After enduring abuse while growing up on Long Island, Kelly Brennan hoped that going away to college would offer her a fresh start — but instead she was abused again, by Jeffrey Epstein.
Brennan, 37, is the first known Long Islander to have been caught up in the world of the late financier, convicted pedophile, and accused international sex trafficking ring kingpin. She decided to break her silence in an effort to raise awareness about sexual abuse and allow her story to serve as a cautionary tale to others.
“I hit rock bottom when the pandemic hit,” she exclusively told the Press. “Everything came flooding back.”
Epstein died by suicide in a Manhattan federal jail cell in 2019 while pending trail on sex trafficking charges, authorities have said.
“A lot of people failed me.”
Brennan is not the first local tie to the case. As the Press has reported, the executors of Epstein’s estate include Glen Cove native attorney Darren Indyke and accountant Richard Kahn, who owns a home in Water Mill. The attorney general of the U.S. Virgin Islands has accused the duo of being “captains” in the alleged scheme.
While Brennan’s attorney confirms that she was among the survivors to receive compensation from Epstein’s estate, she said her abuse — while horrific — stopped short of human trafficking. She says after she was sexually assaulted by Epstein at age 18 — introduced to him under the guise of doing modeling work — she had a mental breakdown that ultimately removed her from Epstein’s orbit.
Here is her story in her own words. This conversation has been edited for length and clarity.
Jeffrey Epstein Abuse Survivor Speaks Out
What was the trigger that made you decide now’s the time to start sharing your story? I know this is gonna sound weird, but I didn’t know Jeffrey Epstein was Jeffrey Epstein. Then one day we decided to watch some TV. I put on Netflix and [the Epstein documentary trailer] was on. It flipped my entire world upside down in every way. The girl that introduced me to him, I just thought that was a girl who wanted to be my friend. So, as I’m watching this, I’m realizing the girl that introduced me is really a recruiter. I have proof and I put it all together. If you would’ve asked me four or five years ago if I had ever been abused, I probably would’ve said “no.” I would’ve had the Epstein thing in the back of my mind. But I knew I couldn’t say anything about that. And so when I’m asked, and people do it all the time, why now? Why you’re finding your voice? And as crazy as this sounds, it’s because I didn’t know.
How did being abused as a child play a role? I always thought it was my fault as I got older and more things happened. I grew up in a very abusive household and then as I just asked for help and went to teachers and they took advantage of me and we ended up dating, I thought it was my fault. And then right after that, I meet Epstein and I think it’s my fault because, why did I go to the city? I shouldn’t have went to the city. You don’t go with strangers, you don’t do this stuff. So, for a really long time, I just blamed myself. And then as I was watching the documentary, everything hit me that I never stood a chance with all of it. None of the stuff that happened prior was normal. None of that was OK. And I had to kind of accept that.
What aspects of Epstein’s story do you feel are underreported or being ignored? He picked out the vulnerable. I’ve done research on this and almost every single one of us was either sexually abused, physically abused, or neglected. They had some horrific event. It blinds you.
How did he manipulate the modeling audition? He created situations where he just funneled you to where you want. That made it seem like you had free will. But at the end of the day, no matter, he didn’t give you an option. There was no option for me to say “no.” The first time he assaulted me on that first day, then he’s calling me a prude. And if you’re gonna be in the modeling industry, you have to be, you know, a lot more open. And you have to get used to things like that. And so I just started thinking, well, maybe, maybe he’s right. Maybe that’s just how the modeling industry is.
How were you recruited? I didn’t sign up for anything. Somebody very nicely offered to get me a job interview and I went and then I was forced, locked in a room with a person and they do whatever they wanted. Now I see how easy it is for someone to manipulate or take advantage of someone. I thought he was nice, he’s very charismatic and all that in the beginning, helpful and a great host and all that crap. It made me feel almost indebted. I remember not wanting to do it and just being like, “No, I don’t have a ride.” And they said, “We’ll send a car for you, we’ll do it on the weekends around your schedule.” And they never let you leave. You always scheduled the next thing before the last thing ended. So, you just kinda get hooked into this.
How did you get out? I had a complete mental breakdown, ended up in the hospital. And I literally just cut out that entire part of my life in every way.
How have you moved on since? I worked with my dad for about 10 years. That was in live entertainment. Our clients were theaters like sports venues and stuff like that, but then Covid happened and all of that shut down. So we, I ended up losing the consulting business. So I made this my focus once I finally kind of got better. So I’m trying to sexual assault and mental health advocate at this point.
What have you learned from this? I’ve learned to take good in the bad and all of that. I’ve been sharing a lot more about my Epstein story and all that, but like I said, there was a lot more that happened prior to that. A lot of people failed me. Someone somewhere along the way should have noticed something or helped me, whether it was a teacher, a community member, you know, a religious whatever, fire department, the police, a social worker — anything. Somewhere along the lines, someone should have helped me. And if at any point anybody did, my life would’ve been drastically different. And I don’t think any kid should have to go through that. So I just wanna make sure that’s fixed now so that kids, people can just grow up and know that sometimes parents or things don’t do what they should be doing, but there’s someone else out there or something else out there to help prevent this from just going on.