The first accuser to testify in Ghislaine Maxwell's sex-trafficking trial took the stand Tuesday.
She said Maxwell and Jeffrey Epstein presented themselves as rich benefactors at a difficult time.
She testified that Maxwell and Epstein abused her for years starting when she was 14.
The first of four accusers set to testify in Ghislaine Maxwell's child-sex-trafficking trial took the stand Tuesday afternoon, alleging in searing testimony that Jeffrey Epstein and the British socialite preyed on her beginning when she was 14 years old and groomed her for sex in his mansions in New York City; New Mexico; and Palm Beach, Florida.
The accuser, testifying under the pseudonym Jane, said she first met Epstein and Maxwell the summer after completing seventh grade while at a performing-arts summer camp in Michigan in 1994.
Her father, a composer, had died of leukemia the previous fall. The medical expenses bankrupted their family, which lost their home and were forced to live in a pool house in someone else's backyard in Palm Beach, she testified.
That summer, Jane testified, other family members pitched in to send her and her two brothers to the Interlochen Center for the Arts, located a short drive from the shore of Lake Michigan, while their mother stayed home in Palm Beach. Jane said Epstein and Maxwell approached her while she was eating ice cream with friends between music lessons at the camp.
Epstein said he was a donor to the camp, Jane said, and wanted to know what the attendees thought of it. When he learned Jane lived in Palm Beach, she said, he asked for her mother's phone number.
A few weeks later, Jane said, her mother received a call: It was Epstein, and he wanted to invite Jane and her mother over for tea.
It was the first of a series of meetings that prosecutors alleged were meant to normalize subsequent sexual abuse. Jane said she went to Epstein's homes "every week or two" for the next five years, until leaving his grasp in 1999 when she moved across the country. She cut off contact with Epstein in 2002, she testified.
She said she kept her experience a secret for years.
"I felt very ashamed, I felt disgusted, I was confused," Jane said. "And I didn't know whether it was my fault."
Testimony of 'casual' hangouts escalating to sexual abuse
Epstein had attended the summer camp himself, according to Maxwell's defense attorneys. Friends of Epstein say he was passionate about music, and he often played a piano in his mysterious temple located on one of his private islands in the US Virgin Islands.
Epstein told Jane and her mother in that first meeting that he liked to give scholarships to young, passionate musicians, Jane said. After that first meeting, she said, he sent members of his Palm Beach household staff to pick Jane up and drive her over to his home in meetings arranged by Maxwell.
Jane testified that, at first, Epstein and Maxwell had "casual" hangouts with Jane, taking her to movies, inviting her to the pool in Epstein's backyard, and having meals with her. They made her feel special, Jane said, by asking about what was going on with her life — something she said she found difficult to talk about at home since her father died. Epstein also paid for private-school tuition, Jane said.
The Palm Beach home, Jane said, was filled with paintings of naked or half-naked women, as well as "creepy-looking animals." Jane testified that Epstein and Maxwell name-dropped people like President Bill Clinton, Donald Trump, and the journalist Mike Wallace, giving the impression that they were connected to powerful people.
In one early meeting, Maxwell and Epstein brought her to a Victoria's Secret — a chain owned by Epstein's longtime friend and patron Leslie Wexner — to buy white panties, Jane said. She said Epstein also sometimes gave her wads of cash and told her it was for her mother.
Several adult women, including Maxwell, were also often in Epstein's Palm Beach home, sometimes spending time by the pool topless or naked, Jane testified.
"I was pretty shocked because I hadn't seen that before," Jane said.
Jane said the first time Epstein sexually abused her was after a conversation about her artistic ambitions. She recalled him saying he could use her connections to make sure she succeeded in whatever discipline she wanted — opera, theater, or modeling.
Then, Jane testified, Epstein told her to follow him from the house to the pool house in his backyard. There, Jane testified, Epstein pulled her over to a couch, pulled down his sweatpants, and stimulated himself until he climaxed on her.
"I was frozen. I'd never seen a penis before, let along anything like this," Jane said, telling the jury she was 14 years old at the time.
Jane testified that she was too afraid or fearful to talk to family members or friends about what she experienced. She continued to visit Epstein.
Soon afterward, she said, Epstein pulled her and Maxwell into his master bedroom. There, he and Maxwell took off their clothes and fondled each other while "casually giggling about it," Jane testified. She alleged on the stand that Epstein instructed her to take her top off and stimulated himself while Maxwell continued to touch him.
'It all started to seem the same after a while'
Jane testified that from there, Maxwell and Epstein trained Jane to give sexualized massages. She said the two detailed Epstein's specific preferences: hard twisting of his nipples, allowing him to stick his fingers into her genital area, aggressive use of vibrators.
Maxwell treated it all very casually, Jane testified.
"It made me feel confused," Jane said. "Because this was not normal to me."
Jane said the abuse became more extreme by the time she turned 16.
Epstein would have more people spending time at his house in situations that would seem casual at first, Jane said.
"Abruptly, everything would stop and either Ghislaine or Jeffrey would tell everyone to follow them into a room," Jane testified.
Jane said they'd all go into Epstein's bedroom or his "massage room." Then, she said, everyone would take their clothes off and begin participating in an orgy. Jane said everyone but her seemed to be adults. Epstein came to call the incidents "a massage," Jane said.
Within a few weeks, the "massages" turned into a pattern, Jane testified, happening on almost every visit. Jane said that Epstein also flew her several times to his home in Manhattan and ranch in New Mexico for sex.
She said the sexual abuse, with Maxwell often in the room, happened so often that she couldn't give a specific number of incidents.
"It's hard to remember because I was abused pretty much every time that I would go over to his house," she testified. "It all started to seem the same after a while, whether it was just him, or there were other women involved, or me and Jeffrey and Ghislaine. It all started to seem the same after a while. You just become numb to it."
Jane testified she needed to fly back home for school after the experience on Epstein's 10,000-acre ranch in New Mexico. But because she was 15, she didn't have a driver's license and couldn't get on the commercial flight that was booked for her, she said.
Panicking, she called Maxwell, who made arrangements and helped her get on the plane, she testified.
Jane testified that she escaped in 2002
Jane moved to New York City in about 1998, completing her senior year of high school at an elite performing-arts school where Epstein paid for the tuition. She had continued the "massages" with Epstein and Maxwell while living in New York, she testified.
In October 1999, soon after graduating, Jane got an acting job in California and moved there. She didn't detail any misconduct that took place after that point, once there was more physical distance between them, but said her last flight in Epstein's plane was in 2001.
Jane testified that she remained "in touch" with Epstein until about the end of 2002, when she said she had fallen "madly in love" with another person who encouraged her to stop picking up the phone whenever Epstein called.
As Jane ignored Epstein, he left "increasingly agitated voicemails," Jane testified. He demanded that she show gratitude to him, and reminded her that her mother continued to live in an apartment he paid for, she said.
Jane said she first opened up about her experience to another boyfriend, in about 2008, when Epstein was sentenced to a jail term after pleading guilty to prostitution charges in Florida and his name was in the news. That boyfriend is expected to take the stand after Jane's testimony.
She said her experience with Epstein and Maxwell damaged her future relationships and made it hard to trust other people. She said she considered self-harm for a while and believed "there didn't seem like there was any joy to look forward to" in life.
"How do you navigate a relationship with a broken compass?" Jane said. "I didn't even know what real love was supposed to look like."
Jane is one of 4 accusers expected to testify
Prosecutors have accused Maxwell of sex-trafficking girls with Epstein, sexually abusing them herself, and lying about her actions in a deposition. The allegations in the indictment focus on activity from 1997 to 2004 and concern four accusers, who were as young as 14 at the time.
Jane's description of her time with Epstein and Maxwell followed testimony from Lawrence Visoski, who worked as a pilot for Epstein's private jets from 1991 to 2019. Visoski denied any awareness of misconduct.
Numerous other women have accused Maxwell of sexual misconduct in civil litigation as well. Prosecutors have also brought two perjury charges against Maxwell, alleging she lied in a deposition taken for a civil lawsuit brought by an accuser named Virginia Giuffre. Prosecutors haven't identified Giuffre as a victim for the purposes of the sex-crimes trial, and the perjury charges are set to be tried at a later date.
Maxwell has pleaded not guilty to the charges against her and denied all accusations of wrongdoing.
Jane hadn't completed her testimony as court ended Tuesday evening; she was set to continue it Wednesday morning.
During direct examination, she told Assistant US Attorney Alison Moe that she wanted to remain anonymous because she feared victim-shaming from her industry in members of the public but that she was proud to have built a life, career, and family of her own.
"I've always wanted to put this past me and move on with my life," she said.
This article has been updated.
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