'Breath of relief:' Jeffrey Epstein accusers welcome Ghislaine Maxwell's arrest

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Audrey Strauss, Acting United States Attorney for the Southern District of New York announces charges against Ghislaine Maxwel in New York

NEW YORK (Reuters) - Women who accused Jeffrey Epstein of sexual assault and their attorneys welcomed Thursday's arrest of his longtime associate Ghislaine Maxwell, who was charged with helping him find victims, as an opportunity for justice after Epstein's death.

"Today, my fellow Epstein survivors and I are able to take a breath of relief, as Maxwell's arrest means some justice for survivors can exist," said Jennifer Araoz, who has accused Maxwell of helping traffic her for Epstein.

"Day after day, I have waited for the news that Maxwell would be arrested and held accountable for her actions. Her arrest is a step in that direction, and it truly means that the justice system didn’t forget about us," Araoz said.

Maxwell, 58, was charged with four counts related to procuring and transporting minors for illegal sex acts and two counts of perjury.

"The pain she has caused will never go away but today is a step toward healing," lawyer Sigrid McCawley, who represents several women, said of the arrest. "I am so proud of the women we have represented over the last six years who never gave up fighting for justice."

Thursday's news followed the approval of a fund last month that enables accusers to seek compensation outside of court from Epstein's estate, estimated at $636.1 million before this year's plunge in markets.

(Reporting By Brendan Pierson in New York; Editing by Scott Malone and Howard Goller)