New harassment claims made against Vancouver Island man with unusual fetish
New allegations are coming to light against a student who is already at the centre of a human rights complaint at Vancouver Island University.
Women in the Cowichan Valley are now speaking out, claiming they've been harassed by the man in relation to his fetishistic behaviour. The women spoke with CTV News on condition of anonymity and allege Michael Sutherland has made them fearful for their safety.
Sutherland, a man in his 40s, is the subject of a human rights complaint against VIU that claims he sexually harassed a number of staff and students, wanted to be treated like an infant, carried a soother and had a nurse change his dirty diaper.
The women, who offered massage therapy to clients from their home business at the time, are alleging that Sutherland's behaviour toward them constitutes sexual harassment.
"He wouldn't take no for an answer, he kept writing me email after email," one woman said. "In the emails his voice would become baby-like and he would talk about how he needed nurturing and nourishing."
Another claims Sutherland sent her a string of emails looking for a massage, but she told him she wouldn't treat him.
She said he booked a massage under an alias and showed up at her house anyway.
"I felt quite sick to my stomach that this man was trying to trick me into seeing him using a fake name and fake email address," she said. "Against my better judgment I did give him the treatment, because I didn't know what else to do. If I said no, what would he do?"
A third practitioner who met with Sutherland said she refused him further treatment because his behaviour escalated.
"He brought stuffed animals and asked me to read him a story," she said. That's when she said she started receiving concerning emails from him.
"It was more of a psychological impact with the emails," she said. "He sent one email that was all in capital letters that was very aggressive, and that was my cue. I'd had enough."
Mounties confirmed to CTV News they're aware of multiple complaints made against Sutherland and say investigations have been launched, but no charges were laid.
"All they could tell us is he hadn't been violent and so we didn't need to worry about our physical safety," she said. "And basically that they would speak to him and that we shouldn't hear from him again."
Sutherland declined an interview but in an email, denied all allegations against him. He said he is being discriminated against on the basis of a disability.
"They are simply allegations due to ignorance related to my disability, as people fear what they don't understand," he wrote. "I'm special needs and any sexual harassment claims against me from any women are false, being that I am asexual too, so I have no interest in sex."
Last month, a VIU professor who taught Sutherland said he imposed his fetish on her by submitting an essay containing a photo of himself wearing a diaper.
Janis Ledwell-Hunt said she believes he had been manipulating her into a form of role-playing.
Katrin Roth, a former director of human rights at VIU who filed the complaint against the school, said VIU's inactions failed to protect students and staff at both the Cowichan and Nanaimo campuses.
Her complaint included evidence that Sutherland's physician completed a VIU permanent disability form on his behalf in June 2013.
It confirmed a paraphilia infantilism diagnosis and that Sutherland wears diapers and thinks he is three years old.
Roth also said the university accommodated Sutherland's request to only be seen by women on campus, and that the university didn't inform other faculty and students about his condition or conduct a violence risk assessment.
As a result, she said Sutherland sexually harassed at least half a dozen women.
The RCMP would not confirm if VIU ever contacted them about Sutherland.
The university refused to answer any more questions regarding the matter and maintained it followed all policies and procedures.
"VIU is confident that we took appropriate steps and any complaint that comes forward, we will defend VIU's position in any court of law," said Shelley Legin, Chief Financial Officer, in November.
After hearing the story about Roth's complaint in November, half a dozen women contacted CTV News alleging they were harassed by Sutherland over the years.
None of the allegations against Sutherland have been proven.