- 1 Jennifer Araoz
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From the start, Araoz says she loved her high school. The Talent Unlimited High School was a small, specialized school for the performing arts located on E. 68th St. on Manhattan’s Upper East Side.
It seemed a perfect fit for Araoz, who longed for a career in theater. She grew up in Queens in a household that had little money. The death of her father, when she was in middle school, took an especially heavy toll.
“I was a little bitter,” Araoz said. “I felt a little cheated in life.”
Jennifer Araoz, left, and a friend during her freshman year of high school in 2001.Courtesy of Jennifer Araoz
It was early in her freshman year when Araoz says a brunette in her 20s approached her outside school. She was easy to talk to, and Araoz spoke freely about her struggles and her dreams.
“I was kind of a lost kid and she sensed it,” Araoz said.
They had chatted a few times before the young woman ever brought up Epstein’s name. She said he believed in helping people and was already supporting her and her family, Araoz said.
“She was saying he’s very powerful, he’s very wealthy, he’s a great guy,” Araoz recalled. “He’s almost like a fatherly figure to her, which had meaning for me at that time because I was maybe longing for that.”
Araoz said the woman showed up outside her school multiple times and even offered to buy her a soda or lunch nearby. “She was definitely trying to get to know me,” Araoz said.
Araoz eventually agreed to accompany the woman on a visit to Epstein’s home. His townhouse, located less than 10 blocks from her school, was as impressive as the woman had described.
She said it wasn’t until several years later that she confided in her boyfriend at the time, and subsequently told her mother and at least two close friends.
She said it wasn’t until several years later that she confided in her boyfriend at the time, and subsequently told her mother and at least two close friends that Epstein had raped her.
Araoz said, she rushed out of the house angry and shaken. Her life unraveled over the next few months. She developed crippling anxiety. She suffered panic attacks. She dropped out of school to avoid having to return to his neighborhood — and eventually gave up on her dream of becoming an actress.
The mother, who spoke on the condition of anonymity, said she noticed a change in her daughter’s behavior and appearance around 2002. Araoz lost weight, became withdrawn and was frequently angry, her mother said.
But Araoz didn’t tell anyone about the source of her torment — at least not initially.
“I kind of hated myself for it,” Araoz said. “I was like, ‘I’m stupid, I should have known better. I’m a bad kid.'”
“I basically just tried to forget about it and live my life,” she said.
Araoz said Epstein and his associates tried to contact her but she never responded to the messages or spoke to him ever again.
Jennifer Araoz (Leaked Pictures)
“He shouldn’t be on the streets anymore, period,” she said.
When asked why she didn’t contact the authorities about the alleged assault, Araoz said she feared the repercussions.
“I was so young that I was worried that somehow I would get in trouble,” Araoz said. “I was really frightened of Epstein. He knew a lot of powerful people and I didn’t know what he could do to me, and I wasn’t sure that anyone could protect me.”
“He injured her grievously,” said one of Ararat’s lawyers, Daniel Kaiser. “She suffered a horrific event that altered the course of her life forever.”
Attorney Kimberly Lerner, who is also representing Araoz, added: “Jennifer is no longer the scared 14-year-old child who was victimized by Jeffrey Epstein. Today, she is the brave young woman telling her story to let all the other victims know that they are not alone.”
Araoz said she’s finally summoned the strength to speak out now to help prevent other young girls from falling into the clutches of predatory men.
But she still harbors guilt over not doing so earlier.
“What hurts me even more so is that if I wasn’t afraid to come forward sooner, then maybe he wouldn’t have done it to other girls,” Araoz said.