Jess Michaels

Jess Michaels

The day after I was raped by Jeffrey Epstein in 1991 at 22 years old, I went to fulfill my scholarship work study requirement at the front desk of a popular NYC professional dance studio. My friend Joanne said hi to me as I walked in. She must have seen the look on my face because when I didn’t respond after she asked me if I was okay three times, she grabbed me and pulled me into the office. I burst into tears instantly and told her a fraction of what had happened the night before ‒ I was too humiliated to tell her everything.  

Joanne immediately said, “we need to go to the police.” My first thought was, “who would believe a 22 year old dancer next to this wealthy wall street guy with a plane?” My next thoughts were, “I didn’t run. I didn’t scream. I didn’t kick him or try to stop him. I walked out of that building and passed the same doorman who had let me up as if nothing had happened.” No one will believe me.  

In 1991, I understood the legal definition of rape to be determined by how much you tried to resist.  

In 1991, we only ever talked about “fight or flight” as the reasonable responses to rape.  

In 1991, we didn’t know that “freeze” is an extremely common response to sexual assault.  

So I didn’t even believe me.  

Even though Joanne believed me right away ‒ with very little information ‒ it would take me almost 30 years to believe it wasn’t my fault.   

So if you were like me… 

You didn’t scream 

You didn’t fight back 

You didn’t run 

You just froze 

It was never your fault  

Because “to freeze is not to consent”  

My TEDx Talk shares my Epstein story and my unique solution to the epidemic of sexual harm: “How Sexual Assault First Aid Revolutionizes Prevention” 

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