Sex offender calls her match with teen boy 'perfect'

Indianola Record-Herald

Indianola, Ia. - Shannon Michelle Rew faces up to 10 years behind bars and a lifetime as a registered sex offender, but the 37-year-old Indianola mother of three is unapologetic about her sexual relationship with a teenage boy.

"We both cared about each other. That's what the basis of our relationship was," she said. "Our sense of humor and our personalities were a perfect match."

Rew, who pleaded guilty Monday to two counts of third-degree sex abuse, said she and the boy "cared a lot about each other" and "kind of let emotions just take over," which prosecutors say led to an ongoing relationship that included pornography, explicit text messages and a sexual encounter in her van while she was free on bond.

"The fact that you went ahead and committed a subsequent offense of the same nature does not give the court a lot of confidence that you've learned anything in this matter," said Warren County District Judge Darrell Goodhue, who recommended that Rew be put on probation for life as part of her sentence.

Her name will be added to the Iowa Sex Offender Registry, and she will have to pay an as-yet-undetermined amount of money to the boy and his family.

"Everyone's making it out to be some big sexual relationship that we had," the self-described "soccer mom" said. "And that's not how it was at all."

Rew's story is similar to a number of high-profile U.S. criminal cases in recent years that have involved adult women and young boys. The most sensational centered on teachers and their male students, but a majority dealt with women who abused the children of friends or acquaintances. Last month, a 26-year-old New Oxford, Pa., woman who had sex with a 15-year-old boy she met at a fair was sentenced to six months of house arrest and four years of probation.

Experts say prosecutions of women in sex abuse cases have risen slightly in the past decade. Many believe sex scandals that involved Catholic priests put more focus on authority figures. Others say the trend reflects the erosion of a double standard applied to men and women, brought on by the growth of female prosecutors and police officers.

Rew said she and the boy met after her 16-year-old daughter dated him for about six months.

"He was a really nice kid, a really nice person," Rew said. "He would do anything for you. He was having a lot of personal problems and family problems to where he came to me a lot, you know?"

Warren County Attorney Bryan Tingle said Rew's alleged concern for the boy's welfare was questionable.

People who are charged with crimes try "to make excuses to justify their crimes and take the focus away from what they did wrong under our laws by focusing attention on the victims," he said. "She took advantage of an emotionally unstable individual. That's what a criminal does. He or she takes advantage of someone who is vulnerable or in a fragile state."

Rew was arrested Sept. 17 after her mother found explicit photographs of her daughter and the boy, court documents show.

The boy, who told police that he and Rew had sex "at least a dozen times," said Rew gave him a cell phone so the two could communicate. Rew said she gave him the phone after he threatened suicide.

"He was mostly upset about what happened with me. He didn't want me to think he was the one who turned me in ... so I told him that if he promised not to harm himself, I would find a way for us to talk," she said.

Rew was arrested again Oct. 16, after the boy's mother found explicit text messages that detailed sex the two had while she was free on bond.

Rew, a Des Moines native, graduated from Hoover High School in 1989. She spent nearly two years in business school and moved to Indianola in 2000 with her three children, ages 19, 16 and 9, after a divorce. Rew worked for seven years at a child care center, where co-workers described her as an upstanding employee.

"I was what you'd call a soccer mom," she said. "I pretty much worked full time and drove my kids everywhere."

Rew said she pleaded guilty to avoid a "touchy" trial and because she would rather start her prison term immediately and get back to her children as soon as possible.

"I've messed up my whole life, and I've messed up my kids' lives," Rew said. "I'm sorry for it. I just love them so much. I thought it was the best idea to go ahead and take the plea."

Tingle said that "anytime both sides can come to a resolution that seems fair, a resolution that is acceptable to the victims ... it is best in the case of a sexual assault or sexual abuse to avoid going to trial, because of the nature of allegations and the nature of testimony that would come out.

"I do know this plea agreement was all right with the mother and son," he said.

It is The Des Moines Register's policy not to identify victims of sex abuse.

Rew said she disagreed with the media's portrayal of her as a pedophile. She said she had never had a general attraction to young boys or sought out young boys for sex.

Rew said she never meant to hurt the boy or his family.

She said that if she had caused them pain, she regretted doing so, but that she wasn't sorry about the relationship.

"We had a really good time together, and I don't regret that. I just regret that because of what happened, everything that came out of it - I would never have done it if I knew that would be the case," she said.

"It's crazy. They can be 16, and you don't get charged with anything. They can be 15, and you get charged with life parole. Who's to say this 15-year-old isn't as mature as an 18-year-old?

"I don't think, when you care about somebody, that age really matters."

[Ed: It is true that women defendants in these cases receive vastly greater sympathy (see reader comments following the article) and usually far less severe sentences than when men are involved (especially when the minor is a boy). Rather than join the growing chorus of those who believe that this means that women need to be punished just as severely as men, however, I would propose that any punishment be commensurate to the degree of force or coercion employed in the offense.

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