed under New York state’s new Child Victims Act, which goes into effect Wednesday. The landmark law enables victims of child sex abuse to bring civil cases against alleged abusers for the next 12 months, regardless of when the abuse took place. After the year, victims will still have up until age 55 to file civil suits.
Araoz’s case was not cited in the sex-trafficking indictment filed against Epstein in July. After his indictment and after she went public with her allegations, she was interviewed by both the FBI and federal prosecutors for the Southern District of New York as part of their investigation of Epstein. Araoz is continuing to cooperate as the criminal focus turns to any potential Epstein co-conspirators, her attorneys told NBC News. Araoz attorney Kimberly Lerner said Araoz has been assigned a victim number by the FBI, and has also been in touch with the Manhattan district attorney’s office.
Multiple young women have accused Maxwell, now 57, the youngest daughter of the late British publishing magnate Robert Maxwell, of complicity in Epstein’s alleged sex trafficking ring. They say she either recruited them directly or provided logistical support, like scheduling visits to Epstein’s home.
Maxwell’s alleged role came into sharper focus last week in newly unsealed court filings that include depositions from Epstein’s former masseuses, staffers and associates. They paint a portrait of Maxwell as the accused sexual predator’s chief enabler.
The filings are related to a 2015 defamation lawsuit that alleged Epstein victim Virginia Roberts Giuffre filed against Maxwell. That suit was settled out of court in 2017.