Epstein Accusers Lead Tearful Hearing Recounting Alleged Abuse, Years of Ongoing Trauma

A tear-stained federal courtroom on Tuesday oversaw the final stages of the prosecution of Jeffrey E. Epstein, whose premature death by suicide on August 10 terminated the legal proceedings against him and prevented his alleged victims from confronting the man they accuse of stealing their childhoods.

But these alleged victims used U.S. District Judge Richard M. Berman's open invitation to self-identified victims to pursue some measure of closure, even if it was not of the sort they had hoped for when the government announced Epstein's arrest in July after years of evading significant accountability for his alleged crimes.

"I am a victim of Jeffrey Epstein," Courtney Wild said to a hushed courtroom, using an opening line that would be reprised by many of her fellow accusers. "He robbed us of our day in court, and for that he was a coward."

This was among the primary themes in testimony from 23 alleged victims who delivered remarks to the court Tuesday morning, some on the record, some in person using the pseudonym "Jane Doe" and others whose statements were read aloud by counsel.

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Teala Davies (L), one of deceased financier Jeffrey Epstein's alleged victims, discrimination attorney Gloria Allred (C) and another unidentified alleged victim (R) prepare to talk to the press outside the US Federal Court on August 27, 2019 in New York. YANA PASKOVA/Getty

Accusers comforted each other during the hours-long proceeding, an unprecedented effort by the federal judiciary to hear testimony from accusers in a criminal case that had not yet gone, and would not go, to trial. Advocates expressed hope that Berman's arrangement of this victim-centric hearing, one that was nominally convened to close the criminal case against Epstein, would serve as a model for other sex abuse prosecutions.

Most of the accusers who spoke struggled to read their prepared statements through tears, and their fellow accusers in the audience looked on with anticipation. Many sobbed as they realized the full scope of harm that Epstein is alleged to have perpetrated against dozens of young women and girls across several states and even internationally.

"You can't even imagine how much it affected my childhood," Jennifer Araoz, who has accused Epstein of raping her when she was 15, said aloud during her time at the podium. "He robbed me of my dreams."

"Even in death, Epstein is trying to hurt me," she added, alluding to the lack of finality expressed by many accusers since Epstein's apparent suicide mooted the case.

Other accusers could not wrap their minds around the experiences they say they were subjected to.

"He's a complex villain," one accuser, going by the name of Jane Doe No. 1, said. "I still feel like I'm learning the ways he has impacted me."

Another accuser, going by the name of Jane Doe No. 2, compared being victimized to being a frog in a slow-boiling pot of water.

"I didn't even know I was a victim at first," she said. "I still feel like I don't deserve to say I'm a victim."

Virginia Roberts Giuffre, one of the most well-known victims in the case who has initiated several civil actions against Epstein's alleged collaborators, recounted how she says she first stumbled into Epstein's orbit. It was Ghislaine Maxwell, she repeated to the courtroom, who first approached her in 2000 outside Mar-a-Lago, where she was working as a spa attendant.

"I am a victim of Jeffrey Epstein and Ghislaine Maxwell," Giuffre proclaimed to the court. "The reckoning must not end [now], it must continue."

For most of the self-described victims who testified, Epstein's alleged predation did not stop tormenting them after they were disposed of. Many recounted years of seclusion, social apathy and depression as chief among the lingering symptoms of meeting Epstein.

Others told of negative professional consequences; this irony is not lost upon those who said they were promised career advancement by Epstein, who is said to have displayed enormous influence in academic and professional circles.

"I thought he was the most powerful person I would ever meet," accuser Teala Davies recalled.

"He outsmarted everyone and his ghost is still laughing at us," Jane Doe No. 11 told the court through a statement read by attorney Gloria Allred.

Accuser Chauntae Davies said that she was "conditioned to just accept" the abuse, reflecting on how Epstein intertwined himself in her life by sending her to school, getting her a job and, in her words, appearing to invite her into his family — something she was "desperately searching for."

But Epstein's alleged abuse continued to haunt her in various ways after the attacks, she said. Her association with the case as an accuser has caused at least one job offer to be retracted, she claimed.

"I hadn't yet found my voice," she said. "Well I have found my voice now. I will not be silenced anymore."

Epstein Accusers Lead Tearful Hearing Recounting Alleged Abuse, Years of Ongoing Trauma | U.S.