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'It was like a grenade': Woman recounts learning of ex-partner's secret videos

Former Saanich massage therapist pleads guilty to secretly recording four women
Victoria courthouse.

Marion Brulot thought she was in a committed, respectful and loving relationship with her partner, Phil Lavoie.

That changed on Aug. 10, 2020, with Lavoie’s arrest and the devastating allegation that the registered massage therapist had used his cellphone to videotape one of his female clients without her consent while she was changing.

“It was like a grenade had gone off,” said Brulot, who quickly moved out and ended the relationship.

But the news got worse.

In January, Saanich police called Brulot to tell her there was video on Lavoie’s phone of the two of them being intimate.

“They asked me if I had consented to being videotaped. I said: ‘Absolutely not.’ I was in the Thrifty’s parking lot and I howled. I couldn’t breathe. I sat there for an hour. I couldn’t drive. I had my sister pick up my daughter. It was really hard,” said Brulot.

On Friday, Lavoie pleaded guilty in Victoria provincial court to secretly observing and recording four women between March 20 and Aug. 10, 2020. Lavoie admitted he unlawfully and surreptitiously observed or visually recorded four women “where those people could be expected to be nude or to be engaged in explicit sexual activity in circumstances where they had a reasonable expectation of privacy.”

The other victims are identified by initials only in the court document.

Brulot said Friday she came forward because she wants penalties increased to deter the kind of behaviour her former partner engaged in.

“I can tell you that watching that video was like watching myself getting raped,” she said. “I was devastated. I’m the survivor of years of sexual abuse and sexual assault. I told him that’s why I didn’t want him to videotape us and yet he did it because he had a phone and he felt like it.”

Brulot had to go to the police station to identify herself and Lavoie on the video. She watched, on the video, as Lavoie hid the phone in the bedroom, made sure there was nothing blocking the view, then called her into the room.

Coming forward means she has to live with the fact that Lavoie’s lawyers will see the video.

“They said they’d blur the nudity, but it’s still me there. The police, the Crown prosecutors, the judge, a whole slew of people will see it. I understand why women don’t come forward. Honestly, it’s unbearable. But you have to put the shame aside, because you have to change the law.”

Brulot believes the public should have been warned about Lavoie. At the time of his arrest, police stated there was only one victim.

“I had no clue. My friends had no clue. I sent friends to be massaged by him, my family, my niece. You can’t imagine the trauma and the pain this man has caused. And the fear and the stress. People wondering if they’re on the tape,” she said.

Saanich police said throughout the course of the investigation, officers took steps to identify and communicate with the victims in the case.

“It is expected that details surrounding the circumstances will come out during sentencing that may help shed light on the scope of the investigation,” said Det.-Sgt Damian Kowalewich.

Crown prosecutor Joselyn Byrne asked the judge to order a presentence report with a psychological component to assist at sentencing.

Lavoie voluntarily resigned his registration with the College of Massage Therapists of B.C. on Aug. 28, Eric Wredenhagen, the college’s chief executive officer, said Friday.

The matter is still under investigation by the college. Once the criminal process is concluded, the college will review the situation and carry on with its own process. Disciplinary action may be imposed by the college’s discipline committee.

“It’s pretty shocking allegations,” said Wredenhagen. “I can understand that people are concerned about these allegations and I am as well.”