How Jeffrey Epstein Chose His Victims

Unmasking the Con Artist of the Century

Jeffrey Epstein has become a household name, often synonymous with pedophilia, rape and sex trafficking. Countless reporters, bloggers and YouTubers have published content about his background, criminal activities, financials, relationships, political ties, etc. Yet, no one has discussed what made him so uniquely dangerous.

Epstein was a sexual predator, but he was also a conman and a good one at that. This deadly combination mixed the charismatic, sly, opportunistic talents of a con artist with the abhorrent, sadistic compulsive behaviors of a sex offender, creating a criminal mastermind akin to the offspring of Elizabeth Holmes and Ted Bundy on steroids. Instead of stealing money and valuables from his targets, Epstein’s desires were much more sinister, making him infamous and perhaps the most prolific conman of this century. Unlike cash and material objects, Epstein confiscated people’s bodies to use as he pleased, often without their permission, stealing irreplaceable commodities like dignity, innocence, and virginity.

While in court, finally getting the opportunity to speak about Epstein’s negative impact on her life, survivor Anouska Georgiou stated, “Something I think is very important to communicate is that loss of innocence, trust, and joy that is not recoverable. The abuse, spanning several years, was devaluing beyond measure and affected my ability to form and maintain healthy relationships, both in my work and my personal life. He could not begin to fathom what he took from us.”

Epstein knew just who to target and could masterfully lure them with ease. He allegedly sought beautiful young women and children made vulnerable and easy to manipulate by past traumatic events such as child molestation, abuse, neglect, and mental illness. Many of his victims never stood a chance between his charm, wit, and persuasive personality and his inexcusable passion for sexual assault. By the time they realized something was wrong, they were already in the lion’s den, defenseless and at his mercy, just like he had arranged.

One survivor, Sarah Ransome, stated that she was introduced to Epstein when she was twenty-two years old. After being convinced she was going on vacation, she agreed to fly to Little St. James, Epstein’s private island. It didn’t take long for her to realize the danger she was in, only at that point, it was too late. “It sounded so amazing – and then boof, you’re on this island, and that’s it. Lock and key. There is no escape. There is no one to hear your screams and cries,” wrote Ransome in her recent book, Silenced No More (CBSNews.com).

Like most con artists, Epstein cheated and tricked vulnerable people by gaining their trust and persuading them to believe something that was not true. When hearing his name, people often recall the reports from brave survivors depicting how he exploited them, using massage therapy as a cover to hide his grotesque behaviors. However, as a masterful con artist, Epstein had more than one trick up his sleeve and utilized other tactics, lies, and manipulation techniques to subdue his victims in addition to the massage therapy scam.

Epstein’s other cons involved deceptions based on his connections with Victoria’s Secret and the modeling industry or pretending to care about the victim and playing a caregiver role, but he didn’t stop there. He promised the moon and the stars, dangling them like a carrot, to some victims based on their specific situation and how far they were in the grooming process. Although Epstein’s glamour enticed particular victims, some, simply craving love and attention, believed Epstein truly wanted to fill a void in their lives. At the same time, others were too afraid or naïve to comprehend the severity of their situation. According to Epstein's victim and sexual assault & mental health advocate, Kelly Brennan, that’s precisely what happened to her in 2003.

“After meeting Epstein, I was never offered the ‘opportunity’ to make money as a massage therapist. Instead, he made me feel like he genuinely cared about my well-being and wanted to show his support by scheduling a job interview on my behalf,” says Brennan. “Together with Jean Luc Brunel, he used his connections with the modeling industry and then used social pressure to ‘politely force’ me to accept his offer. Feeling guilty and as if I owed him because he treated me to free drinks and food, I felt it would be rude to decline his offer. Having always been taught to respect my elders, I eventually relented and agreed to his proposal, even though he had sexually assaulted me only moments prior.”

Some people choose to judge and even victim-shame those targeted by Epstein for accepting luxurious gifts from someone they hardly knew, assuming greed or naivety were their motivation. However, the situation was much more complex than that.

Because childhood sexual assault, abuse and neglect harm a person’s self-worth, distorting their understanding of right and wrong and acceptable treatment by others, Epstein regularly preyed on those with past traumatic experiences. According to Brennan, Epstein slyly tested her boundaries and gauged her reactions as he pushed past her comfort zone to determine if she would make the ‘right’ kind of victim.

“Although people may never agree with my reactions to Epstein’s abuse, as I still often question them, too, to truly understand my perspective and mental state, people need to take the trauma I endured before Epstein into account,” remarked Brennan. “Like many predators, Epstein had the uncanny ability to identify those easiest to manipulate. People that have previously been abused or groomed tend to tolerate behavior that others would find unacceptable.”

In a study conducted in 2020 by researchers at the Victorian Institute of Forensic Mental Health, the data showed victims of childhood sexual assault were “five times more likely to be victims of sexual assault later in life, twice as likely to be victims of physical assault, four times as likely to be threatened with violence and twice as likely to be stalked.” Furthermore, the study indicated that a child sex abuse survivor who developed a mental illness, like PTSD, depression, or anxiety, was more vulnerable to revictimization. The odds of revictimization increased for females (Sage Journals).

“Unbeknownst to me, the molestation, sexual assault, and the mental and physical abuse and neglect I had endured as a child and teenager had molded me into ideal prey,” stated Brennan. “Knowing what I know now about predators, the grooming process and revictimization, I can say with certainty that I did not have the wherewithal to fend off a con artist like Jeffrey Epstein. I was doomed the moment we were introduced and might as well have had a target painted on my back. From what I grasp, this was likely the case for many of his victims.”

Ransome stated that she also endured a chaotic traumatic history and grew up with people and strangers hurting her, remarking that the abuse had negatively impacted her self-worth and self-respect (CBSNews.com). Another survivor, dubbed Jane Doe #2, expressed, “A lot of us were in very vulnerable situations and in extreme poverty, circumstances where we didn’t have anyone on our side.” On the same day, Jane Doe #10 explained that her vulnerability stemmed from grief, asserting, “Epstein targeted and took advantage of me, a young girl, whose mother had recently died a horrific death and whose family structure had deteriorated” (buzzfeednews.com). Unfortunately, these aren’t the only victims of Jeffrey Epstein that fit this mold.

According to the above study, “offenders are more likely to target child sex abuse survivors because of their vulnerability.” Although the exact cause of their susceptibility is unknown, it’s theorized that “the symptoms of mental illness impairs the survivor’s ability to recognize and appropriately respond to risky situations and people” (Sage Journals). Although some of the survivors’ choices may not make sense to a mentally fit individual, it’s important to note that many of Epstein’s victims could not experience and interact in the world in the same manner due to the ongoing impact of childhood trauma.

Whether Epstein was aware of the research or was able to ascertain the correlation through trial and error, it’s clear that there was a method to his madness. Benefiting from the work of other abusers and rapists, Epstein relishing in the aftermath, scooped up victims previously trained to tolerate abuse. He purposely chose victims that he knew were unable to identify abuse and therefore unable to defend themselves or make it stop.

Unfortunately, his death did not rid the world of all predators, as many are still hunting for and exploiting mentally ill children and adults to suit their own needs. No child should ever endure abuse, but if they do, it’s vital that, as a society, we provide the necessary resources while also protecting them from future harm until they fully heal. With Epstein dead, there’s not much to be done in that regard, but his associates and other predators must be held accountable to achieve justice and prevent future crimes. If you or someone you know is suffering from mental health problems or has faced traumatic experiences, please be aware that you may be vulnerable to making risky decisions and easier to take advantage of. Seek help today. It just may prevent future suffering and stop the cycle from continuing.

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KELLY BRENNAN. Jeffrey Epstein Sexual Assault Survivor. Mental Health Advocate. Educator. Wife. Sister. Daughter. Friend. Author.