Politics & Government

Years later, victims recount impact of Jeffrey Epstein abuse

Years later, Epstein’s victims discuss the lasting impact of sexual abuse

Victims of Jeffrey Epstein share the emotional toll that sexual abuse has taken on them — even years after the abuse occurred. Miami Herald reporter Julie K. Brown interviewed the young women, most speaking for the first time about Epstein.
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Victims of Jeffrey Epstein share the emotional toll that sexual abuse has taken on them — even years after the abuse occurred. Miami Herald reporter Julie K. Brown interviewed the young women, most speaking for the first time about Epstein.

For Courtney Wild, even the mere presence of older men brings back traumatic memories of sexual abuse she endured. She was introduced to the hedge fund manager Jeffrey Epstein at the age of 14.

“My life would’ve been very different if I never met Jeffrey Epstein,” Wild said in an interview with the Herald’s Julie Brown in 2018. “A lot of times, being around older man brings flashbacks. It’s just trauma that I didn’t even [know] I had until I worked through a lot of things.”

Epstein, who was arrested last Saturday on sex trafficking charges , is responsible for running a years long sex operation targeting dozens of underage girls. The Herald’s in-depth investigation, “Perversion of Justice,” examined the lenient plea deal prosecutors struck that led to Epstein serving zero time in federal or state prison for his years of abuse and only 13 months in county jail.

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Courtney Wild, a victim of Jeffrey Epstein, sued the government in 2008 for failing to inform her of the plea deal he received. Emily Michot emichot@MiamiHerald.com

The ring of prosecutors included former Florida U.S. attorney Alexander Acosta, who resigned Friday as U.S. labor secretary amid an outcry of disapproval over his role in the Epstein deal.

In February, a judge ruled federal prosecutors broke the law when they concealed the plea deal from over 30 of Epstein’s victims.

Michelle Licata, a victim of Epstein’s, said she can remember punching holes in the wall from the anger she accumulated. It even got to a point were her parents were worried for her life, she said.

“I can remember the counter top at my parents house, I was so upset I just wanted to break it,” Licata said in a 2017 interview.

Licata’s mother told Brown during the same 2017 interview that she felt helpless after learning about her daughter’s abuse.

Epstein didn’t work alone in running his operation. It’s reported he had a dependable group of friends and enablers knowledgeable of his exploits to the point where they aided his endeavors. Allegations report British socialite Ghislaine Maxwell acted as Epstein’s madam, helping to lure young women to Epstein by promising lavish lifestyles and glamorous fashion careers.

Jena-Lisa Jones said in a 2018 interview that she never talked to her therapist about Epstein’s sexual abuse, even after being in therapy for over 10 years, and the pain of abuse has kept her from taking part in certain aspects of daily life.

“I’ve tried to breastfeed for the first time with my third child last year, and it was the most excruciating and heartbreaking thing to not be able to do it because the pain was so intense,” Jones said. “It brought back something that felt so stupid back then, that I thought had no relevance and that if I told anybody...No one would understand.”

The healing process will never be complete, said Virginia Roberts Giuffre, who became a victim of Epstein’s at 16. However, the birth of her daughter encouraged her to speak out about Epstein’s abuse despite the risk of it falling on deaf ears.

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Michelle Licata, now an adult living near Nashville, recalls her experience with multimillionaire Jeffrey Epstein at his Palm Beach mansion while she was a sophomore at Royal Palm Beach High School. Emily Michot emichot@miamiherald.com

“It doesn’t matter how rich you are,” Giuffre said. “It doesn’t matter how powerful you are. There are girls out there who will speak up. I don’t care if it’s 10 years later or 15 years later...These guys will get it in the end, because us girls are not going to sit here and let it keep happening.”

Wild said her hope is she finally sees a day when Epstein must account for the years of trauma he’s caused.

“I just hope that basically he gets prosecuted the way he should have been from the beginning,” Wild said.

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