A Sydney geography teacher who sexually abused her 14-year-old student sobbed in court as she begged his family to forgive her for the ’embarrassment and hurt’ she has caused.
Monica Elizabeth Young, 24, appeared in NSW District Court on Thursday supported by her parents, aunt, uncle and grandmother after pleading guilty to three counts of aggravated sexual intercourse with a minor.
She took to the stand in front of the victim’s mother and cried as she apologised for ‘letting the relationship progress’ over the period of offending between June 24 and July 6 2020.
Young told the court that she was sexually abused when she was in Year Seven and could therefore understand the ‘trauma’ she had subjected the boy to.
‘I just never imagined I’d be one of those people… I’ve never been in trouble with the law. I hope he and his family can forgive me,’ she said through tears.
‘I was foolish.’
The court heard Young started teaching at the all-boys school in southwest Sydney on March 20th, 2020, and was given 23 classes between year seven and 10.
She’d spent four-and-a-half years at university studying to teach PDHPE, and was ‘so proud’ of herself when she landed her first full time role.
Of the 23 classes she was assigned, 12 were in geography – a subject which she had no formal training in and was always just ‘one page ahead’ of her students as she tried to teach herself the curriculum.
By April, the Covid pandemic had forced the closure of schools and Young was required to teach her classes remotely via online learning channels.
It was at this point that ‘the lines were criminally blurred’ as Young became ‘more accessible’ to her students, many of whom contacted her all hours of the night and day.
When school returned six weeks later, it was mid-May. The physical relationship between the pair started in June.
The court heard it was only when the victim’s family members spotted him in a car park with Young that they contacted his mother and the entire relationship unraveled.
A police statement of facts previously tendered in court said Young drove her pupil to a western Sydney park, mounted him and had sex in her car.
Investigators obtained CCTV footage allegedly showing Young’s car approaching the park, according to material before the court.
Two other counts of sexual abuse occurred on school grounds.
Young had been in a relationship for several years at the time of offending, but her defence counsel, former top prosecutor Margaret Cunneen SC, told the court it was ‘going very badly by this stage’.
‘There was a background of physical abuse, infidelity and drug taking… In addition she had an experience herself as a child.’
Ms Cunneen implored the Judge Kate Traill to consider ‘how often this terrible crime rears its’ head again in people who have been victims themselves’.
‘She can hardly believe that what happened, happened.’
There was confusion about Young’s relationship status in the courtroom, as Judge Traill asked whether she and her former fiance had ever officially tied the knot.
‘She did not marry him according to the laws of Australia, but there was a particular religious ceremony,’ Ms Cunneen said.
The court heard Young initially attempted to maintain a professional working relationship with the student, who she was ‘forced to block’ from the classroom online feed for repeatedly posting inappropriate content for his peers to see.
But after returning to the classroom, Young claims she was trying to keep on top of the syllabus herself while also catching up students who fell behind, including the victim.
He first found her on Instagram but she proceeded to hunt down his Snapchat account, which is where they predominately communicated.
Prosecutor Alexander Terracini asked Young if it was correct that she ‘dared’ the boy to participate in the relationship, telling him via the app that he ‘didn’t have the balls’ to pursue anything further with her.
On another occasion, she sent a message which read: ‘It’s dangerous if we get caught but if you do it it’ll be worth it’.
Young told the court in her tearful letter to the family that she regrets the relationship and understands that both her victim and his family will carry the trauma of the offence ‘for the rest of their lives’.
‘I knew it was wrong, I knew my actions were inappropriate but I couldn’t let myself believe it,’ she said. ‘He trusted me and I abused that trust.’
Young entirely expects to serve time in custody when she is sentenced by Judge Traill in two weeks’ time.
She told the court she’d been receiving psychological help and hoped to continue with her treatment even behind bars.
Young spent five weeks in custody after her arrest in protection in the maximum security jail – locked up 22 hours a day – and another inmate in an adjacent cell killed herself.
‘I never thought I’d be behind bars,’ she told the court as she wiped away tears. ‘Five weeks in custody was confronting enough and a difficult situation.
‘I’m a hardworking woman who is honest, reliable and has integrity… I’ll never commit an offence again.’