When it comes to reading books, sometimes my eyes are bigger than my will to use them for reading. There was a time when I could read several books in a month. But now, as I get older, and my eyesight gets worse, it’s a struggle to finish a book in a matter of weeks. I keep trying, though, and I keep buying virtual books from Amazon, which may sit in my queue for years before I ever get around to reading them. Such is the case regarding Canadian author Shannon Moroney’s 2011 book, Through the Glass, which Amazon tells me I bought in 2018.
I don’t remember why I bought Through the Glass. It might have been a suggestive sell when I bought something else. I might have read a salacious Daily Mail article that prompted me to download it. Who knows, at this point? I’m actually glad I read it just recently, though, because I think this case out of Canada is timely, given that this week, convicted sex offender, Josh Duggar, will finally be sentenced to prison for his crimes against children.
Like many people, I look forward to seeing Duggar get his due. However, even though think his wife, Anna, was somewhat complicit in Josh Duggar’s crimes, I also have some empathy for her situation. She’s a woman in a fundamentalist Christian cult, raised to submit to her husband in all matters. With seven young children, and not much to fall back on, she seems pretty stuck. There’s also no doubt in my mind that Anna has been repeatedly victimized by Josh. As I read Shannon Moroney’s story, I couldn’t help but think of Anna, although Anna is undoubtedly in a worse situation than Shannon Moroney was. Shannon at least had a career to fall back on, and no children to support.
Who is Shannon Moroney, and why has she written a book?
In October 2005, 30 year old teacher and school guidance counselor, Shannon Moroney, married Jason Staples, the man she once thought was the love of her life. The two had met at a Kingston, Ontario soup kitchen three years earlier, where Shannon had brought some of her students to work. Jason was the head chef at the soup kitchen, and everybody loved him. He was always friendly and kind, and he had an amazing talent for art. Shannon was taken with him soon after meeting him; he seemed like the perfect guy. But there was just one thing that gave her pause. Jason Staples was a convicted murderer who was out on parole, having spent ten years in prison.
In 1988, just a few months after his 18th birthday, Jason Staples and his roommate, a 38 year old woman, had a brutal argument. The argument ended with the woman’s violent murder at Jason’s hands. Jason’s first victim was someone Jason’s very mentally ill mother and her abusive boyfriend had found, just before they moved away without him. The living situation obviously wasn’t good, though he tried to leave it before he finally snapped in what was originally deemed “adolescent rage”.
Jason later pleaded guilty to second degree murder and was given a sentence of Life-10. That meant he would spend ten years in prison, then be released on parole, which he would be on for the rest of his life, provided he did not reoffend. Jason had been a model prisoner, and the authorities believed his youth and good behavior made him a good risk for rehabilitation.
By the time Shannon met Jason, he’d already been out of prison for five years, and was doing well in the community. Jason had convinced many people that his dark impulses were in the past, and he was worthy of the second chance he was given. He even had plans to go back to school and earn a degree in art, hoping to make the most of the rest of his life. Shannon had checked out everything Jason told her about his past, and spoke to his parole officer and psychologist. She also examined his official records. Everything seemed to check out fine.
Just one month after their wedding, Shannon was writing thank you notes for wedding gifts and wondering if she was pregnant. She was staying in a Toronto area hotel for a work related trip. There was a knock at the door. When she opened it, her life changed forever. She had expected the knock to be from a colleague wanting to have breakfast. But it was a police officer, who handed her his card and said:
“I’m here about your husband,” the officer said. “Are you Jason Staples’s wife?”
Shannon nodded affirmatively, that she was Jason’s wife… of just one month. The officer told Shannon that Jason was arrested the night before, charged with sexual assault. The cop did not know many of the details of the crime, since he was a Toronto based officer, and Jason and Shannon lived in Peterborough, which was also where Jason committed his crimes. But the officer did know that Jason had called 911 himself, turned himself in, and gave a full confession to raping two women and confining them in the home he shared with Shannon. She was in total shock as she gathered her things and left the hotel room to go home, where she would face the horrifying truth. The beautiful life she had planned, to include having children, advancing in her career, and loving a man who had seemed to overcome his horrific past, had all evaporated.
Jason had kidnapped and raped two women who had come into the health food store where he worked part time. The first victim, a 46 year old woman, came into the store and Jason suddenly accosted her, held her at knife point, and sexually assaulted her. He confined her in the store’s basement. Then, a few minutes later, the second victim, who was much younger, entered the store. Jason held her at knife point, but she fought back, Jason then choked her into unconsciousness, and took her to the basement, where he sexually assaulted her. He bound both women with duct tape, then rented a van, and brought the two women to the home he shared with Shannon.
The two women bravely tried to rehumanize Jason, attempting to talk him down from his terrifying rage. Jason would switch back and forth, from monster to human. By 9:00 that evening, Jason had decided to kill himself. He procured some rope and a ladder. The women continued talking to him, trying to bring him back to his senses. Finally, at about 10:00, Jason spoke to Shannon on the phone. She was unaware that there were two bound women in her home, both of whom had been brutally raped by her husband. After the phone call, Jason went to a pay phone and called 911. He told the police who he was and what he’d done, then asked them to go to his house and help the women. Then he continued trying to formulate a suicide plan as he waited for the police to arrive. After 25 minutes, the police still hadn’t come; apparently, they thought his first call was a prank! So Jason called again. After the second call, the cops finally came. Jason ended his confession at the jailhouse, begging “Just put me away.”
As the investigation continued, Shannon learned that not only had Jason kidnapped and raped two women, but he had also installed cameras in their home, and recorded Shannon during private moments in the bathroom. So, Shannon was also one of Jason’s victims. However, because Shannon was Jason’s wife, many people assumed she was somehow complicit in his crimes. When Shannon asked if there was anything she could do to help the women who were raped, she was told that they “didn’t need to hear from Jason’s arena.” Shannon was left to pick up the pieces after Jason’s crimes, and she quickly found out that there was no support for people in her position.
Soon, it became clear to Shannon Moroney that even though she’d had nothing to do with Jason’s criminal behavior, and was in fact a victim herself, many people were going to judge her. She would not be entitled to any assistance from victim’s advocacy groups. Though she didn’t outright lose her job at her school, she was told that she would be transferred to a different school. Her principal went as far as to ban her from even setting foot in the school, claiming that her presence there would traumatize other people.
Jason was held in protective custody, for his own safety. He had lawyers to protect his rights. No one seemed to understand that Shannon needed help and protection, too. Everyone seemed to expect her to quickly divorce Jason and move on, even though Shannon still saw the human part of him and loved him. She suffered on all levels, from professionally to medically, and few people seemed to have any empathy for her situation. She was caught in the crossfire, being associated with someone who had committed horrific crimes. And very few people seemed to understand that she was as much of a victim as the two women who were sexually assaulted by her husband. Jason never gave any indication that he needed help. She’d thought he was okay, as had everyone involved with granting him parole.
As she spoke to Jason, through the glass partition at the jail, she learned about the tragedies in his life that had led him to where he was. Jason was adopted at three months old, and raised by a woman who sexually abused him. His adoptive father died when he was very young, and his mother took up with a man who abused her, and Jason. On the night of his crimes, Jason had also overdosed on some over-the-counter substances– caffeine pills and ephedra.
Picking up the pieces…
Slowly, Shannon Moroney put her life back together. She didn’t immediately divorce Jason, although many people seemed to think she should just quickly dump him and disassociate from him. She visited him in jail, and later, prison. At the same time, she tried to figure out how to move on from the legal fiasco that enveloped her. The process of rebuilding led her to change careers, and she earned a master’s degree at East Anglia University, in Norwich, England. Jason’s crimes and the aftermath of them made her want to do victim’s advocacy, and she eventually left teaching and counseling, and became an author and public speaker. After divorcing Jason, Shannon found love again and remarried. She now appears to be thriving, but as this book illustrates, it was a tough road to get where she is today.
Through the Glass is a fascinating book on many levels. As an American living in Germany, I’m always interested in seeing how other countries operate. Canada has a very different legal and penal system than the United States does, so that aspect of the story alone, was fascinating for me. Canada also has a very different healthcare system than the United States does. Shannon seemed to have a lot of support from her family doctor, a woman called Sue, who would actually come to Shannon’s home to see her and went to the jail to see Jason. I can’t imagine something like that happening in the United States.
The Canadian system seems a lot more humane than the US system does, although there were plenty of inhumane aspects of Shannon’s story. While she describes a lot of insensitivity toward her situation from friends and colleagues, overall, I think the Canadian people were more understanding toward her than Americans would be. It seems to me that Americans are very quick to judge, and judge harshly, and declare people guilty by association. By Shannon’s descriptions, at least her countrymen tried to understand her ordeal on some level. They would try to put on a pretense of kindness, even if they weren’t very helpful to her, as she navigated the horrific mess left to her in the wake of Jason’s crimes.
At one point, while he was being assessed, Jason was sent to a psychiatric facility, and Shannon describes visiting him there. It was a lot more welcoming than the prison was, and Jason was treated as a patient, rather than an inmate. I found myself agreeing with Shannon’s comments about how warehousing people in prisons isn’t very helpful to society, even though Jason obviously is a danger to others and probably should be kept away from society. Still, she seems to believe that prisoners should be treated with humanity. On that point, I totally agree with her, especially since most incarcerated people will eventually get out of prison. It serves society to see to it that they have the best chance at success when they are released.
On the other hand, I’m sure I’m among a lot of readers who have trouble reconciling how long she stayed married to Jason, especially when it was clear that he would not be leaving prison for a very long time, if ever. I can understand having basic empathy for other human beings, but Jason’s crimes were truly horrific and disgusting. One woman died, and two others were left with terrible memories of being brutalized by a madman. Sometimes, Shannon seemed overly empathic toward Jason, trying to paint him as a really good man who was just misunderstood. I was glad to read when she finally divorced him, even though he has some redeeming qualities. When it comes down to it, though, Jason can’t be rehabilitated enough to be in public again.
It occurs to me that Shannon Moroney has something in common with Elizabeth Smart, in that she’s turned a horrific tragedy in her life into a way to help others. That’s admirable.
I think most people would find Shannon Moroney’s story interesting. However, some readers might be disgusted by what seems like a lack of empathy for the victims, since she does show empathy for Jason. Personally, I believe Shannon when she claims that she does have empathy for Jason’s victims. I also appreciated that she was honest about her conflicted feelings for her ex husband, Jason Staples. I think it was good that she stated her true feelings, rather than just expressing what people wanted to hear from her. But, knowing what I know about the public at large, and the black and white thinking that a lot of people have, I know some readers won’t see it the way I do. We often expect people to feel the way we think they should feel, when life isn’t always that simple.
Anyway, I’m glad I finally got around to reading this book, that has been waiting for be read for years. As we await Josh Duggar’s upcoming prison sentence, I will try to have some empathy for his wife, Anna, and the mess she’s in right now. It’s easy for us to see that Anna should leave Josh, but we don’t see life from her perspective. It’s not always so simple. Shannon Moroney’s story really drives home that truism, at least for me.
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