London·In Depth

This voyeurism case changed Canadian privacy laws. It also changed this victim's life

Madison Woodburn, 23, breaks her silence and fights for publication ban to be lifted nearly 10 years after her high school English teacher secretly filmed her chest.

Madison Woodburn fought to lift a publication ban so she could talk about the teacher who filmed her chest

Madison Woodburn is one of 27 teenagers her English teacher secretly filmed between 2010 and 2011. She is now sharing her story of how it changed her life. 2:47

Madison Woodburn cringes when she thinks about the first time she saw the video her high school English teacher secretly took of her breasts.

She was in grade 9 at H.B. Beal Secondary School in London, Ont. and police were just starting to investigate Ryan Jarvis for using a camera disguised as a pen to film female students' chests. 

"Just hearing his voice [in that video] sent shivers down my spine because I thought, 'oh my god this guy sounds so normal, he's just a regular teacher but he's filming me that whole time.'"

That was nearly 10 years ago and Woodburn has never spoken publicly about the case, though it's ruled her life for a decade. She hasn't legally been allowed to.

Until now. 

This photo was taken while Madison Woodburn was a student of Ryan Jarvis. (Amy Dodge/CBC)

Woodburn was one of 27 teenagers Jarvis secretly filmed between 2010 and 2011. The landmark voyeurism case would change privacy laws in Canada and would land the teacher in jail, another first for these types of charges.

But the case would also take victims through lengthy court proceedings, ending at the Supreme Court in 2019.

Woodburn's entire adolescence was spent in its shadow and she wants to tell her story. 

After Jarvis was sentenced last summer, Woodburn went back to court to get the publication ban lifted so she could finally talk. The bans are automatically imposed on cases involving minors and sexual assault victims.   

"It's almost like I feel free, a weight has been lifted. I feel like I can finally live my life," she said from outside her old school.

A short video with a lifetime impact

Woodburn was 14-years-old when Jarvis used his pen camera to film her chest. 

The video she saw was short, like most of the clips police would find, some ranging from six seconds to two and a half minutes. They were captured during conversations in common areas such as the cafeteria and hallways.

The violation resonated with the teen who, at the time, attended church and was an avid dancer. She had never before had any experience with law enforcement or the court system.

Ryan Jarvis in the 2011 H.B. Beal Secondary School yearbook (Submitted)

"I didn't think I'd be triggered at all but I had a male teacher and he would click his pen and I would get taken aback," she recalls. She was attending the same high school while the case was unfolding, often finding herself thinking of the videos.

"Two years later I had a class where I had been filmed, and I couldn't sit where I had watched myself in the film," she said.

Outside of school, Woodburn struggled to feel safe in public places. Even today, she says she constantly surveys people to see if she is being recorded.

"If someone is just holding a phone up and taking a photo or a video of themselves or texting, I will immediately think, 'are they filming me? Are they recording me?'" 

I didn't think I'd be triggered at all- Madison Woodburn

She says she will approach people, in restaurants and at the gym, demanding they delete whatever they've filmed. It's always at the back of her mind. 

No one noticed how the young woman had changed as acutely as her mother, who remembers it being unbearable.

"It was gradual, and it didn't come about right away," Connie Woodburn said through tears sitting on the school steps. 

"We used to have a great relationship, we used to talk about everything and then once this happened it was almost like she shut down. She stopped talking."

A decade of court dates

Madison Woodburn at 15, was learning how to live with the triggers. (Submitted by Madison Woodburn)

What the family didn't realize was that this case would be precedent-setting and would take a decade to conclude.

The teacher's victims would age out of high school by the time the trial judge determined their privacy was violated, but not for a sexual purpose. That was 2015 and Jarvis was acquitted. 

By the time the Ontario Court of Appeal upheld the decision, Woodburn was finishing her criminology degree at Wilfrid Laurier University. There the court ruled Jarvis acted with sexual intent but said students had no reasonable expectation of privacy in school. 

She would be 22-years-old and working when the Supreme Court agreed unanimously in early 2019 that Jarvis was guilty of voyeurism. They also ruled students do not give up their privacy rights, even if the school has security cameras.

Turning trauma into hope for others

Woodburn was the only victim to attend all court proceedings, spending countless hours hearing evidence and watching a teacher she once trusted. 

"For my own personal growth I think it was important for me to follow this through because if I didn't, and he walked free, I don't know how that would have affected me."

Jarvis started his six month jail sentence at the end of August 2019. His lawyers have not responded to CBC News about whether the 12 month probationary period has begun. 

It's the first time anyone in Canada has served time for voyeurism charges. 

"People say it's a victory but I think we've been heard," Woodburn explains. 

Her teen innocence long gone, she is using her experience to help support other women living traumatic experiences.

She's currently working at the London and Middlesex Community Housing and has volunteered with victim services. 

Madison Woodburn in a photo with her mother Connie Woodburn one month before they both learned Ryan Jarvis was secretly filming Madison’s chest with a pen camera. (submitted by Madison Woodburn )

"If I could be an advocate for those who don't have a voice that would be amazing," she said. "Wherever that career might take me."

And her mom, who has watched Madison struggle over the years, said her daughter is now an inspiration.

"I'm so proud of her. She has used something so bad and so traumatizing to do something good. She's going to do something good out of this and she's going to be able to touch other people's lives," Connie Woodburn said.

Madison has one final message to other victims who are facing similar trials. 

"If something has happened to someone out there, I think it's really important to speak up. There are people out there who have gone through similar things, so you'll always have somebody to talk to if you find the right resources. Fight for what you deserve," she said.

Nearly 10 years later, a victim of voyeurism is finally able to speak out. CBC Windsor's Amy Dodge shares Madison Woodburn's story. 7:41

About the Author

Amy Dodge is a video journalist currently working in Windsor.