It’s time to stop victim blaming the women from The Tinder Swindler
Seriously, it’s not their fault
Everyone who’s ever experienced time on a dating app can tell you that there’s always a few dodgy people out there. It can always be a hit or miss, but some experiences are worse than others.
No one can contend to this more than the three women featured on Netflix’s latest documentary, The Tinder Swindler. The documentary follows the stories of three women who have been conned by Shimon Hayut, who they believed was Simon Leviev, the son of billionaire Lev Leviev.
In the film, Cecilie Fjellhøy, Pernilla Sjoholm and Ayleen Charlotte speak of how much they lost. Cecilie is said to have sent him over £200,000 whilst Ayleen lent him £100,000. The films states Leviev stole around $10million (£7.4million) from his victims, all over the world.
Leviev essentially goes about doing this by showering the girls with gifts, extravagant trips and promises for the future. Once they are convinced by his persona, and are in what they believe to be a solid and committed relationship, he tells them he’s in danger and needs vast quantities of money.
Quite frankly, the story is absolutely mad. So all-in-all, it’s not too surprising that lots of people have had plenty to say on the documentary over social media.
A prominent narrative circulating right now is how on earth these women “fell” for his scam. They’ve been titled “naive” and “gold diggers” with some people asking how they didn’t notice any of his “red flags”.
But let’s remember who the real problem is here and – *spoiler* – it’s not the women
Simon was taking these women on a stereotypically romantic journey – whisking them off at a moment’s notice, showering them with gifts and compliments. He was doing everything that – as little girls – we are taught to be the epitome of romance. Every Disney romance has a prince charming, and they genuinely believed he was theirs. So why then – after being fed this narrative for years and years – are these women being blamed for following what they believed to be their very own fairytale?
These women cannot be blamed for that. Simon is a con-man who is exactly that: he has learned to play to the societal expectation of what success and love are supposed to look like. His techniques are no coincidence but rather a carefully constructed plan. He relied on those women being hopeful and trusting, and he preyed on them while they were simply looking for love.
Coercive control, which includes financial abuse, has been recognised as a criminal offence in England and Wales since 2015. In other words, what Simon did to these women is genuinely an imprisonable offence.
Appearing on This Morning, documentary director Felicity Morris said that she was initially “cynical” about the women who were conned. She said: “I think you think, ‘How on earth could that have happened to someone?’ and don’t truly understand the emotional side of it.” Eventually however, after getting to know the women, she said she realised they were “bright, smart well-travelled women”, which made the fact this happened to them even more shocking.
One of the victims, Pernilla, recently pointed out on the new accompanying podcast ‘The Making Of A Swindler’: “If a woman cons a man, it’s like, ‘poor man, evil woman’. If it’s a woman who gets conned by a man, it’s like ‘stupid woman, blame yourself’. [As a society] we love victim shaming. We don’t blame the criminal. We blame the victim.”
So if it hasn’t become clear by now – it’s time to stop victim blaming these women for falling for his “tricks” and hold Simon (and any other scammer as such), accountable.