Rina Oh thought Jeffrey Epstein was going to be her art patron. Two decades later, she's coming to terms with being among his victims.
A friend first introduced Rina Oh to Jeffrey Epstein in the summer of 2000, when she was 21 and trying to start a career in New York City.
"I had recently broken up with my long-term boyfriend and was very upset," Oh tells Insider. "I think I may have said, 'Maybe I should date a rich guy,' and she recommended Jeffrey."
Oh met Epstein a few days later for an appointment at his Manhattan home. She says she brought along her art portfolio because she heard Epstein was a collector. The financier seemed impressed and offered to give her a scholarship to take classes at the School of Visual Arts.
"He presented himself as this great rich guy," she says. "The money to go to school was presented as no strings attached … that's not what happened."
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Oh says Epstein sexually abused her, comparing her experience to that of one of the accusers who testified at his longtime associate Ghislaine Maxwell's sex-trafficking trial.
That accuser, who testified under the pseudonym "Jane," described regularly being called to Epstein's homes to take part in sexualized massages, starting when she was 14, while he funded her acting ambitions. The only major difference between her story and Jane's, Oh says, is that she was of legal age when the abuse started.
Oh also didn't see her relationship with Epstein as abusive at the time. Her own role in the financier's life straddled the line between victim and enabler: Oh has previously acknowledged introducing three women to Epstein, and said she took Virginia Giuffre — perhaps the most well-known Epstein victim — shopping for a schoolgirl outfit on his orders when Giuffre was 17.
Giuffre called out Oh in a series of tweets last year, alleging that Oh was pretending to be a victim in order to get money from a compensation program set up for Epstein accusers. Oh then sued Giuffre for defamation, saying she too had been abused, and that Giuffre should have known she "was a young victim of Epstein and not a co-conspirator." Giuffre did not respond to Insider's request for comment on this story, and has not yet responded to Oh's lawsuit.
Oh spoke with Insider about why it took her so long to realize that her relationship with Epstein was exploitative. She also spoke about her brief encounters with Maxwell, who Oh accused of trying to sex-traffic her to other men.
Epstein offers his patronage
Oh recalls thinking that she wouldn't have to see Epstein again after their first meeting. At most, she thought she'd get some phone calls from her patron. Instead, she says she started regularly being summoned to Epstein's home for meetings.
"I never initiated the meetings, the secretary always called me," Oh says, adding that "after each meeting he lured me into the massage room and something happened."
While Oh hesitates to divulge specifics about what happened in Epstein's massage room, saying she never wants her two sons to read what happened to her, she says that the meetings left her with a phobia of people touching her.
"Epstein had strangers touch me," Oh says. "When strangers give me a hug, I don't like it at all. I don't like people touching me."
She says that she wasn't always alone with Epstein during these meetings, recalling that on some occasions, other women were involved. She declines to say if she ever saw anyone underage at the appointments, citing her lawsuit against Giuffre.
'Shopped around' at Mar-a-Lago
Twenty-one-year-old Oh saw Epstein as a boyfriend of sorts, though he never used the term.
"He never called me his girlfriend," Oh says. "He called himself a mentor, he said he was going to mentor me and then told me I was going to be a 'favorite.'"
Epstein would dole out gifts to keep Oh close. In addition to paying for some art classes, she says Epstein also helped get her a job and secured her a studio space in a building that his brother owned in SoHo (Mark Epstein said in a text message to Insider that Jeffrey at one point asked if a friend could use the studio, and he said yes, though he doesn't recall ever meeting the friend).
This appears to have been a pattern for Epstein. During Maxwell's trial, a woman who testified under a pseudonym, "Kate," said Epstein pledged to use music industry connections to further her career. Kate testified that she was called one of Epstein's "favorites" and that she was regularly instructed to give him massages.
Perhaps one of the most unconventional aspects of Oh's relationship with Epstein was how she says the financier put her on display for other men he knew. During a trip to Palm Beach, Florida, around 2001, Oh says Epstein paraded her around two older men in what she believes was an attempt to sex traffic her.
According to Oh, the first incident happened at Mar-a-Lago, the beach resort of former President Donald Trump, who himself was once friendly with Epstein, before distancing himself from the financier. When Epstein drove her to the club, Oh thought they were going to swim in the pool. But she was taken to the tennis courts instead, where she says Maxwell was playing tennis with a man around Epstein's age.
Oh wasn't introduced to the man, whose name she says she never learned. But she feels that she was being presented to him as a potential mistress because Epstein made "sexual gestures" around her during the encounter.
"I was taken to Mar-a-Lago to be shopped around," Oh says.
"They weren't very upfront telling me what they were doing," she said of Epstein and Maxwell. "But it didn't seem like they were trying to secure the one-night stand. It seemed like they wanted to set me up with a married man to be like a mistress."
A similar incident happened on the same trip, Oh says, when she went to the movies with Epstein, a woman in her late 20s, and a man in his 60s. Oh says the outing felt like a double date, and as she sat next to the older man, she saw Epstein groping the other woman throughout the movie.
After the movie, Oh says Epstein drove the group to a Barnes and Noble bookstore and made her go inside and buy a book. She feels the chore was meant to illustrate how subservient she was.
"He made a comment like, 'Look, she obeyed,'" Oh says of Epstein.
She believes that Epstein and Maxwell were showing her off to these men like merchandise, to see if either was interested in her.
"You know how a personal shopper has outfits and bags they bring to a client that doesn't want to leave their house? That's what it feels like now," Oh says. "At 21, I was too young to understand that this was human trafficking. It shows how manipulated and deceived I was."
Oh says the incidents unsettled her enough to make her cut ties with Epstein a little more than a year after meeting him.
During their last encounter at his Manhattan home, Oh says Epstein told her that he wanted her to have dinner with Maxwell and three "very rich guys." He then performed what Oh would only describe as "a really violent act" on her, which she believes was part of the grooming process.
"I had trouble walking after it," she says. "I think he wanted me to feel detached from him."
Oh says she refused to go to the dinner with Maxwell and the other men, and never saw Epstein again. The last encounter left her so traumatized that she says she didn't leave her house for more than a year, started therapy, and experienced an anorexia relapse.
"I knew I was a victim after that last incident, but I was in so much shock and trauma that I sort of suppressed what he did for decades," Oh says. "For two decades I never talked about it. I kept it as a secret, nobody knew. My husband didn't even know."
Oh's evolving view of Epstein
Oh tells Insider that she was molested several times as a child, and that she believes this prior abuse made her a target for Epstein and Maxwell, who she says knew "how to smell a potential victim."
"These people are extremely intelligent at feeling people out," Oh says.
"I wasn't guarded. I didn't know how to set boundaries. I didn't learn any of this until I went to therapy long after," she adds through tears.
Oh began to rethink the nature of her relationship with Epstein after being interviewed for an Epstein podcast, "Broken: Seeking Justice," in October 2020. Journalist Tara Palmeri asked Oh about her role in introducing a woman named Marijke Chartouni to Epstein. Chartouni alleged that during her one and only meeting with Epstein, she was sexually assaulted by both Epstein and Oh. While Oh told Palmeri that she introduced Chartouni to Epstein and witnessed her sexual assault, she said that she was also a victim in the incident, not an attacker.
After the podcast, Oh says other Epstein victims gave her name to Brad Edwards, an attorney who has represented dozens of other accusers. As part of taking on Edwards as her lawyer, Oh says she was asked to write down her experience with Epstein, describing it as the moment "where it all clicked."
"The memories came back into one major picture and that's when I realized what really happened to me was wrong," Oh says.
While it's been previously reported that Oh applied for the Epstein Victims' Compensation Program, she declines to say whether she received any money. A representative for the program declined to comment on whether Oh received a payout.
Oh also tells Insider that she received official apologies "from everyone on that side," referring to the trustees of Epstein's estate. A lawyer representing Epstein's trustees told Insider they never met or spoke with Oh.
Maxwell's recent conviction brought little more closure for Oh, who says she doesn't think the pain "will ever really go away." (That conviction is now in question after Maxwell's lawyers requested a retrial on Wednesday, following a juror's comments to media outlets that he had been sexually abused as a child and used his experience to influence fellow jurors during deliberations.)
"I think I'll always be scarred by what they did to me," she says.
During the sex-trafficking trial, Oh says she was struck most by the words of one of Maxwell's accusers, Carolyn, who said her soul had been "broken."
"It made me break down because I know what that feels like," Oh says. "I feel that that was their agenda. That's what they did. They fed off the pain of others."
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