Column: With every release of court documents, the damage Jeffrey Epstein did to his victims confronts us anew

A group photo showing two men and two women posing at a gathering.
Donald Trump and future wife Melania Knauss with Jeffrey Epstein and Ghislaine Maxwell in 2000 at Mar-a-Lago.
(Davidoff Studios Photography / Getty Images)

I could happily live the rest of my life without being reminded of Jeffrey Epstein, his years-long exploitation of young women or the many famous male moths who were drawn to the billionaire’s flame. I’m sure his emotionally scarred victims wish they could too.

Recent news developments, unfortunately, make the sordid Epstein saga impossible to avoid. And maybe that’s as it should be, since the lives of so many young women were tarnished by a vile, lecherous creep and his partner who delighted in not just abusing underage girls but using them to lure high-profile figures into his orbit.

Opinion Columnist

Robin Abcarian

This week, two more sets of documents related to Virginia Giuffre’s 2015 defamation lawsuit against Epstein’s longtime girlfriend and procurer Ghislaine Maxwell were released on the order of U.S. District Judge Loretta Preska. The case was settled in 2017, but many of the documents remained under seal until now. The judge said she was releasing them because much of their contents are already public knowledge.


The releases on Monday and Tuesday were the fourth and fifth document dumps this month and were accompanied by feverish speculation about which bold-faced names would crop up as Epstein associates.

Indeed, dozens of names appear in the files: Bill Clinton, Donald Trump, Ron Burkle, David Copperfield, Richard Branson, Stephen Hawking, Noam Chomsky, Robert F. Kennedy Jr.

The documents are part of a case brought by Virginia Giuffre against Ghislaine Maxwell, Jeffrey Epstein’s longtime girlfriend, who was convicted of child sex trafficking.

Jan. 5, 2024

Also, Kevin Spacey, Michael Jackson, Cameron Diaz, Leonardo DiCaprio, Cate Blanchett and Naomi Campbell, among many, many others.

Some of the many, many news stories about the newly released documents are nothing more than a bait and switch: “Cameron Diaz breaks silence after being named in Jeffrey Epstein documents.” Seriously, Fox 11? (Diaz said through her publicist that she never met the guy.)

One explosive allegation in the new documents concerns Epstein’s mentor and chief investor, the retail magnate Leslie Wexner. In a 2016 deposition related to a separate defamation case, Giuffre alleged that she was trafficked to Wexner. Wexner has not been charged with a crime, and he has not responded to Tuesday’s revelations. According to ABC News, in 2019, after Epstein was arrested, Wexner told his employees that he was unaware of any of Epstein’s criminal sexual behavior.

Apart from that instance, the judge is right — we’ve already heard bits and pieces of most of what’s in the documents about the predatory Epstein, who was smitten with intellectuals and scientists, collected rich and powerful people as acquaintances and apparently liked to drop names.


In testimony, one of his victims described this predilection: During sexual massages, “he would be on the phone a lot at that time, and one time he said, ‘Oh, that was Leonardo’ or ‘That was Cate Blanchett’ or ‘Bruce Willis.’ That kind of thing.”

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Meanwhile, Maxwell, who was convicted in December 2021 of felonies including the sex trafficking of a minor and sentenced to 20 years, resides in a Florida low-security prison. According to a recent report by the Justice Department’s Office of the Inspector General, her accommodations are far less pleasant than Epstein’s New York brownstone, private Caribbean island, sprawling New Mexico ranch or the lavish home in New Hampshire where she hid until her arrest in July 2020.

The report said that inmates at the Federal Correctional Institution Tallahassee were served moldy bread, and inspectors found spoiled vegetables and bug-infested cereal in the storeroom.

That is probably cold comfort to Epstein’s victims, including Giuffre, who was recruited by Maxwell in 2000, when she a 16-year-old locker-room attendant at Mar-a-Lago. For three years, Giuffre has testified, she was kept as a “sex slave,” flown around the world and “lent out” to high-profile men for sex.

“Epstein’s purposes in ‘lending’ Jane Doe (along with other young girls) to such powerful people were to ingratiate himself with them for business, personal, political, and financial gain, as well as to obtain potential blackmail information,” her attorneys claimed in court documents.

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You may recall that Giuffre’s accusations and lawsuit against Prince Andrew, the Duke of York, led to his symbolic defenestration and a confidential settlement reported to be about $16 million. And you’ve undoubtedly seen the infamous 2001 photo of Andrew at Maxwell’s London home, his hand around the waist of Giuffre (then known as Virginia Roberts).


Giuffre, who was the first of Epstein’s victim’s to publicly identify herself, has become an advocate for survivors of sex trafficking.

After Epstein killed himself in August 2019 in a New York federal jail cell while awaiting trial, his estate created a victim compensation fund. Its administrator reported in 2021 that the fund had paid more than $121 million to at least 135 of the 225 or so people who made claims.

Because of his suicide, Epstein’s victims will never get the full measure of justice to which they are entitled. And while he and Maxwell’s names will eventually fade — blessedly — from the public discourse, we should never forget the courage it took for Giuffre and others to bring them to justice, nor the lifelong impact their heinous crimes will have on those women.

”The pain you have caused me is almost indescribable,” wrote Giuffre in the victim impact statement she submitted at Maxwell’s sentencing in June 2022. “Nightmares wake me at all hours. In those dreams, I relive the awful things you and others did to me and the things you forced me to do.”

But she added, “Despite you, I have grown into a woman who tries to do good in the world — a woman who, on her best days, feels like she is making a difference.”