A mental health counsellor and one-time LDS bishop in Utah, U.S.A. has been charged with multiple counts of forced sodomy and object rape after he lured male clients into sexual relationships he described as “person-centered” therapy.
Police interviewed over a dozen men who had sought treatment from the counsellor “revolving around same-sex attraction.”
Scott Dale Owen, 64, was charged Monday in 4th District Court with four counts of forcible sodomy and six counts of object rape, first-degree felonies, in connection with two of those clients, according to ‘LGBTQ Nation’.
“Dr. Owen during his therapy would tell the victims that their relationships with men were broken and his therapy could help them be able to have ‘normal’ relationships with men and eventually women,” according to a police booking affidavit.
He “used his position as a therapist to coerce the victims into engaging in kissing, cuddling and sexual touching during therapy session.”
Charging documents revealed the alleged crimes were committed in 2010 and 2017.
One man told investigators Owen “determined one of the things he needed to work on was intimacy and explained he would benefit from ‘person-centered’ therapy.”
During their weekly sessions, Owen became “increasingly physical” with the victim while assuring him “he was making progress and that others may not understand the treatment.” Owen told the man if he “would give his full trust to him, he would be cured.”
At the same time, the alleged rapist was also the man’s ecclesiastical leader.
Owen told his victim “that what they were doing was consistent with their religious standards and would also result in a closer relationship with God,” the charges state.
Prosecutors say after the victim left Owen for a different therapist, his new counsellor informed him Owen’s techniques “were not legitimate therapeutic treatment methods.”
The same pattern was revealed in another victim’s recollection of his time as Owen’s client and ecclesiastical follower.
The man told investigators Owen explained that “they were going to focus on developing an intimate and spiritual relationship.” Owen told the victim that “he was unique” and that Owen “had been spiritually prompted” to work with him.
Owen told the man “that God gives to certain people special permission to do things that are normally wrong.” The victim took this to mean that Owen “had religious authority to be sexually intimate with him,” according to the charging documents.
The charges follow earlier accusations of malpractice by Owen.
In 2016, he was reprimanded by the Utah Division of Professional Licensing for touching a client inappropriately, according to disciplinary records.
Between 2013 and 2018, Owen “again inappropriately touched a number of other clients” whom he was treating, according to the agency.
After those accusations, Owen surrendered his license but continued to have an active role at the Canyon Counseling Center in Provo, where the victims sought treatment.
Canyon Counseling closed its doors in September, according to its website. The centre was sold to another company, which resumed operations in October under a new name and management.
The Provo police investigation into Owen began in August. On Wednesday, he was scheduled to surrender but failed to appear. After a search, Owen was located sitting in his car by a highway with a gun. After a four-hour standoff, he was taken into custody without incident.
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