Women say 'counselor' abused them, violated trust

Published: Wednesday, March 23 2011 6:09 p.m. MDT

WEST JORDAN — Two women took the witness stand Wednesday to describe how a man they thought was a marriage counselor demonstrated sexual positions he felt they should use to save their marriages — and shattered their trust.

Both women are alleged victims of Arturo Tenorio, who was ordered Wednesday to stand trial on two counts of forcible sexual abuse, a second-degree felony, by 3rd District Judge Charlene Barlow.

Judging by the women's testimonies, Barlow said she believes the Kearns man took "indecent liberties."

"There was absolutely no reason for Tenorio to be doing what he was doing," she said. "He was clearly acting out his sexual desires."

Prosecutors say Tenorio, who is not licensed to work as a marriage counselor, used his influence in the LDS Church to recruit clients. He was charged after two separate victims came forward reporting inappropriate touching at one-on-one marriage counseling sessions.

Both victims testified during a preliminary hearing.

"At one point, I told him, 'I don't like it when you touch me,'" one woman testified.

She said Tenorio's attempts to grab her chest and show her how she should engage in sexual intercourse with her husband — even after she told him they didn't have sexual problems, but financial ones — left her "confused" and "uncomfortable."

"In the very beginning, I believed everything he said," the 34-year-old woman testified. "He was helping us and I trusted him. I trusted all my things with him. I trusted my life to him and I thought he wanted to really help us."

Another woman said she also felt uncomfortable, especially when Tenorio, 57, touched her and demonstrated what she should do to "surprise" her husband sexually, but said she relied on the fact that she had been referred to Tenorio by a church leader.

"I felt like, if he wasn't a sexual therapist we shouldn't be talking about sex," she said. "But, then again, my bishop sent me here so maybe there's something I don't know."

She said her LDS bishop told her about Tenorio, saying he had heard great things about the man and that they would be a team, with her husband, in saving her marriage. She said she had an initial meeting with Tenorio, then met with him alone. She said the conversations between the two of them would often turn sexual in nature, though she also didn't feel that was the problem.

"I was straight up," she said. "I said: 'I don't think my marriage is failing because of sex issues,' but he said sex was an important thing."

Both women cried at times as they talked about their experiences with Tenorio. One woman said she knew she could have left the session at any time, but was so shocked by the man's actions she didn't know how to react. She said she was shaking following the encounter, which Tenorio told her to tell no one about — including her husband.

"He said, 'If I told you and showed you those things, it's because I trust you,'" she testified. "He said he showed me those things because he trusted me and thought of me as a daughter."

She repeatedly said her confidence in her bishop led her to trust Tenorio. The Saratoga Springs-based bishop who referred the women to Tenorio was subpoenaed by defense attorneys, but did not testify at the preliminary hearing.

Attorneys for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints intervened in the matter, concerned the bishop's testimony could violate the privacy expected between a clergyman and his congregant.

Attorneys earlier agreed that the bishop would not testify at Wednesday's preliminary hearing, but if he is needed at trial, his testimony will be limited to information that is not privileged, defense attorney Ken Brown said.

Brown said his client, who has maintained his innocence, is not currently in plea negotiations.

Tenorio is fairly well-known in the local Hispanic LDS community. His brother, Octaviano Tenorio, is a member of the LDS Church's First Quorum of the Seventy. Police believe Arturo Tenorio may have used his brother's position to gain the trust of church members.

After Tenorio's arrest, the church issued a statement condemning all abuse and asking victims to come forward.

Email: emorgan@desnews.com

Twitter: DNewsCrimeTeam

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