▶ Watch Video: Jeffrey Epstein accuser Jennifer Araoz speaks out on Ghislaine Maxwell’s sex abuse trial
One of Jeffrey Epstein’s accusers said she hopes the sex abuse trial of British socialite Ghislaine Maxwell — set to begin Monday in New York — will provide a sense of closure and an opportunity for his alleged victims to have their day in court.
Jennifer Araoz, who says Epstein raped her when she was 15, was the first accuser to speak about her allegations against him on TV. She now plans to be in the courtroom for Maxwell’s long-awaited trial.
“It’s not going to justify anything, but it does make me feel good for the other victims, that they’re going to have their day in court to speak their mind and, hopefully, get closure,” she told “CBS Mornings” co-anchor Gayle King in an interview Monday.
Maxwell, who has pleaded not guilty, is accused of recruiting and grooming underage girls for Epstein’s alleged sex trafficking ring. She denies any involvement and insists she had nothing to do with the alleged abuse of teenage girls.
Araoz isn’t surprised by Maxwell’s defense.
“If Epstein was here, I think he would have said the same thing,” she said, adding that “any predator or somebody who’s charged with these things” would react the same way.
Epstein killed himself in jail in 2019 and never went on trial.
Araoz and her lawyer, Eric Lerner, said they hope the trial will also reveal the identities of the alleged co-conspirators mentioned in court filings.
“It was a huge web, a big enterprise, and I want everybody who was involved to face their day in court and have justice,” she said.
Some of the accusers have described Maxwell as “worse” than Epstein, but her family insists she is taking the fall for his alleged crimes.
Maxwell, who faces up to 70 years in prison if convicted, is accused of helping Epstein “recruit, groom and ultimately abuse victims” as young as 14 years old, according to the indictment. Prosecutors said Maxwell would befriend the girls and sometimes take them “to the movies or shopping.”
Her trial will focus on allegations made by teenage girls from 1994 to 2004. The alleged sex assaults happened at Epstein’s New York mansion, his ranch in New Mexico, his home in Palm Beach, Florida, and Maxwell’s home in London.
Araoz said she met Epstein after being approached outside her school by one of his alleged recruiters. She wanted to work in musical theater and was told Epstein could help her because he knew many people in that industry.
Araoz said coming forward was not an easy decision.
“I was nervous. You don’t want to be judged. You don’t want to be not believed,” she said. “And I am a strong woman. I don’t want it to define me. But at the same time, it helped so many other women, so it’s such a blessing to know that I did speak my mind and my truth.”
Araoz has also launched a nonprofit, Survivors Initiative, to continue helping women.