Scott Dale Owen, a 64-year-old mental health counselor and former LDS bishop in Utah, has been charged with multiple counts of forced sodomy and object rape. Owen allegedly exploited his professional and religious positions to lure male clients into sexual relationships, misrepresenting his actions as part of ‘person-centered’ therapy. The charges, filed in the 4th District Court, involve serious felonies connected to his treatment of at least two clients.
A Pattern of Abuse Disguised as Therapy
Police investigations, which involved interviews with over a dozen men, revealed a disturbing pattern of abuse. Owen reportedly manipulated his clients, many of whom sought treatment for issues related to same-sex attraction, convincing them that his therapy would help them develop ‘normal’ relationships with men and eventually women. Charging documents indicated that these alleged crimes occurred in 2010 and 2017.
Victim Testimonies Reveal Coercion and Manipulation
Victims described how Owen progressively escalated physical contact during sessions, under the guise of therapeutic progress. He used his dual role as a therapist and ecclesiastical leader to coerce victims, claiming that their activities were consistent with religious standards and would lead to a closer relationship with God. One victim reported that after switching to a different therapist, he was informed that Owen’s techniques were not legitimate therapeutic methods.
Earlier Accusations and Professional Repercussions
Owen’s history of misconduct dates back to 2016 when he was reprimanded for inappropriately touching a client. Subsequent accusations led to the surrender of his license, but he remained active at the Canyon Counseling Center in Provo, where many victims sought treatment. Following these accusations, the center closed in September and has since been sold and reopened under new management.
Recent Developments and Arrest
The investigation into Owen’s conduct began in August, leading to a warrant for his arrest. After failing to surrender, he was found in a standoff situation with police but was eventually taken into custody without incident. This case highlights the vulnerability of clients in therapeutic settings and raises serious concerns about the abuse of professional and religious authority to exploit and harm individuals seeking help.