It wasn’t until they listened to the episode that they realized that they weren’t alone.
In December, a woman went on a podcast and shared what happened to her at a Provo OB-GYN’s office, according to a lawsuit filed this week in 4th District Court. Listening, the women said they realized that what they had each experienced with that same male doctor “was not part of a medically necessary exam,” but, they argue, was done “for no other reason than his own sexual gratification.”
Now, four women, identified in the complaint as Jane Does, are suing Dr. David H. Broadbent, alleging that he sexually battered and abused them between 1996 and 2018. The lawsuit includes an additional 100 unknown Jane Does as plaintiffs because, J. Adam Sorenson, one of the attorneys representing the women, said, they believe there are more potential victims who may emerge.
“We’re proud to represent them,” Sorenson told The Salt Lake Tribune, adding that the women “were brave enough to step forward and share these accounts of the trauma they went through.”
Sorenson said he hopes “others can take strength from them” and that they can find “some measure of justice.”
Calls to a number listed for Broadbent’s office were not returned. The lawsuit was also filed against MountainStar Healthcare, HCA Healthcare and 50 additional unknown defendants who, the lawyers write, may be associated.
“We sympathize with and fully support any individuals in the recently filed lawsuit who may have experienced this alleged behavior at the physician’s private clinic in Provo,” a MountainStar Healthcare spokesperson said in a statement.
“Like hundreds of other physicians who practice privately in our community, this physician is not employed by any MountainStar hospital,” the statement added, and “is not currently authorized to see patients at our facility.”
Broadbent has practiced as an OB-GYN in Provo since the 1980s, the lawsuit states, with his office on University Avenue close to “thousands of young women” at Brigham Young University and Utah Valley University “with little or no prior experience with OB/GYN appointments — who had no understanding of what was ‘normal’ or medically necessary.”
“A woman is rarely more vulnerable than when she is laying on an exam table, unclothed, trusting a male gynecologist to provide her with the medical care she needs,” the complaint states. Broadbent “took advantage of his position” and his patients’ “vulnerability.”
‘Supposed to trust the doctor’
The four Jane Does came to Broadbent for various reasons, but they share similar experiences in the lawsuit, saying that the physician inappropriately touched their breasts and vaginal and rectal areas, causing pain, without warning or explanation, according to the complaint.
Jane Doe B.B. said she went with her husband to see Broadbent for a 13-week prenatal appointment in 2018. When Broadbent asked the last time she had a pelvic exam and Pap smear, she told him it was a few months ago.
“He told her he could perform a pelvic exam if she wanted him to, ‘just to be safe,’” the complaint states. “She said she did not want one.”
So the woman and her husband “were confused,” according to the lawsuit, when Broadbent gave the woman a gown and told her to change. She “nevertheless” complied, “trusting Broadbent had a medical reason for asking her to change.”
When Broadbent returned, “without notice, warning, or explanation, and without the use of a speculum,” she said, he physically examined her. The woman left “feeling violated” and switched to a different OB-GYN for the rest of her pregnancy.
For months after the appointment, she “had nightmares and questioned her own feelings and thoughts that what Broadbent did was wrong,” the lawsuit states, “telling herself that he was a doctor and maybe she was just being dumb.”
Jane Doe A.S. found Broadbent after searching for an OB-GYN near BYU. She said she went to his office for the first time in 2015 for complaints about vaginal itching.
As Broadbent physically examined her and explained “in great detail how she could give herself breast exams at home,” the woman said she “felt extremely uncomfortable, but knew she was supposed to trust the doctor, and did not know what else she could do.”
Broadbent then prescribed her something for the itching and told her she could leave, the lawsuit states.
In 2008, Jane Doe S.P. was about to marry “and heard she needed a ‘premarital’ exam.’” She found Broadbent’s office near her apartment.
When Broadbent touched her without explanation, the lawsuit states, the woman said she “was shocked, but he was a doctor and a man in authority and, her whole life, she was told to trust doctors and not question men in authority, so she told herself this must be normal.”
The woman “felt violated, but blamed herself,” thinking “she was stupid for not knowing that the exam would include a breast exam and a rectal exam,” according to the complaint.
“Then, as Broadbent finished and was removing his gloves, he said, ‘Well, your husband is a lucky man,’” the lawsuit states, and he gave her tips on how to prepare for sex.
For years, the woman said she “felt uncomfortable and violated, but she never told anyone — not even her husband,” according to the complaint. “As she went to other OB/GYN’s, she felt some validation in her feelings and realized Broadbent’s actions were abnormal.”
Jane Doe W.D. said she went to Broadbent in 1996 for a routine gynecological exam, which caused her “physical pain, shock and humiliation.” At one point, the lawsuit states, Broadbent told her, “‘I bet your boyfriend really likes those tan lines.’”
The woman didn’t tell her husband about the experience until years into their marriage, according to the complaint, and she has not seen any male doctor since then without her spouse with her.
“She felt ashamed, her self-worth was damaged,” the complaint states. “She became self-conscious about her body, and she lost her carefree way of being.”
Protecting other women
Jane Does B.B., A.S. and W.D. connected after listening to the podcast, which was not identified in the lawsuit. Jane Doe S.P., meanwhile, thought again about what happened to her in 2018 and decided to check Broadbent’s reviews “to see if anyone else experienced something similar,” the complaint states. “After speaking about her experience, other victims reached out to her and in subsequent conversations she realized that she had a legal claim.”
The complaint references multiple online reviews for Broadbent that are similar to what the plaintiffs said they experienced.
No disciplinary actions were listed Tuesday for Broadbent on Utah’s Division of Occupational and Professional Licensing website. A government spokesperson said he could not confirm if the division had received any complaints against the doctor.
Broadbent “has seen a small number of patients at one of our facilities each year; however, to our knowledge, there are no allegations of inappropriate conduct at our facility,” according to the statement from MountainStar Healthcare.
“While we empathize with the people involved,” the statement added, “we believe we were inappropriately named in this lawsuit and we will defend ourselves accordingly.”
In the lawsuit, the plaintiffs asked for a “judgment in an amount to be proven at trial.”
“The traumatic abuses” that the Janes Does experienced “in a ‘safe space’ with a person they were supposed to trust,” the lawsuit states, shattered” their “sense of the world, their sense of safety and their conception of trust in medical care providers everywhere.”
Their experiences made them “question themselves, what they believe and know,” according to the complaint, “and caused lasting harm, which will not end with the resolution of a lawsuit — but from which other women, potential victims, may be protected.”
Becky Jacobs is a Report for America corps member and writes about the status of women in Utah for The Salt Lake Tribune. Your donation to match our RFA grant helps keep her writing stories like this one; please consider making a tax-deductible gift of any amount today by clicking here.