A woman has come forward for the first time to allege that Jeffrey Epstein raped her when she was only 15 years old, following a series of meetings at his Manhattan townhouse.
Jennifer Araoz spoke exclusively to the “Today” show about her frightening encounters with 66-year-old Epstein, who is currently in custody facing sex trafficking charges. Aroaz said in an interview with Savannah Guthrie that she was 14 years old and a student at a Manhattan performing arts school in 2001 when a friendly young woman began visiting her at the school, asking her questions about her personal life and hopes for the future.
Before long, the young woman — who Aroaz described as a “recruiter”– was talking up a nice and wealthy man who lived nearby named Jeffrey Epstein, saying he had helped her and suggesting he could do the same for the 14-year-old with dreams of becoming a Broadway performer. The woman convinced Araoz to go visit Epstein with her. Araoz said in the interview that during the first few visits, she and Epstein only talked, but eventually he gave her a private tour of his mansion, showing her what he described as his “favorite room in the house” — which was fitted with a massage table.
For about a year, Araoz said she regularly visited him there, where he pressured her into giving him massages while she was wearing only her underwear. She told Guthrie that he would pleasure himself during these massages, and would give her $300 every time.
In 2002, when she was 15, Araoz claimed that Epstein pressured her for more physical contact, telling her to remove her underwear before he grabbed her.
“He raped me, forcefully raped me,” Araoz said in the interview. “He knew exactly what he was doing.”
“I was terrified, and I was telling him to stop. ‘Please stop.”
Aroaz did not go to the police at the time, but never went back to Epstein’s house, saying she was terrified of what might happen. But over the years she did confide in friends and relatives; and NBC News spoke to four people who said Aroaz told them about what happened years ago.
“She said that she was raped by Epstein and before the rape she had been giving him massages for a year,” a longtime friend told the news station. “There’s no doubt in my mind knowing her character, the type of person she is, that what she says happened is exactly what happened.”
Aroaz said in the interview that she has suffered from anxiety as a result of the trauma, and regrets not coming forward sooner; saying that she wonders if it might have stopped him from hurting more victims.
— TODAY (@TODAYshow) July 10, 2019
Epstein has long been plagued by accusations of sexually assaulting and trafficking minors. In 2008, Epstein pleaded guilty to soliciting minors for prostitution in exchange for 18 months in prison; he served only 13 months on a work-release program.
The hedge-fund billionaire avoided federal charges at the time as a result of the agreement, but federal prosecutors unsealed new sex trafficking charges against him this week; and reportedly found a vast collection of lewd photographs of females, some believed to be underage, in a raid of his townhouse on Saturday.
Epstein is currently in custody and is due in court in Manhattan for a bail hearing on Thursday.