Former Utah therapist Scott Owen was arrested Wednesday in connection with accusations that he sexually abused patients during sessions.
Owen, 64, was booked into the Utah County jail on suspicion of six counts of object rape and four counts of forcible sodomy. A Utah County judge has ordered that Owen remain in jail without the opportunity to post bail, finding that he could be a danger to the community and would likely flee if released.
Owen had not been formally charged as of Wednesday evening. While The Salt Lake Tribune generally does not name suspects until they are charged, he was the subject of a recent Tribune/ProPublica investigation that detailed the abuse allegations of seven of his former patients. The men accuse the former therapist of touching them in ways they felt were inappropriate during sessions.
Owen has not responded to detailed lists of questions previously sent to him on two occasions regarding allegations that he touched his patients inappropriately.
In a probable cause statement released Wednesday, a Provo police officer wrote that the department had interviewed 12 former patients of Owen’s since August. Owen was arrested on allegations connected to two former patients, both who say Owen engaged in sexual contact with them during therapy sessions. That alleged touching included kissing, cuddling and Owen using his hand to touch their anuses. One man also alleges Owen performed oral sex on him.
Owen built a reputation over his 20-year career in Utah County as a specialist who could help gay men who were members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Several of the men who spoke to The Tribune said they began therapy with Owen at the recommendation of their bishop as they struggled with their sexuality. Some said their bishop used church funds to pay for sessions where Owen allegedly also touched them inappropriately.
In newly filed documents, Provo police allege that Owen used his position of trust as a therapist to coerce his patients into engaging in kissing, cuddling and sexual touching during therapy sessions. According to arrest records, the 12 former patients told officers that they began seeing Owen for “same sex attraction.” The therapist told them their relationships with men were “broken” and that therapy could help them have “normal” relationships with men and eventually women, the men told police. From there, the patients allege, Owen would engage in touching that some say became increasingly sexual in nature.
Utah law says patients can’t consent to sexual acts with a health care professional if they believe the touching is part of a “medically or professionally appropriate diagnosis, counseling or treatment.”
The Tribune/ProPublica’s August report was the first time that sex abuse allegations against Owen had become widely known. He gave up his therapy license in 2018, after several patients had complained to state licensers that he had touched them inappropriately. Owen was able to surrender his license without admitting to any inappropriate conduct, and the sexual nature of his patient’s allegations is not referenced in the licensing documents he signed.
Prior to the August publication of The Tribune/ProPublica article, Provo Police said they had no record of anyone ever reporting Owen to law enforcement for alleged sexual misconduct.
Both state licensers and the local leaders in the LDS Church knew of inappropriate touching allegations against Owen as early as 2016, Tribune/ProPublica reporting showed, but neither would say whether they ever reported Owen to police. In Utah, with few exceptions, the state licensing division is not legally required to forward information to law enforcement.