I am writing to apologize to Jeffrey Epstein’s victims.
Mr. Epstein and I met at a dinner for scientists and their supporters in 2004. During his visits to Harvard over the next few years, he and I discussed scientific questions, and his foundation gave me a grant to support my research.
When I learned of Mr. Epstein’s arrest and subsequent conviction, I was deeply disturbed. (I should have been equally disturbed by his plea bargain. His crime was termed “soliciting prostitution.” Children are not prostitutes.) But upon reflection, I decided to visit Mr. Epstein during his prison term in Florida. I believed, at the time, that I was doing a good deed. Mr. Epstein expressed remorse for his actions and assured me that he would not re-offend.
I continued to acknowledge Mr. Epstein’s support in my scientific papers, and after his release, I resumed attending the discussions that Mr. Epstein convened with other scientists. I subsequently accepted two grants from his foundation, one in 2012, and a second in 2017. These were professional as well as moral failings.
The job of a scientist is to look for the truth, and the job of a teacher is to help people to empower themselves. I failed to do my job on both counts. It would have been straightforward to find the true scope of the allegations against Mr. Epstein — thanks to the work of police investigators, journalists, and the victims’ attorneys they were a matter of public record — but I failed to search for them. By continuing to participate in discussions he had with me and other scientists and by accepting his donations, I helped Mr. Epstein protect his reputation, and I disempowered his victims. I should have focused on them instead of him.
Julie K. Brown’s November 2018 interviews with Ms. Wild, Ms. Licata, Ms. Giuffre, and Ms. Jones opened my eyes to the shocking extent of the harm Mr. Epstein had done. My heart goes out to the survivors of Mr. Epstein’s abuse. You risked your privacy and safety and faced down taunts and scare tactics in order to get your stories told. By not listening to your voices, I participated in a system of privilege and entitlement that protected a powerful abuser and that failed you. I apologize to you and I ask for your forgiveness.
I have committed financial resources to aid you and other survivors of sexual abuse and trafficking and will work assiduously to help make your voices heard.
Seth Lloyd, Professor of Mechanical Engineering, MIT