Russell Williams: “Call Me Russ”

We’ve all been shaken to the core by this seemingly upstanding leader who turns out to be an evil sadist. The question most of us ask ourselves is this: How could this man be that man? How can the same person be a pillar of society and, at the same time, a depraved, heartless killer with a fetish for women’s lingerie?

Russell Williams, we’ve found out, is married to a woman who is respected by her colleagues and friends. On the surface, their lives together looked ideal: two successful adults doing good work for their communities.

In my own professional and private life, this has always been a burning question for me. We all know of self-righteous politicians who are revealed to have a secret and perverse sex life. Most of the perpetrators of my clients are pillars in their communities, popular heads of companies, church leaders and educators recognized with plaques and thanks for their years of service. My own grandfather was the epitome of self-controlled respectability.

It was this same question that led me to study German history for many years. I was teaching trauma therapy in Germany, getting to know my students and their parents who had often served The Third Reich. The participants in my workshops who were usually born just after the war. They’d often been beaten and shamed by their parents. It turned out that Germany has a long, well documented history of cruel child rearing known as “Black Pedagogy.” How, I wondered, could these gentle, sensitive older people I was meeting be the same people who beat their children and carried out unspeakably brutal acts under the Nazis?

What happened to Russell Williams to turn him into a monster? Was he born to be heartless and evil? Or did something awful happen to him? It’s an important question to ponder.

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