When health care workers sexually abuse their patients in Utah, survivors confront obstacles to justice: in the law, in the courts — and in the culture as a whole.

This article was produced by The Salt Lake Tribune, which was a member of ProPublica’s Local Reporting Network in 2022 and 2023. Sign up for Dispatches to get stories like this one as soon as they are published.

Utah OB-GYN David Broadbent was charged Thursday with forcible sexual abuse, as prosecutors allege he sexually touched a patient during a 2020 exam.

Broadbent has been accused in civil lawsuits of inappropriately touching more than 100 patients during exams — but this is the first time Utah County prosecutors have filed a criminal charge against him. He faces a second-degree felony, which carries a potential penalty of up to 15 years in prison.

Over the past year, The Salt Lake Tribune and ProPublica have reported multiple stories about the difficulties women faced as they raised complaints of sexual misconduct against Broadbent, including obstacles in the courts and in reporting to police.

In charging records, prosecutors say one of Broadbent’s patients came to see him in 2020 regarding a bump in her vaginal area. Broadbent allegedly instructed the patient to undress from the waist down — but when he returned to the exam room after she changed, prosecutors say he lifted up her shirt and bra and touched her breasts. He then grabbed her leg “in what felt like a sexual manner,” prosecutors say, and began a vaginal examination.

An attorney representing Broadbent in his civil litigation did not respond to a request for comment. No attorney is yet listed in his criminal case.

Deputy Utah County Attorney Tim Taylor, who is a spokesperson for the prosecutor’s office, said Thursday that police and prosecutors are continuing to investigate and are still considering whether to file additional charges against the OB-GYN.

At least 49 women have reported to the Provo police that Broadbent sexually abused them during exams, and prosecutors have been weighing whether to file charges for 18 months. This month, the county attorney’s office agreed to pay for a nurse practitioner who specializes in sexual assault exams to review the evidence that prosecutors have and to do research and advise them on what the standard of care is for an OB-GYN appointment.

Many of the women who made reports to the police allege Broadbent inappropriately touched their breasts, vaginas and rectums during exams — often without warning or explanation and in ways that hurt them and made them feel violated. Other former patients, along with many of the women who went to the police, have also sued Broadbent or the hospitals where he worked, with a total of nearly 120 women making sexual assault allegations in two civil lawsuits.

In September 2022, a judge dismissed one of the civil cases, which was filed by 94 women, when he ruled that it fell under medical malpractice law instead of a civil sexual assault claim. That meant it had faced — and missed — tighter filing deadlines. The women have appealed the ruling to the Utah Supreme Court, and they have been waiting for seven months for its decision.

In a different civil suit, 20 other women sued two hospitals where Broadbent worked and had privileges at, alleging they knew of alleged misconduct and failed to act. That case is still pending; the hospitals have argued in court records that Broadbent’s alleged actions against these women didn’t take place on their premises and therefore they are not liable.

Broadbent has agreed to stop practicing medicine while this criminal investigation is ongoing. In response to the civil case filed by the group of 94 women, Broadbent’s attorneys have said sexual assault allegations against him are “without merit.”

The woman whose report led to the criminal charge saw Broadbent in July 2020. A year and a half later, in December 2021, another former patient of Broadbent’s spoke out publicly on the podcast “Mormon Stories,” describing the painful way she said he had examined her years before and how it left her feeling traumatized.

After the podcast aired, women started coming forward publicly in civil lawsuits accusing Broadbent of inappropriate touching. Former patients also started making reports with the police, though it’s not clear from court records when the woman whose report led to the criminal charge went to law enforcement.