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What it’s like to find out your husband is a rapist

An excerpt from Shannon Moroney’s memoir, ‘Through the Glass’


 
A book of sadness and forgiving

Courtesy Of Random House Canada

Last year, Shannon Moroney wrote a letter to the wife of convicted rapist and murderer Russell Williams. If anyone could understand the singular hell she was going through, Moroney believed she could. For she too had been blindsided by a spouse who committed a horrific crime. She’d been married only a month when, in November 2005, her 36-year-old husband, Jason Staples, abducted two women and raped them in their Peterborough, Ont., house while she was away at a convention in Toronto. In 2008, Staples was deemed a dangerous offender and imprisoned indefinitely.

But Moroney’s story, as told in her thought-provoking memoir Through the Glass, differs from Williams’s wife in a significant detail: the high school guidance counsellor married Staples knowing violent crime was part of his past. But, madly in love and believing in redemption—and the evidence his crime was a one-time event—she forgave him.

Staples was convicted of second-degree murder in 1988 when he was 18; he served 10 years in prison. When he met the 27-year-old Moroney in 2003, at a subsidized restaurant for low-income patrons in Kingston, Ont., where he worked, he’d been on parole for five years. Moroney, a compassionate woman, was volunteering with her students. She was drawn to Staples’s good looks and intelligence, she writes; minutes after meeting him she noticed he wasn’t wearing a wedding ring and wondered if he had a girlfriend. Staples disclosed his past on their first date, explaining he’d killed a female roommate in a sudden fit of rage after she rejected his sexual advances, and would understand if Moroney bolted. She didn’t. Though shaken, she was curious; his candour and remorse impressed her. “I was surprised to find my heart going out to this man, even as I was repulsed by what he had done,” she writes.

She agonized over becoming involved, while admitting she’d “fallen in love.” She spoke with Staples’s psychologist, who said he wasn’t at risk of reoffending. His parole officer called him a model prisoner, “our best guy.” Moroney’s friends and family liked him immediately. The couple moved in together quickly, four months after meeting, and married two years later. Moroney depicts the relationship as blissfully harmonious as they fixed up their house and planned a family.

With the shattering news of Staples’s crimes, Moroney learned she was more than a collateral victim: he had photographed her—and others—in their bathroom with a hidden camera. Yet neither she or her family turned away. The memoir charts how Moroney supported Staples through the justice system while despising his crime and the damage he’d caused. She faced stigma herself: some friends shunned her and she lost her job. The situation became a test of sorts, she writes. “I could tell fairly early on what someone’s character was made of by how they reacted to my story.” The couple divorced in 2009 but remain friends. Staples supported her decision to write the book, and even edited the first few drafts.

The experience inspired new purpose and a career change: Moroney is now a paid speaker and advocate within the field of restorative justice, which focuses on victims, offenders and the community. After fearing she’d never trust and love again, she remarried last year after an eight-month courtship.

Through the Glass is a compelling documentation of a flawed penal system, a nuanced look at the humanity of a violent criminal, and a snapshot of the cognitive dissonance required by romantic love. Most of all, it’s a meditation on forgiveness, which Moroney shorthands brilliantly. “Forgiveness is a process; it’s not a single act,” she writes.

The book raises a myriad of questions, some unanswerable. Sitting in her publisher’s office, a poised and articulate Moroney fields them candidly. She likens Staples’s reoffending to “someone having cancer years ago and you’re told it went away and is never coming back and then it’s stage four,” which reflects her wilful optimism. She also addresses the “How could the wife not know?” speculation. At trial, a repentant Staples admitted he was “wired wrong, specifically sexually.” But their sex life was normal, Moroney insists, although looking back there were signs. Staples suffered from delayed ejaculation, she writes, which he blamed on being institutionalized. He also took long showers. “It’s not like I was naive—little tiny things I picked up became very important later,” she says.

Moroney never heard back from Russell Williams’s wife, which didn’t surprise her. She herself had been deluged with ugly mail after her address was made public. The cases are different, she agrees. Staples reoffended, which subjected her to harsher judgment. “People assume I’m a woman who sought out a violent offender but that’s something I don’t relate to.” She bristles at an “I married a murderer” headline about her memoir that appeared in a magazine. That may be how it appears to the world, but the man she married, she believed, had paid his dues.

There was a lot of anger and confusion to work through. “I’d visit him with a list of questions: ‘Were you ever with prostitutes?’, ‘Did you ever hurt anybody else?’ ” He said no. Many would not have trusted Staples’s reliability by then; she did. Seeing him in a dissociative state in court helped her understand how he could have snapped, she writes.

Why he snapped remains a mystery. Later he revealed that while in prison for murder, he developed a porn addiction and had been gang-raped; he said he’d been sexually abused as a child by his mother, who suffered from bipolar disorder.

Staples didn’t receive any treatment in prison, only assessment, which included monitoring his response to violent porn. She learned that the parole board dealing with his case had no record of his mother’s mental illness. “I knew more about the kids whose timetables I changed,” she says, referring to her job as a guidance counsellor. She wrote the book in part, she says, for victims’ families: “Corrections Canada says one of the most important things for prisoner rehabilitation is family contact. But they make it so difficult to get to the door of a prison—inconvenient hours, they’re located so far away. And when you’re visiting, you’re treated like a criminal yourself.”

Moroney doesn’t see getting involved with Staples as an error in judgment: “Jason wasn’t the wrong choice knowing what I knew, the beautiful life we shared. What happened had nothing to do with my choice. It only had to do with Jason’s choices.” (Her current husband volunteered his financial and legal status when they started dating.)

“People would say, ‘You forgave him once. You’re going to forgive him again?’ as if there should be a maximum. I want people to understand forgiveness is more for the victim. It’s more for me. I didn’t want to make a lifelong commitment to anger and resentment. It’s too much energy.” It’s “practical,” she says. “I could see a long road ahead and asked myself: ‘How am I going to get to a place where I’m capable of being loving, happy, trusting?’ ” That she has reached that point is her payback, she says without smugness. “What better revenge on the person and the system that hurt me so?” ANNE KINGSTON

***EXCERPT FROM THROUGH THE GLASS BY SHANNON MORONEY***

My heart was pounding. I had learned that Jason and I would have a “closed” visit, sealed from each other and from other visitors and inmates, but I still didn’t know what to expect. When I reached the door it clicked open and I entered a tiny room divided in half by a thick sheet of glass extending up from a steel counter. There was a small metal stool bolted to the floor in front of the counter.

I was still getting my bearings when Jason came through the door on the other side of the room—face down, drawn and grim. He was wearing a bright orange jumpsuit. Was this my husband I was seeing through the glass? Jason looked up, our eyes met, and we both began crying uncontrollably. I put my hands up to the glass.

“Jason . . . ”

But he couldn’t hear me. He pointed to a phone receiver on the wall beside me. He picked up an identical receiver on his side. I cried into the phone, “Jason, what happened? What happened?”

“I don’t know . . . ” He was sobbing, almost unable to speak.

“I don’t know. I’m sorry, I’m sorry!”

We stood there for several moments, each of us holding a phone receiver in one hand, the other hand pressed against the glass, our palms together but unable to touch. It was hard to stop crying, but I had a million questions.

First, I asked my mum’s question: “Jason, didn’t you know how much I loved you? How much we all loved you?”

He shook his head. “I’m sorry . . . I’m so sorry, I didn’t really know.”

As I looked into Jason’s eyes, I recalled a school picture taken when he was six years old, the year his dad died. In it, his face was solemn and his eyes were dark with sorrow and profound loneliness. They were the exact same eyes I was looking into now, 30 years later.

“Jason,” I said, “the police told me you said that you never wanted to see me again—why did you say that?”

The expression on his face changed from sorrow to confusion, and after a moment he said softly, “No, Shanny, I said, ‘My wife never has to see me again.’ ”

I felt a pulse of relief. It was something to hold onto amidst the confusion.

Jason went on to confess that he had been gorging himself on pornography over the weekend while I was away, and that he had gone to see a very violent movie at the theatre. I despise pornography, and I had no idea that Jason even looked at it, let alone the extent to which it was part of his life. He said he’d stuffed himself with junk food that day until he was in pain—something he now admitted he had started doing frequently a few months before, during the night while I slept. I winced as I recalled teasing him about eating too much junk food while I was away.

“How long have these things been going on?” I asked. He said he’d become addicted to pornography while he was in prison the first time. It was something he was ashamed of, and that’s why he’d never discussed it with me before. The issues with food had come and gone to greater or lesser extents throughout his life, beginning in his early teens. The voyeurism was new in the last few months. He explained that he had always known something was wrong with him, but that he convinced himself that he was in control of whatever it was, experiencing long periods of time when he was “unplugged” from his demons, times when there was no “interference with the wires in his brain.” Recently, the addictive behaviours had been building again, though he couldn’t explain exactly why. In agony, I asked him, “Why didn’t you tell me?”

“I’m sorry. I was so afraid. I wanted to keep you out of it; to protect you from it. I thought it would go away.” This choice was one of the biggest mistakes of his life, and he knew it. He shook his head. “I see now how wrong I was, and it’s too late.” “You could have told me anything, Jason. I would have done anything to help you. We could have prevented this, if only you had the courage to tell me—or anyone—what was going on inside.”

“I know. I know that now.” He looked strained and without hope. We cried for several minutes, unable to speak. It pained me to find out that Jason had let himself fall into the spiral of this degradation. Learning about his hidden habits repulsed me completely. Jason had fooled himself into thinking his addiction would go away on its own, and in so doing, he had victimized me and others. He had denied the seriousness of his compulsions and let shame and fear prevent him from getting help. Then he exploded, wreaking havoc on the lives of the two women and countless other people who were now affected. I felt helpless, and completely betrayed.


 

What it’s like to find out your husband is a rapist

  1. So in this case, she’s making money off  of his crimes: writing books, doing interviews, giving “motivational” speeches.  Yet why would anyone be positively motivated by what she has to say?  Or does she give talks to violent abusive men to let them know there will still be women who forgive their actions — or indeed are actually somehow perversely titillated by them.

    Seriously, I think this is a story of a woman with no self-esteem, who thinks that “forgiveness” depends on her feelings, and not on his actions.  We often read of women who are attracted to men who have violent pasts; this is just another such story.  Poor woman: I hope she outgrows this dangerous phase. 

    •  People make money off crime all the time. Jail guards make money off crime, police make money off crime, journalists make money off crime, corporations make money off crime. She did not commit the crime. She’s just telling a story. You’re free not to buy the book. Further,  publishers make most of the money on books that are sold rather than the authors.

      Just because a woman speaks out on a weakness from their past does not eternally mean that the woman suffers from a lack of self-esteem.

  2. It is utterly inconceivable that a woman with self esteem and common sense would ever forge a relationship with a man who had brutally murdered a woman, smashing her head multiple times into the floor before killing her, because she said “no” to having sex with him.  He was “good looking”, (and single, with 10 yrs in jail for murder) which is text book serial killer material, Ted Bundy, Paul Bernardo….etc etc. looks equal access to woman with shallow priorities.  It would be a crime against the victims again, to allow Shannon Moroney to continue to benefit financially from these horrific crimes and the terrifying death of his first victim…..and a guidance councellor, that’s just surreal!

  3. Read this story the other day on another site and she wasn’t getting much sympathy from the posters.
     
    More or less, “Murdered lover/room-mate in cold blood at 18”    RED FLAG!!!!

    • It’s not that I’m without any sympathy for her, but I really really think she needs some psychiatric help to stop making horrible decisions about her life.  And sticking by him: that’s a horrible decision piled onto several other horrible decisions.  Let him go forever; get some help and move forward in your life. 

      • Sounds like codependency issues to me.  A good dose of Melody Beattie would be a good start.

  4. This poor woman continues to make herself a victim of a violent sociopathic con man.  He needed a mark to make himself himself notorious.  He found one.

    Fool me once, shame on you.  Fool me twice, shame on me.

    Sociopaths brains are wired differently.  Like others whose brains are wired differently (autistics and Asperger’s sufferers), it is not curable.  One is a sociopath for life, just as one is an autistic or an Aspie for life.

    A sociopath who has been violent basically should be institutionalized forever.

  5. I heard this woman speak on CBC Radio’s The Current. I tried to keep an open mind, but I was so confused by her calm, kind voice and her crazy, crazy choices. I think I would be very nervous around a man who killed a woman with his bare hands. She seems to be an extremely soft-hearted person who sees the good in everyone and truly believes people can change. I am conflicted when I read the above. I have sympathy for her because she had no clue that something like this was going to happen and was assured that he would not re-offend. But still…I am so surprised that she visited him repeatedly in jail! It seems so unhealthy, although she claimed in her radio interview that it was healing for her. I am also a bit confused about what exactly she talks about as a “speaker.” I don’t see how she could offer any advice to anyone–especially as she was so clueless about her husband’s secret sexual proclivities and violent fantasies.

  6. 1st Date: Admits he’s a murderer.

    2nd Date: There is no second date.

    That’s how it should have been.  Anything else is quite stupid and asking for trouble.

  7. This media exposure is absolutely sick. She’s all over CBC, including Strombo, she’s in Chatelaine, has websites, and now this. She is a delusional, narcissistic person who wants attention and is reminding those poor women he raped that she forgives him. Only they can forgive him and she should just shut up.

  8. Good for you Shannon Moroney! To put your story in the spotlight can only raise awareness for all victims of violent crime. The Restorative Justice program is one of the best programs this country offers for families of crime. It allows the victims to heal, and the offenders to truly repent and show the remorse for their crimes. I feel ashamed of the people who cannot understand your choices and choose to judge you here. You were a victim and have the ability to love and forgive, 2 assets that make you the bigger person than the unforgiving, angry, bitter people that speak up the most in our society. Though I do not know this story, I do know it must have been a difficult decision to put yourself through re-victimization by the society we live in. The work you do for Restorative Justice is priceless and your story does help others heal. Keep up the good work!

  9. Just saw this woman on TV, promoting her book..Having worked worked in corrections for 10yrs, and having a good friend who also married an ex-con( but not a murderer) stories like this are always interesting to me.  As I read the excerpt,I became more and more frustrated and shocked at her poor choices, self-esteem and good judgment. This woman counselled high-school students? Unbelievable!!  She needs to take a long, hard look at her own life.  Anyone can see that..how come she can’t?
    Most interesting, she married a second time..also having known this man for a relatively short time! Wonder how that will turn out? Life lesson:   Rule of thumb —-1 Yr…

    • Second marriage? Over 5 years in, 2 beautiful children …. at the same time no less ….. and a rock solid relationship. Sucks when the facts get in the way, doesn’t it??

  10. How easy it is to judge someone who is trying to heal and
    make sense of the chaos from this time of her life. How easy it is to over
    simplify the choices she made.

     

    All the comments here are generalized judgments and
    assumptions as to how this woman dealt with this relationship. It’s not enough
    that she has to live with the consequences of her ex-husband horrible actions,
    we have to clump her in there as well?

    What a cynical world we live in and how unforgiving our
    society is.What a bitter world we live in…

     

    She chose to take the hard route towards forgiveness and
    acceptance on what this person did. It’s easy to condemn those who did wrong,
    send them away and turn away from the ugliness of what they did. It’s much
    harder to try understand how it went so horribly wrong.

     

    I commend her for being brave and strong and not letting
    this break her, but using this horrible event in her life to reach out to
    others who have to live with the pain of their loved ones who chose poorly in
    life.

  11. I’m sickened by the most of the responses I’ve read about Shannon and her book.  Unless you actually take the time to read this book, you have no right to comment.  Regardless of whether you agree with her choices, can you at least appreciate that she wrote this book to help and support victims and families of people who commit crimes?  To those that criticize her for profiting from these crimes and question where the profits are going, take a look at the work she’s doing, go to her website.  She has dedicated her life to helping VICTIMS find their voice; supporting families who get lumped in with the crimes of their loved ones.  At this time there are very few resources for them.  She is changing that. You don’t have to agree with her choices and unless you read the book, you’re not likely to begin to understand them, but at the very least give this woman some credit for the good she is attempting to make in the world now as a result of this tragedy.

    • Nope, she wrote this book to feel better about the wrong choices she made by getting married to a man she knew already committed a murder because he was rejected. 

  12. Michelle – You don’t have to read the book if you were a witness to the whole sordid fiasco.

    • Fair enough…I’ve no doubt that anyone actually involved in this has a lot to say and feels what they feel about it.  And because as you say it was a sordid fiasco, is it not possible that it’s also very multi-layered and not as black and white as people want it to be?  For the record, I’m not in any way referring to the offender here, I’m referring to everyone else around him.

      • I agree totally with the comment posted by Michelle  – it is necessary to read this
        book (which I have just done) in order to avoid a dismissal such as “meh’s” that
        Ms. Moroney wrote the book simply to “feel better about the wrong choices she 
        made”.  It is about so much more – the restorative justice model, the situation of
        the variety of victims when a crime is committed, the lack of psychiatric treatment
        available in the Canadian penal system, the slowness of the judicial process for
        a perpetrator who was willing from day one to plead guilty, and resilience.  It also challenged me to examine my own capacity for forgiveness.  I have never commented on an on-line forum before; I refrain from doing so because I find that often people often go off on subjects with very uninformed opinions – but I really felt that I could not sit by silently this time.

        • ap — I’m like you, I rarely speak up on forums, but the book has stayed with me and challenged me in so many ways that I think it deserved to at least be well represented, whether people agree or not with all its objectives, many of which you so eloquently outlined in your post.

  13. If Shannon Moroney had been abducted a knifepoint and anally raped she might very well have written a book on how the criminal justice system is unfair to victims and their families.  Because she married the perpetrator and suffered for it, she is writting a book on restorative justice, rehabiliation and the need to support the families of offenders.  Ms. Moroney’s success and the legitimacy she has gained in Canadian society is symptom as a serious flaw in Western societies (and many emerging countries, I daresay): everyone views things through their personal lens and measures things by their emotional reactions. 

    I am a political and social liberal who believes in restorative justice and the rehabilitation of criminals.  I also believe that certain crimes are so hendious (rape, torture, mutilation, murder) that they cannot be forgiven, by the victims or by society.  I do not believe all convicter murders should be killed or all convicted rapists castrated because innocent people are sometimes convicted.  Human beings are not omnipotent and should not act as though they are.  I do not believe that even violent rapists and murders should be raped and tortured in prison, as  this demeans all people.  I believe criminals should be allowed to live peacefull lives in confinement and ideally be permitted to contribute to society.  But the time should fit the crime, not the desires or wishes of the larger society.

    Shannon Moroney shared one charactistic with her former husband: she depends on happy endings.  Had her husband understood the magnitude of his murder he would never have thought himself worthy or capable of having a happy home life and being a father.  He would have spent his life trying to redeem himself through public service and counselling.  If Shannon Moroney really understood the magnitude of her hushand’s murder, she would have cared for him and supported his attempts at redemption, but she would never have married a man who stole another human beings right to live.
    If Ms. Moroney took responsibility for her poor life decisions she would not have married so soon after her divorce.  She would have questioned her own judgement and her own character, or years if need be.  Ms. Moroney wanted her happy ending.  Her book cover shows a photograph of her first wedding (nice touch of insensitivity towards your first husband’s victims and their families, bye the bye).  Her book ends with a photograph of her hugging her second husband on their wedding day, beaming has she looks over her shoulder to the camera, the long ruffled train of her dress spilling out of the hotel elevator.  That basically says it all.   “I swore my life would be whole again.”  Not that she would stop showing such poor judgement in my intimate partners.  Not that she would devote her life to helping and supporting the victims of violence (i.e. the people who actually raped, tortured, beaten).  People like her because she is emotionally available and intellectually simplistic.  Ms. Moroney is the Princess Di of true crime.

    Do not let restorative justice be lead by self pleasuring bobble-heads such as Shannon Moroney.  She noted her reaction in her book to the fact that her husband committed anal rape: it was icky.  Ms. Moroney wants to wash the ick away with a blinding ray of sunshine.  Don’t let weak people like her determine what is good, what is a happy ending.

    Also, Shannon Moroney is a terrible artist. 

    • It is her pathetic selfish life choices that she made on her own that have hurt her family and friends. I would”nt want my sister introducing a convicted murderer as her new husband and ask us to welcome him into the family. Remember this disgusting low life taped unknowing family and friends in their washroom and put everyone at serious risk of physical harm. God forbid if another member of the family were kidnapped and raped by this lunetic. I do’nt think they would be loving him and standing by him,visiting him in the pen. The insanity is people buying this book and paying her for her marrying a known murderer and making terrible life choices that negatively affected this otherwise fine family. She should be ashamed of herself.

  14. Spoiler alert: he rapes you

  15. Why should anyone listen to her story, You had all the right information about this man. She needs to get lost.

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