Jeffrey Epstein survivor paints portraits of other survivors: 'Each one of those should have never happened'

Maria Farmer alleges Epstein, Maxwell sexually assaulted her.

January 09, 2020, 5:49 AM

With a soft pastel in hand, Maria Farmer sketched out a portrait of a young woman. It’s one of seven she created so far as part of a series, each showcasing a different woman drawn on a brightly colored background.

“There's turquoise, there's pink, there's purple, there's yellow, there's blue, there's green and orange. And so, that's … each color behind the girl represents her,” Farmer said.

"I absolutely stopped painting because of Epstein," Farmer said. "And in a weird way I kind of started painting because of him because I wanted to honor the victims."
"I absolutely stopped painting because of Epstein," Farmer said. "And in a weird way I kind of started painting because of him because I wanted to honor the victims."
ABC News

All have one thing in common: they have survived horrific and traumatic experiences, allegedly at the hands of Jeffrey Epstein.

“I'm painting these … beautiful survivors,” Farmer said. “I want these girls to be honored individually … I wanted it to portray how beautiful these women are and how strong they are … because they did survive.”

The drag of the pastel across the canvas, the fluid motions she used to shape the eyes, the hair, the face -- these are familiar strokes to Farmer, who used to find great inspiration and passion in her art. But only recently has she been able to stand at an easel again.

“I absolutely stopped painting because of Epstein,” Farmer said. “And in a weird way I kind of started painting because of him because I wanted to honor the victims.”

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Maria Farmer is seen here working on seven portraits for her series, "The Survivors Project."
Maria Farmer is seen here working on seven portraits for her series, "The Survivors Project."
ABC News

There is one portrait missing from her collection: her own. Farmer, who says she is a survivor of Epstein, provided the earliest known criminal complaint about him to law enforcement.

“I'm going be a blank of sheet of paper in mine,” she said. “I am just a blank sheet of paper, according to the U.S. government and the FBI, and I have felt like a blank sheet of paper for 24 years … I feel invisible.”

Farmer said she first met Epstein in 1995 when she was 25 years old. At the time, she had just graduated from the New York Academy of Art and her art career was taking off.

“I was selling my paintings for over $20,000 out of my studio,” she said. “Nothing was going to stop me. I just knew I was going to be an art star.”

Farmer said she was introduced to Epstein and Ghislaine Maxwell, a British socialite who was an associate of Epstein, at an art show that was put on by the New York Academy of Art. She said she was told they were important art patrons.

“[Epstein] looked kind of distinguished because he had gray hair and he always had this smirk like he knew something that other people didn’t know,” Farmer said. “He went to shake my hand and said, ‘You're so talented. I love your painting, but here's the thing: you're going to give us a discount, because we're not going to pay full price. But we're going to make it up to you.’"

She said Epstein took home one of her paintings that night -- one that depicted the back of a dark-haired man standing in boxers in a doorway, looking at a blonde woman in a purple dress lying on an antique couch.

“That was me sitting there in a contemplative manner, lying there on the sofa,” Farmer said. “I'm fully clothed. I'm in the back, tiny, on this sofa. But I'm, you know, a real size. But the viewer sees me as small.”

Maria Farmer holds her painting she said Epstein bought from her in 1995.
Maria Farmer holds her painting she said Epstein bought from her in 1995.
ABC News

After that first encounter, Farmer said Epstein hired her to collect art for him, which at the time sounded like a great opportunity.

At first, Farmer said she “kind of admired” Epstein, because he told her he had grown up in Coney Island, New York, in a working class family and went on to create an empire for himself that included a portfolio of luxurious properties around the world and vast amounts of wealth.

But just days into her new job, she said she started to see cracks in Epstein’s façade. For one, she said Epstein neglected to pay artists for the paintings she had acquired for him. She said she wanted to quit but Epstein convinced her to stay on in a different role -- one that required her to man the front door of his New York City townhouse, signing in his guests, and she said he told her she could work on her art there.

She said Epstein gave her a tour of his townhouse on her first day in this new role, during which he pointed out various pinhole cameras.

“He said, ‘Do you see that? Like, well, we're going to be able to watch you right here. There's a pinhole camera. Oh. There's another one.’ And I thought that was odd. Why are you pointing them out to me?” Farmer said. “I said, ‘Well, where does all this go?’ And he said, ‘Well, it's right there. Let me take you in the room.’"

Farmer said Epstein led her into a security room of sorts that was stacked with monitors showing all the different camera feeds throughout the home.

“At this point when I'm in the security room, I realize, well, I won't be going to the bathroom here. I won't lie down for a nap, because look. There's the bed upstairs. The other bed. The toilet. The bathroom. The shower. It's all on these screens. These very private moments people should have are on these screens,” she said.

Farmer said there were other things that seemed to be off about Epstein, like the fact that she said he never seemed work and he told her he got “at least three massages a day.”

Farmer, who is suing Epstein’s estate, alleged in a lawsuit that while she was working the front door at Epstein’s townhouse, she became concerned with things she said she saw involving him and Maxwell.

“Ghislaine was 100% the lady of the house at Jeffrey's,” she said.

At the time, Epstein was a financial advisor to billionaire Leslie Wexner, the founder and CEO of L Brands, which owns Victoria’s Secret and Bath & Body Works.

Farmer said she would see young girls regularly coming to the townhouse, signing the ledger and going upstairs. She said Maxwell told her that she and Epstein were model scouts who were auditioning models for Victoria’s Secret, according to her civil complaint.

“Maxwell would go out on these drives … to procure models. She would say, ‘These are the nubiles … I need the nubiles.’ That was her word,” Farmer said. “I asked Ghislaine, ‘Why are you always going on to fetch children?’ … She made it clear … Jeffrey worked for Les Wexner, and they were just acquiring models for Victoria's Secret.”

“I knew something was wrong. I didn't know what was wrong,” Farmer added.

PHOTO: Jeffrey Epstein's residence at 9 East 71st Street in the Manhattan borough of New York City on July 18, 2019.
Jeffrey Epstein's residence at 9 East 71st Street in the Manhattan borough of New York City on July 18, 2019.
Scott Heins/Getty Images, FILE

ABC News reached out to L Brands for comment, including if Epstein and Maxwell had been model scouts for the company, but the company hasn’t responded. But last year, the company told Business Insider that L Brands had hired an outside law firm to review Epstein’s relationship with the company, adding that it did not believe Epstein was ever employed by L Brands or served as an authorized representative.

In the summer of 1996, Farmer said she was given an opportunity to provide some artwork for a feature film, so she told Epstein she was quitting. She said Epstein instead offered that she move out to a home he said he had acquired in a New Albany, Ohio, community developed by Wexner, where she could have more space to work.

According to Farmer’s lawsuit, at one point Epstein and Maxwell came to Ohio for a visit and stayed at the home with her. It was during this visit that Farmer said everything she thought she knew about them changed.

Farmer's lawsuit alleges Maxwell asked her to come to Epstein’s bedroom one night. When she walked in, Farmer said she found Epstein lying on the bed with socks and boxers on and he asked her to rub his feet.

“I knew I was in trouble,” Farmer said. “I've never rubbed my boss's feet … So I'm like, ‘I don't think I'm very good at this.’ And he goes, ‘Sit right here (tapping on the bed) … And I thought, ‘Oh god.’”

That’s when, according to Farmer's lawsuit, Epstein and Maxwell proceeded to violently, sexually assault her. Maxwell is referenced in Farmer’s lawsuit against Epstein’s estate but she is not named as a defendant.

“I sat down. And Ghislaine got on the other side of me, and they proceeded to -- touch me,” Farmer said. “I don't remember the assault. I remember being in a lot of pain. I remember having some bruises. I don't remember everything they touched. But they didn't get my clothes off. They tried."

"I was in an absolute panic to the point where I was able to get myself up and get out of that room,” she continued. “And Ghislaine came after me, but I literally took these big pieces of furniture, and I pushed them against the doors. And I stayed up all night.”

PHOTO: Maria Farmer holds a photo of her younger self.
Maria Farmer holds a photo of her younger self.
ABC News

Farmer said she barricaded herself in her room and called the police but she said they didn’t respond. The New Albany Police Department told ABC News it doesn’t retain 911 records going back to the 1990s, and attempts to find records at other local departments were unsuccessful.

Farmer said she stayed in her room all night and when she came out the next morning, Epstein and Maxwell were gone. The next day, she said she got a call from Epstein, who allegedly offered her money, but she refused and never worked for him again.

"He said, 'Maria, I will do whatever you want. I am so sorry. What can I give you? I will give you any amount of money,'" Farmer explained.

According to her lawsuit, Farmer said after the alleged incident, Maxwell called her on Epstein’s behalf and threatened to have all the paintings she had at the townhouse burned.

On Aug. 26, 1996, Farmer said she told the New York City Police Department about the alleged sexual assault, but Farmer said she was told the NYPD couldn't do anything because the alleged incident had occurred out of state. She said the NYPD referred her to the FBI, but they did take a report from her about Epstein concerning her artwork. Farmer said she called the FBI later that same day, but nothing happened.

When ABC News asked the FBI about Farmer’s report, as a matter of policy the FBI declined to comment and it wouldn’t confirm or deny whether any record exists.

Maxwell’s attorneys did not return requests for comment for this report.

By 2008, authorities in Florida had spent nearly two years investigating Epstein for allegations he had sexually assaulted minors. But the federal government entered into a then-secret non-prosecution agreement with Epstein that spared him a potential lengthy prison sentence in exchange for guilty pleas to two lesser state prostitution charges. He served just 13 months of an 18-month sentence in a private wing of a county jail, and was released in 2009.

Epstein was arrested on federal child sex trafficking charges in July 2019, but died in prison a month later before facing trial.

The whole ordeal has taken an enormous toll on Farmer. She said she stopped painting for 20 years, and only picked it back up in the past year.

“I actually stopped because I felt like my art had been violated,” she said. “Not painting for 20 years was very -- it caused me to have depression … it was just very painful to not be able to paint and to not do the one thing that I was here to do.”

"I'm painting these … beautiful survivors," Farmer said. "I want these girls to be honored individually."
"I'm painting these … beautiful survivors," Farmer said. "I want these girls to be honored individually."
ABC News

To this day, Farmer believes that if the FBI had listened to her in 1996 and taken action against Epstein back then, dozens of other women would have been saved.

“If the FBI had listened to me in 1996, there would have been no more victims,” she said.

She has chosen to call her series of portraits, “The Survivors Project.”

“With each person I'm drawing, I realize that's another person who was harmed,” Farmer said. “And each one of those should have never happened, because I reported so many years before.”

Farmer will open a month-long solo exhibition of her artwork beginning March 14 at the Gavlak Gallery in Los Angeles.

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