Abigail Simon faces four counts of first-degree criminal sexual conduct against her former student. She is accused on engaging in repeated sexual acts with the 15-year-old boy. However, Simon claims that she is the actual victim:
In testimony punctuated with weeping, Simon said the teen within a matter of weeks in the spring of 2013 used physical intimidation, psychological manipulation and rape to control every aspect of her life – even to the point that she did what he wanted when she was on the other side of the country.
“My thoughts, my life, were consumed with making (the teen) happy,” she said. “It was bizarre.”
It gets more bizarre:
Simon was questioned all day by her attorney, describing events from the beginning of their relationship that started with him slapping her after accusing her of spending too much time with other students she was tutoring.
She wept as she explained how the boy managed to get her to take him to restaurants, drive him to Chicago and South Bend and let him into her apartment all using threats against her and himself.
Two things come to mind. One, this is the case that should have prompted Joanna Schroeder’s ire about double standards against male victims. What man could take the stand and claim that his 15-year-old female victim controlled his life and expect anyone to take such a claim serious?
Michael Manley, Simon’s attorney, has put on a case presenting Simon as the victim. He claims that Simon’s history of suffering domestic violence made her incapable of resisting the 15-year-old boy’s advances. He put on domestic violence and sexual abuse experts to support his claim that the victim is actually the rapist. Manley also has another weapon: the boy’s size. The victim is a 220-pound, 6’3″ football player.
Complicating matters, the victim perjured himself by claiming that he forced Simon to have sex with him, a claim he later recanted. Police contend that the boy made the claim to protect Simon because he still loved her.
The prosecutors also slipped, asking the boy if he was a virgin, which opened the door to allow in his sexual history. The judge did limit how much could come in, but this still allowed Manley to tarnish the boy’s character.
Again, this is type of case that relies on double standards against male victims. Manley’s defense hinges on the notion that a tall, muscle-bound football player could never be abused by a small woman like Simon. Manley even contends that other boys Simon tutored attempted to take advantage of her.
That brings us to the second point: this might work. Simon tells a very convincing story. She keeps admitting that what she says sounds bizarre, which lets the jury set aside their skepticism. If Simon admits her story is difficult to believe, perhaps the jury will assume she must be telling the truth.
Simon faces life in prison. The prosecutors refused a plea deal that would have removed the felony charges. That may have been a mistake, given the circumstances of the case. The jury might find that none of the acts are felonies and decide, if no other options are available, to acquit Simon.
I suspect that Simon will walk away with little, if any, jail time. The victim’s appearance works against him, as do his text messages and behavior. That does not mean this woman did not take advantage of him. It appears that she used his sexual interest and general naivete to get what she wanted.
This is one of the reasons why relationships between teenagers and adults can never truly be acceptable. This boy may have the body of a man, but clearly his mind is still young. He fell for this woman, quite likely his first love, and she exploited that. When she was caught, the boy did what anyone in love would do: he kept trying to be with her. Simon made no effort to break off contact, despite the pending charges against her.
That is why these situations need legal repercussions. Every teenager and adult interaction may not end up this way, however, I think most would. It is simply too easy for an adult to manipulate a teen, particularly one with little or no experience in dealing with adult situations.