• Sat. Oct 22nd, 2022

A student at the University of British Columbia was certain she wanted to pursue charges after she caught a man filming her in the bathroom on campus. But then, she said, the investigating RCMP officer turned his focus to the suspect’s background — and what a…

Feb 22, 2021

WARNING: This story contains language that might be offensive to some readers. It also contains descriptions of voyeurism that might be upsetting.
Taylor had the feeling somebody was watching her. 
She was sitting in a stall in the grey and blue bathroom in the Commons at the University of British Columbia’s Okanagan campus, in the thick of midterm season on March 10, 2020.
She looked down and to her right. Beady, black camera lenses on a white iPhone were pointing up at her from underneath the divider from the stall next door. 
“I said, ‘What the f–k?’ really loudly. Almost yelled,” recalled Taylor, 22.
The phone snapped out of view.
Days later, after the RCMP questioned the suspect, Taylor made it clear she wanted to pursue charges. 
At first, the investigating RCMP officer told her the case was solid. He told her the suspect confessed. But on a later call, Taylor said, the officer spoke at length about the suspect’s “good values.” His long-term girlfriend. His standing as an engineering student at UBCO. 
The unsettling comments nearly derailed the case before it began, a scenario familiar to experts who say they’ve seen the criminal justice system prioritize an offender’s potential over a victim’s lived experience time and time again.
If three women hadn’t stepped up to helpher, Taylor doesn’t know where her case might have ended up.
I. The washroom
Taylor was finishing her undergraduate sciences degree at UBCO last spring. The campus in Kelowna is the smaller of UBC’s two main campuses, more than 400 kilometres east of the Vancouver grounds.
On that morning in March, Taylor was studying with a friend in UBCO’s library for a complicated midterm the following morning when she left to use the co-ed bathroom in the Commons down the hall.
CBC News is not using her real name due to the sexual nature of the alleged offence.
After the iPhone disappeared from under the divider, Taylor rushed out of her stall, banged on the other person’s door and demanded they come out.
She said there was a brief silence before a man responded.
“He said, ‘Can I shit first?'”
Taylor washed her hands, texted her friend in the library to come help “Some dude had his phone pointed at me,” she wrote and waited. 
Taylor’s friend hurried out of the library and joined her. After no more than five minutes, the man stepped out of the stall. He was a fellow student, around the women’s age, and they later described him as disarmingly calm and sympathetic.
Taylor said she’d seen a phone filming her. The man said he was sorry that something like that had happened, but “had no idea” what she was talking about. He offered Taylor his iPhone and said she could look through it herself, if it would make her feel better.
She checked the camera roll and the recently deleted folder. Nothing.
Confused she didn’t find anything, she handed it back, apologized and left with her friend. Too rattled to keep studying, Taylor emailed her professor and he agreed she could postpone the midterm.
Instead of writing the exam, she went to the Sexual Violence Prevention and Response Office (SVPRO) at the north end of campus the next morning for advice on what to do.
II. RCMP get involved
The RCMP got involved that Friday, March 13. Taylor and another friend recognized the man heading toward the Sunshine cafeteria in the administration building, not far from the Commons. Taylor, having considered advice from family and SVPRO, called campus security, who then called the RCMP.
Taylor agreed to meet a police officer at the SVPRO office late that afternoon to give a statement. When she walked through the doors, she was introduced to RCMP Const. Ryan Routley. They sat in a spare office for close to an hour while Taylor described the bathroom encounter. She said she was clear she “absolutely” wanted to move forward with charges.
She said when she finished her statement, the officer told her the statement had been strong and police would have “no problem” pressing charges.
“And then he sort of laughed and said, ‘Oh, well, he’s, you know, he’s never going to get a job,'” Taylor said.
She was thrown. One second, the officer was praising her, but the next, he seemed concerned about the effect a conviction might have on the suspect’s future, Taylor said.
She pushed past the comment and made her way to the door, agreeing to stay in touch. She walked to her car, slid into the driver’s seat and cried.
The following morning, a Saturday, as Taylor studied for her postponed midterm, the suspect walked into the RCMP detachment in downtown Kelowna to give Routley his own statement.
It wasn’t until weeks later that Taylor says police told her the suspect not only admitted to filming her, but also allegedly confessed to filming women on campus at least five other times.
III. Investigator’s focus on the suspect
In early April, Routley called Taylor to discuss next steps in the case. Taylor paced across her basement suite as the officer told her the suspect confessed in her case. She felt vindicated, but the officer did not mention any other victims, she said.
Just as he had during their first meeting, she said, Routley turned the conversation to the suspect.
“[Routley] mentioned having good values, like family values,” she said. “He was sort of implying he’s been brought up the right way, mentioned that he had a girlfriend, that he was an engineering student with a co-op….  He kept sort of reiterating he will never get a job.”
She said the officer told her he believed the suspect had only filmed “for the thrill of it and getting away with it.” She recalled Routley telling her he was not trying to dissuade her from pursuing charges, but did not think the suspect would reoffend.
“I just don’t see him being one of those people,” she said he told her.
Again, Taylor was at a loss. She says she knew what happened in the bathroom was a crime, but the officer had 17 years of law enforcement experience and she had none. 
“I said, ‘OK, if that’s what you think.’ He assured me that while he wouldn’t have a criminal record [without charges], he would be on file as a sex offender with the RCMP, so they would be keeping tabs on him.” 
CBC News asked the RCMP if it is standard practice to place someone “on file” without a criminal conviction, but did not receive a response by deadline.
It’s not really what you want to hear. You say that when someone ruins a T-shirt that you lent them. You don’t say that when someone has committed a crime against you.
– Taylor, claiming RCMP officer focused on suspect’s remorse
Routley then invited Taylor to the detachment to listen to the taped confession, she said. She declined and they hung up after agreeing not to pursue charges after all.
Taylor crawled into bed. The more she thought about the conversation, the more confusion turned to anger.
“It was all just, ‘This guy feels so bad. He’s so apologetic. He said how sorry he was that he did this to you,'” Taylor later recalled.
“It’s not really what you want to hear. You say that when someone ruins a T-shirt that you lent them. You don’t say that when someone has committed a crime against you.”
Routley did not respond to calls, texts or emails from the CBC. 
In her interviews with the CBC, Taylor often repeated she only wanted to press charges to prevent the suspect from filming anyone again.
In a separate call, her elder sister described her as the first in her family to step up whenever something is “clearly very wrong.”
Backing down from charges didn’t seem like Taylor, she said.
IV. A familiar pattern
Sexual violence experts who spoke with CBC News said Taylor’s story fits a familiar pattern: people with hallmarks of privilege, whether in gender, education, wealth or race, receive gentler treatment from law enforcement officials.
Lisa Rupert, vice-president of violence prevention at the YWCA in Metro Vancouver, said the story echoed the case of Brock Turner
, a Stanford University student who served only three months in prison for sexually assaulting an unconscious, 22-year-old woman, after the judge found a harsh sentence would have a “severe impact” on his future.
“We saw this in the Brock Turner case. ‘He’s a swimmer and he might have a ruined swimming career if he’s prosecuted for this crime,'” said Rupert. 
“When somebody says this to you … it can drown out your sense of what’s right and wrong in the situation.”
As April went on, Taylor tried to focus on the final classes left in her degree, but had started dealing with flashbacks at night. She checked in regularly with SVPRO, the campus support centre particularly the centre’s director, Shilo St. Cyr. They talked about her conversations with police and how she was feeling emotionally.
On a Zoom call that month, Taylor told St. Cyr the criminal case had been dropped.
St. Cyr asked Taylor why she’d changed her mind. Taylor told her what Routley had said on the phone about the suspect’s character. She later emailed St. Cyr point-form notes from the officer’s call.
The details of the call between Taylor and Routley got back to one of the top officials at UBCO: deputy vice-chancellor Deborah Buszard. Buszard sent a letter to the RCMP on May 4, prompting them to revisit the case.
St. Cyr declined an interview for this story, citing confidentiality. Buszard left the university in June 2020 and referred questions to current officials, who also declined to comment on an ongoing investigation.
V. Another officer takes over the case
The morning of May 11, 2020, two months after the bathroom encounter and a week after Buszard got involved, Taylor received an email from a different RCMP officer.
Cpl. Tania Carroll, a higher-ranking officer with the sex crimes unit in Kelowna, wrote that she wanted to touch base with Taylor on her “recent complaint.” 
Taylor replied with her cell number and Carroll called that afternoon. 
During the conversation, Taylor said, the officer struck a reassuring tone and was focused on figuring out what Taylor wanted to do. Carroll, she said, disagreed with Routley’s consideration of the suspect’s character Taylor said Carroll did not care about factors like the suspect’s relationship status or engineering credentials.
“[Carroll] said … ‘It can be anyone,'” Taylor said, recalling the phone conversation. 
Then came the bombshell: Taylor said Carroll told her Routley had noted on the suspect’s file that he had confessed to filming women on campus “five or six times” before.
Taylor’s stomach turned. 
“I did feel anger because I literally was laying awake for weeks thinking, ‘Oh my God, I’m going to ruin this person’s future. I’m ruining someone’s life,” she said.
“I had no idea that this had happened to other people.”
Taylor emailed Carroll on May 14 confirming she wanted to press forward with charges.
The RCMP sent their investigation report to Crown counsel earlier this month. Reached by phone, Carroll declined an interview due to the ongoing investigation.
Taylor said she never would have hesitated to pursue charges had she known the suspect had allegedly mentioned multiple victims.
“The RCMP officer, better than anybody, should know that it can be anyone. It doesn’t matter if he’s a young, good-looking guy with a girlfriend who is in engineering,” Taylor said.
“From that position of power, I think that you need to look at it as more of a black-and-white issue. ‘Did he do this? Yes. [Would] the punishment fit the crime? Yes.’ And, unfortunately, that’s just not what happened.”
Routley is no longer assigned to Taylor’s case. She hasn’t heard from him since May, when Cpl. Carroll called.
Taylor finished her degree and left UBCO in December. She has a part-time job and is studying to write the entrance exams for medical school in July.
She said she still thinks about what happened “pretty well every night.” She has developed a distrust of men and is terrified someone will film her again. 
“It’s one of those things that I think just remains to be triggering, which I didn’t think it would,” she said. “Sometimes I don’t even know why it makes me upset to think about. It’s just a really bad gut feeling.”
Routley’s comments left their mark, she said.
“I still think … ‘What if I’m ruining someone’s life?'” 
If you are the victim of sexual violence, please reach out for help to HealthLinkBC by calling 811, or through the Crime Victim Assistance Program at 1-866-660-3888 or VictimLink BC at 1-800-563-0808 or text 604-836-6381.
Those seeking support from the Sexual Violence Prevention and Response Office at UBC Okanagan can call 250-807-9640.