Sixty-six-year-old Epstein faced up to 45 years in prison on US federal sex trafficking and conspiracy charges when he died by suicide on August 10th. With his death came the end of the criminal proceedings against him, but the women who suffered abuse at his hands are refusing to be silent one day longer. They gathered in court this week so that they could finally be heard, even if their testimonies would never be used. This is their moment, writes Jennifer McShane.
Even though the justice department remains committed to achieving justice for Epstein’s victims – as they said upon news of his death – the reality is that it will make it that much harder for a case to be brought to trial.
“There won’t be a public trial or other proceedings that could reveal evidence of his wrongdoing,” former federal prosecutor Renato Mariotti said according to New York Magazine. “Evidence collected via grand jury subpoena won’t be released to the public.”
Related: Jeffrey Epstein's death means his victims are left without justice
This means that all of the victims who came forward against Epstein may never get their chance for justice, but they are speaking out regardless, giving testimony to push prosecutors to keep the case alive, as well as targeting those who allegedly aided Epstein in perpetuating his cycle of abuse for decades.
What mattered, whether they used names or remained anonymous, was that they were heard, no longer kept in the dark, shamed into silence. Below are only some of their words.
Related: Why the Jeffrey Epstein conspiracy theories risk overshadowing what really went on
"Every day, every week I’ve spent in the hospital since, I’ve suffered and he has won. Every job offer that’s been offered to me and then retracted because of my connection to this case, I have suffered and he has won. Every public humiliation I have endured, I have suffered and he has won. Every relationship that I’ve had to end because of the abuse that I have endured by the hands of this man, I have suffered and he has won.
"I refuse to let this man win in death. I couldn’t fight back when Jeffrey Epstein sexually abused me because I hadn’t yet found my voice. Well, I have found my voice now, and while Jeffrey may no longer be here to hear it, I will not stop fighting, and I will not be silenced anymore," said Chauntae Davies.
"I was a victim, and it has taken me many, many years to stand here and say, yes, it was me. I was a victim, but I will not remain a victim and be silent for one more day," said Anoushka De Georgiou.
A reckoning which must continue
"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’m still a victim because I am fearful for my daughters and everyone’s daughters. I’m fearful for their future in this world, where there are predators in power, a world where people can avoid justice if their pockets run deep enough... He thought he was untouchable, and honestly, so did I. I thought he was the most powerful person I would ever meet. But the end is here, and here I stand, becoming more powerful than he will ever be," said Teala Davies.
"We need to protect our most vulnerable"
Even those who didn't wish to be named, going only by Jane Doe had their words heard:
"You start to blame yourself because, at first, you don’t tell anyone what’s happening, and it becomes your deep, dark secret that you tried to keep from everyone. And I didn’t even know I was a victim until I spoke with my lawyers. I had no idea.
"I had so much self-hatred and doubt and just guilt for everything. I still do. I still don’t feel like I deserve to say I’m a victim, and I think that’s a big problem with our society right now, that people are still blaming victims, and I think that does need to change."
We'll have more to report on this today. But right now, there are more than a dozen survivors of Jeffrey Epstein's abuse in a Manhattan courtroom. One by one, they're walking up to a microphone and telling their stories, and it is a moment unlike any I have ever seen.
— Ali Watkins (@AliWatkins) August 27, 2019
"He took away the chance I had at having the future I had envisioned for myself as a young girl, and I think many of us here today will never fully heal from that pain and the heartache that we’ll continue carrying with us."
"At the time, I was mired in shame, guilt and humiliation. I had somehow tricked myself into thinking that I had allowed the assault to happen, that I did it to myself, that I don’t deserve to be alive or to be loved. I believed that I was a disgusting, shameful person who does not deserve to ever be happy. These are the thoughts I’ve lived with on a daily basis.
"It is time for those of power to do the right thing. It is time for compassion toward our fellow human beings to reign over money, power and greed. We need to protect our most vulnerable to allow them a chance at a normal life, and nothing should come in the way of that."
Main photograph: @MiamiHearald