This article contains content that some may find distressing.
Jeffrey Epstein “was” apparently a serial molester of children. He had manipulation down to an art form, as many molesters do. He seemed to be an expert at figuring out a girl’s weak point, whether it was poverty, a deceased family member, or feeling alienated from her peers.
This is a common ploy. Many molesters seek out children or teens who have lost a parent and use this as a way to build a friendship. Then, because children don’t think like adults, they are manipulated, coerced, or threatened into sexual activity.
The story below could be told a hundred thousand times with only tiny changes. The names and the faces would be different. The settings might not be a mansion in Manhattan or in Palm Beach but rather a quiet part of a church, a school, or some kind of activity for teens. The setting could be in the house next door to you, where someone with evil intent befriends a vulnerable young person with the stated goal of helping them, but an end result that couldn’t be further from reality.
How 14-year-old Jennifer Araoz met Jeffrey Epstein
Jennifer Araoz was 14 years old when she first met her future rapist, Jeffrey Epstein. She wrote about how she was manipulated, first by his recruiter, then by Epstein himself. There are many powerful lessons that we as parents can learn from her story.
During my freshman year, one of Epstein’s recruiters, a stranger, approached me on the sidewalk outside my high school. Epstein never operated alone. He had a ring of enablers and surrounded himself with influential people. I was attending a performing arts school on the Upper East Side, studying musical theater. I wanted to be an actress and a singer. (source)
Another report based on court documents says that the recruiter befriended Jennifer, took her out to eat after school a few times, and learned more about her, such as the fact that Jennifer’s father had died from an AIDs-related illness and her family could barely scrape by financially.
The recruiter told me about a wealthy man she knew named Jeffrey Epstein. Meeting him would be beneficial, and he could introduce me to the right people for my career, she said. When I confided that I had recently lost my father and that my family was living on food stamps, she told me he was very caring and wanted to help us financially. (source)
The recruiter finally got Jennifer to go with her to meet Epstein. Court documents say that they all three met together for the first month or so.
The visits during the first month felt benign, at least at the time. On my second visit, Epstein also gave me a digital camera as a gift. The visits were about one to two hours long and we would spend the time talking. After each visit, he or his secretary would hand me $300 in cash, supposedly to help my family. (source)
Epstein claimed he was ‘a big AIDS activist’ which you can imagine would mean a lot to a 14-year-old whose father died of the disease.
Soon the visits would take a dark turn.
By the second month of Jennifer’s visits to the mansion, the recruiter no longer attended the visits., the manipulation began in earnest.
But within about a month, he started asking me for massages and instructed me to take my top off. He said he would need to see my body if he was going to help me break into modeling. I felt uncomfortable and intimidated, but I did as he said. The assault escalated when, during these massages, he would flip over and sexually gratify himself and touch me inappropriately. For a little over a year, I went to Epstein’s home once or twice a week.
After that day, I never went back. I also quit the performing arts school — the one I had auditioned for and had wanted so badly to attend. It was too close to his house, the scene of so many crimes. I was too scared I would see him or his recruiter. So I transferred to another school in Queens close to my home. Since I was no longer able to pursue my dream of performing arts I eventually lost interest and dropped out. (source)
Sure, we can say that she knew things weren’t right when he asked her to take her top off. By this point, she was 15 years old. Old enough to know right from wrong. But if she was getting $300 twice a week and helping her family with it, it’s pretty easy to see how she would want to continue helping her family despite her discomfort. Epstein knew exactly what he was doing.
Epstein’s wealth, power, and connections would have made going against him seem like an insurmountable feat for a vulnerable 15-year-old girl who had recently lost her father. Who would have believed her word against that of this presumed philanthropist?
A few days ago, Jennifer, now 32, filed a massive lawsuit against Epstein’s estate, Ghislaine Maxwell, and 3 members of Epstein’s household staff. The complaint alleges that Maxwell and the staff “conspired with each other to make possible and otherwise facilitate the sexual abuse and rape of Plaintiff.”
Some of Epstein’s victims recruited new girls for him.
Epstein’s indictment explains how he manipulated some of the girls he sexually abused to bring other girls to him.
Prosecutors say he lured underage girls, some as young as 14, to his residences, promising them a cash payment in exchange for giving him a massage. Instead, he would sexually abuse them — groping them, making them touch him while he masturbated, and using sex toys on the minors. Then, he would allegedly ask them to recruit other girls. (source)
A detailed report in the Miami Herald referred to it as a “sexual pyramid scheme.” One of Epstein’s accusers, Courtney Wild, reiterates the theme of the story told by Jennifer Boaz.
“Jeffrey preyed on girls who were in a bad way, girls who were basically homeless. He went after girls who he thought no one would listen to and he was right,’’ said Courtney Wild, who was 14 when she met Epstein. (source)
Courtney’s time spent with Epstein nearly destroyed her.
Before she met Epstein, Courtney Wild was captain of the cheerleading squad, first trumpet in the band and an A-student at Lake Worth Middle School.
After she met Epstein, she was a stripper, a drug addict and an inmate at Gadsden Correctional Institution in Florida’s Panhandle.
Wild still had braces on her teeth when she was introduced to him in 2002 at the age of 14.
She was fair, petite and slender, blonde and blue-eyed. (source)
She began to recruit other girls for him in Palm Beach.
Wild…said Epstein preferred girls who were white, appeared prepubescent and those who were easy to manipulate into going further each time…
…“By the time I was 16, I had probably brought him 70 to 80 girls who were all 14 and 15 years old. He was involved in my life for years,” said Wild, who was released from prison in October after serving three years on drug charges.
The girls — mostly 13 to 16 — were lured to his pink waterfront mansion by Wild and other girls, who went to malls, house parties and other places where girls congregated, and told recruits that they could earn $200 to $300 to give a man — Epstein — a massage, according to an unredacted copy of the Palm Beach police investigation obtained by the Herald. (source)
Epstein had it down to an art form.
Palm Beach police detective Joseph Recarey explains how Epstein insinuated himself into the girls’ lives.
“The common interview with a girl went like this: ‘I was brought there by so and so. I didn’t feel comfortable with what happened, but I got paid well, so I was told if I didn’t feel comfortable, I could bring someone else and still get paid,’ ’’ Recarey said.
During the massage sessions, Recarey said Epstein would molest the girls, paying them premiums for engaging in oral sex and intercourse, and offering them a further bounty to find him more girls…
…Epstein could be a generous benefactor, Recarey said, buying his favored girls gifts. He might rent a car for a young girl to make it more convenient for her to stop by and cater to him. Once, he sent a bucket of roses to the local high school after one of his girls starred in a stage production. The floral-delivery instructions and a report card for one of the girls were discovered in a search of his mansion and trash. Police also obtained receipts for the rental cars and gifts, Recarey said.
Epstein counseled the girls about their schooling, and told them he would help them get into college, modeling school, fashion design or acting. At least two of Epstein’s victims told police that they were in love with him, according to the police report. (source)
You may look at these stories and scorn the victims. After all, they kept going back, didn’t they? They liked the money, didn’t they?
But they were children. Many of them were isolated, vulnerable, and without support systems. Many of them felt ashamed but didn’t know how to extricate themselves. They were confused and scared, and Epstein was a pro at taking advantage of these emotions and doubts.
The girls are not to blame here. The adults are.
Epstein is not the only predator out there.
While this article focuses on how Epstein was able to lure so many victims, as Dagny Taggert recently wrote, there are many more people in power out there preying on children. Clergy, priests, teachers, neighbors, musicians, and random people on the internet are out there preying on and trafficking children.
According to The National Center for Victims of Crime, the prevalence of child sexual abuse (CSA) is difficult to determine because it is often not reported. Experts agree that the incidence is far greater than what is reported to authorities.
Statistics below represent some of the research done on child sexual abuse.
The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ Children’s Bureau report Child Maltreatment 2010 found that 9.2% of victimized children were sexually assaulted (page 24).
1 in 5 girls and 1 in 20 boys is a victim of child sexual abuse;
Self-report studies show that 20% of adult females and 5-10% of adult males recall a childhood sexual assault or sexual abuse incident;
During a one-year period in the U.S., 16% of youth ages 14 to 17 had been sexually victimized;
Over the course of their lifetime, 28% of U.S. youth ages 14 to 17 had been sexually victimized;
Children are most vulnerable to CSA between the ages of 7 and 13.
According to Darkness to Light, a non-profit committed to empowering adults to prevent child sexual abuse, only about one-third of child sexual abuse incidents are identified, and even fewer are reported.
The National Center for Missing and Exploited Children operates the CyberTipline, a national mechanism for the public and electronic service providers to report instances of suspected child sexual exploitation.
In 2018 the CyberTipline received more than 18.4 million reports, most of which related to:
Apparent child sexual abuse images.
Online enticement, including “sextortion.”
Child sex trafficking.
Child sexual molestation.
Since its inception, the CyberTipline has received more than 48 million reports.
Those statistics are grim. (source)
How do you keep your children safe?
When my children’s father passed away, it wasn’t too long afterward that I left my corporate job. I volunteered when the company began layoffs and took a small payment and my retirement fund to start a new life writing freelance. It wasn’t long after that when I started this website.
I wanted to be home when they got back from school every day. I didn’t want them to seem like prey to those looking for children with weak support systems. My own daughters could so easily have had a story like the one Jennifer has told.
I know that what I did is not possible for every family that suffers a loss. I was pretty fortunate to be able to find work from home that paid enough to allow me to be there.
What you, as a parent, must understand are the things that make your child seem vulnerable.
Social isolation and few, if any, friends
Lack of a support system from parents and caregivers
Spending too much time on their own
Alienation from parents
Some signs that your child could be getting abused or groomed.
Sudden secretiveness regarding their phone or computer (a lot of grooming happens online
Spending a great deal of time alone with another adult
Signs of increased anger or fear
Lack of participation in things that used to bring them happiness
Withdrawal from family and friends
Obviously, these lists are not comprehensive, nor are they sure signs of abuse. What teenager doesn’t seem angry and withdrawn from time to time? But it’s vital, no matter how hard they push you away, to stay involved, particularly after a traumatic event.
Here are some resources you may find helpful.
Teach your kids that some secrets should not be kept.
Predators manipulate children in all sorts of ways. One of the biggest ways is warning them to keep their “relationship” a secret or else.
Or else what?
They’ll hurt Mom or Dad
They’ll hurt the child’s pet
They’ll hurt the child’s siblings
They’ll cause extreme financial problems for the family
Predators often put a burden on a child where they feel as though they must stay silent to protect the people they love.
Kids need to know that if anyone threatens them if they tell a secret, then they absolutely must tell that secret. Mom and Dad will be safe and will protect them. People who ask children to keep their presence in their lives a secret are never to be trusted.
And finally, make sure your children know that whatever they tell you, you will believe them and you know it’s not their fault.