In a packed federal courtroom in New York City on Tuesday morning, 23 women spoke about sexual abuse they said they faced as underage girls at the hands of Jeffrey Epstein.
Epstein — who was being held on federal charges for allegedly running a sex trafficking operation in which he sexually abused dozens of underage girls, some as young as 14 — killed himself in jail on Aug. 10 while awaiting trial.
Following Epstein's initial arrest, US Attorney for the Southern District of New York Geoffrey Berman said that bringing charges against the financier was “profoundly important to the many alleged victims who are now young women," and that "they deserve their day in court."
Denied their chance at true justice upon his death, some of these women at least got that day in court on Tuesday. In formally closing the case against Epstein, Judge Richard M. Berman took the unusual step of inviting the women to speak, thinking it important they should at least be given the opportunity to tell their stories.
And so one by one, with many in tears, the women stood before the judge and described how Epstein manipulated, coerced, threatened, and sexually abused them when they were just teen girls in the early 2000s. Many of them said Epstein paid them to give him nude "massages," then violently raped them.
Some of the women used their names. Many didn't, instead going by "Jane Doe." A number of them had their lawyers read statements they'd written.
Here are some of their most powerful words.
"Jeffrey Epstein robbed myself and all the other victims of our day in court to confront him one by one, and for that he is a coward."
Jane Doe #1
"I still feel like I am learning the ways that he's impacted me.
"Even though Jeffrey Epstein brought it to a grand scale, on some level, a lot of girls could relate to the trauma we are talking about."
Jane Doe #2
"I think each of us has a different story and different circumstances for why we stayed in it, but for me, I think he was really strategic in how he approached each of us. Things happened slowly over time. It was almost like that analogy of a frog being in a pan of water and slowly turning the flame up.
"A lot of us were in very vulnerable situations and in extreme poverty, circumstances where we didn't have anyone on our side."
Jane Doe #3
"My world kind of spiraled after that. I stopped going on modeling castings. I gained weight. I became depressed. I stopped going out with my friends. And only five months after I had been in New York City to pursue my dream, I left. I left the modeling industry, I left New York City, and I totally switched my career path."
Jane Doe #4
"We will always carry irreparable damage and pain throughout our lives after this. It's something that's never going to go away. Whoever we marry in our life, whatever future we have in our life, it's always going to be something that's always there for us."
Jane Doe #5
"You paid for your freedom. You violated my rights. You should have to pay for them, just as anyone else. You got a plea deal no one else would have been able to get. You used your money to get out of paying the price for your actions."
"I began my massage, trying not to let him smell my fear and obvious discomfort, but before I knew what was happening, he grabbed onto my wrist and tugged me towards the bed. I tried to pull away, but he was unbuttoning my shorts and pulling my body onto his already naked body faster than I could think. I was searching for words but all I could say was, 'No, please stop,' but that just seemed to excite him more."
"Something I think is very important to communicate is that loss of innocence, trust, and joy that is not recoverable. The abuse, spanning several years, was devaluing beyond measure and affected my ability to form and maintain healthy relationships, both in my work and my personal life. He could not begin to fathom what he took from us."
"What happened to me occurred many years ago when I was in high school, but it still affects my life. I was told then that Jeffrey Epstein was going to be held accountable, but he was not. In fact, the government worked out a secret deal and didn't tell me about it. ... The fact that I mattered this time and the other victims mattered is what counts."
Theresa J. Helm
"That experience for the last 17 years has been a dark corner in my story... So I'm here today because it is time to bring light to that darkness, and it's time to replace that darkness with light."
Virginia Roberts Giuffre
"He will not have his day in court, but the reckoning of accountability has begun, supported by the voices of these brave and beautiful women in this courtroom today. The reckoning must not end — it must continue. He did not act alone and we, the victims, know that."
"I would like to acknowledge and extend my gratitude to the prosecutors from the Southern District of New York for pursuing justice on behalf of the victims. Please, please finish what you have started.
"We, the victims, are still here, prepared to tell the truth, and we all know he did not act alone. We are survivors, and the pursuit of justice should not abate."
Annie Farmer (speaking on behalf of her sister Maria Farmer)
"Jeffrey Epstein and Ghislaine Maxwell not only assaulted her, but as we're hearing from so many of these brave women here today, they stole her dreams and her livelihood. She risked her safety in 1996, so many years ago, to report them — to no avail — and it is heartbreaking to her and to me that all this destruction has been wrought since that time."
"She told me he went to Cooper Union. He was a mathematical genius. That he had favorite girls that he would take to Chanel for 15-minute, all-you-can-buy shopping trips. She told me his right-hand person had connection to the arts and the fashion world, and she could help me."
"He robbed me of my dreams. He robbed me of my chance to pursue a career I always adored. He stole my chance at really feeling love because I was so scared to trust anyone for so many years that I had such severe anxiety. I didn't want to leave my house, let alone my bed.
"The fact I will never have a chance to face my predator in court eats away at my soul. Even in death, Epstein is trying to hurt me. I had hoped to at last get an apology, but this evil man had no remorse or caring for what he did to anyone."
Jane Doe #6
"Jeffrey Epstein stole my innocence. He gave me a life sentence of guilt and shame. I do not consider myself a victim. I see myself a survivor."
Jane Doe #7
"I used to be relatively carefree, inquisitive, hopeful, and excited about life, but my life changed because of Jeffrey Epstein. My perspective on life became very dark when I was unknowingly recruited by one of his agents. Jeffrey Epstein ruined me."
Jane Doe #8
"I cannot say that I am pleased he committed suicide, but I am at peace knowing he will not be able to hurt anyone else. However, a sad truth remains. I, along with other people, will never have an answer as to why. I will never have an apology for the wrongdoing. And most importantly, Epstein will not be justly sentenced for his crimes."
"I was going to start this statement by saying that I was a victim of Jeffrey Epstein. But that's not the case. I'm still a victim of Jeffrey Epstein. I'm still a victim because the fear of not being heard stopped me from telling my story for so many years... I'm still a victim because I am fearful for my daughters and everyone's daughters... I'm still a victim because the 17-year-old Teala was manipulated into thinking she had found someone who cared, someone who wanted to help."
Jane Doe #9
"When I was 15 years old, I flew on Jeffrey Epstein's plane to Zorro Ranch, where I was sexual molested by him for many hours. What I remember most vividly was him explaining to me how beneficial the experience was for me and how much he was helping me to grow.
"I remember feeling so small and powerless, especially after he positioned me by laying me on his floor so that I was confronted by all the framed photographs on his dresser of him smiling with wealthy celebrities and politicians."
Jane Doe #10
"Epstein targeted and took advantage of me, a young girl, whose mother had recently died a horrific death and whose family structure had deteriorated. His actions placed me, a young girl, into a downward spiral to the point where I purchased a gun and drove myself to an isolated place to end my suffering."
Jane Doe #11
"He promised me that he would write me a letter of recommendation for Harvard if I got the grades and scores needed for admission. His word was worth a lot, he assured me, as he was in the midst of funding and leading Harvard's studies on the human brain, and the president was his friend.
"I had never even kissed a boy before I met him, and never throughout the horrific abuse did Jeffrey Epstein kiss me even once. When he stole my virginity, he washed my entire body compulsively in the shower and then told me, 'If you're not a virgin, I will kill you.' And then I wasn't a virgin anymore."
Jane Doe #12
"They told me to go upstairs and directed me to Jeffrey Epstein's office. Mr. Epstein had a white robe on and we chatted very briefly. I had my portfolio of photos, but he didn't even look at it. Suddenly, he took his robe off and got close to me. I got up to leave, but the door was locked."
Jennifer Araoz's name was misspelled in an earlier version of this post.