Seizing on a legal opportunity that went into effect in New York today, a woman who alleges that Jeffrey Epstein raped her when she was a teenager filed a lawsuit against the late financier’s estate, his longtime confidante Ghislaine Maxwell and three unnamed women who worked for him.
The Child Victims Act opens a year-long window, beginning Wednesday, for adults who were sexually abused as children to bring lawsuits. Such litigation would previously have been barred by a statute of limitations that prevented victims from suing after age 23. The law is expected to bring forward a flood of cases against institutions such as the Boy Scouts, the state’s Catholic diocese and other religious organizations.
And now, it has been used by an alleged victim of Epstein in an attempt to seek justice.
In a complaint filed on Wednesday, Jennifer Araoz claims that Epstein sexually assaulted her numerous times when she visited his Manhattan townhouse to give him massages when she was age 14 or 15, and that, in one instance, he raped her. She would not have been put in these circumstances, she alleges, had it not been for the efforts of Maxwell and her associates.
In the complaint, Araoz, 32, alleges that Maxwell “participated with and assisted Epstein in maintaining and protecting his sex-trafficking ring” by hiring recruiters to bring him underage girls for sexual purposes, scheduling appointments for Epstein, as well as intimidating witnesses and ensuring that his behavior remained a secret.
In an op-ed for the New York Times published on Wednesday, Aaroz explained that she had been able to sue thanks to the Child Victims Act.
“It took me years to tell the people close to me what had happened,” she wrote of her decision not to come forward sooner. “I was so intimidated by his insistence that I never speak a word of my visits to anyone. And like many survivors, I struggled with anxiety and shame for what I had experienced.”
Though she expressed frustration that Epstein’s death on Saturday meant she could not confront him directly in court, she still wanted her story told “to hold Epstein to account and also his recruiters, the workers on his payroll who knew what he was doing and the prominent people around him who helped conceal and perpetuate his sex-trafficking scheme.”
Araoz may not be the only alleged victim of Epstein’s who utilizes the Child Victims Act throughout the next year.
Jennifer Freeman of the Marsh Law firm told The Washington Post on Wednesday that she and her colleagues represented a handful of Epstein’s alleged victims of sexual abuse, some of whom could stand to benefit from the new legal opportunity.
Her firm has not yet filed any lawsuits because Epstein’s death leaves the future of the case uncertain, but Freeman called the Child Victims Act “a second chance for restorative justice.”
Epstein died of an apparent suicide Saturday while in federal custody in New York City, after being charged with sexually abusing dozens of underage girls.