Subscribe

Woman testifies Santa Rosa chiropractor groped her

She thought it might have been an accident when Santa Rosa chiropractor Darius Bunyad slipped a hand inside her shirt and touched her breast during a 2012 spinal adjustment.

But the 31-year-old Sonoma County woman said she became convinced Bunyad was up to no good when he groped her vagina outside her clothes on a subsequent visit to his downtown office.

Still, she was too ashamed to report anything to police until about three years later when she read about Bunyad’s arrest in The Press Democrat.

Testifying at his trial Tuesday, she recalled her panic upon learning other women had come forward to claim he molested them under similar circumstances.

“It was embarrassing,” said the unidentified woman, wiping back tears. “And kind of revolting. I didn’t want people to know what happened to me.”

The emotional statements came during the first day of trial for the once-popular chiropractor, who at his peak had 3,000 patients in one of the busiest practices in Sonoma County.

Prosecutors allege that between 2012 and 2015, Bunyad, 36, preyed upon mostly young, athletic women and teenage girls, groping their breasts, buttocks and pubic areas under the guise of providing medical treatment.

In opening statements, prosecutor Jason Riehl said the founder of Health Performance Chiropractic typically instructed the women to remove their shirts and bras before standing behind them, reaching around to their breasts and adjusting their backs.

Many of the patients, some of whom worked part time in Bunyad’s office, questioned the technique but didn’t complain because he was a licensed chiropractor, the prosecutor said.

Police investigated after receiving a report from a Cardinal Newman High School counselor who heard a description of the procedure from a student treated by Bunyad.

“This case is about trust. It’s about taking advantage of that trust,” Riehl told the seven-man, five-woman jury. “It’s about patients trusting that when their doctor touches them it’s for a professional purpose.”

Bunyad, dressed in a dark suit and tie, sat in the Santa Rosa courtroom, shaking his head slightly as the prosecutor read the allegations. He has agreed to stop work during the trial but his license remains valid, said his attorney, Richard Scott.

Scott suggested in his opening that Bunyad’s accusers are motivated by civil lawsuits they have filed against him seeking monetary damages, or a sense of revenge by employees after Bunyad fired them.

Scott said many are relying on details in the newspaper story to fabricate their own claims.

“Why did they say what they did?” Scott told jurors.

“Was it for financial gain? Was it retribution against Dr. Bunyad?”

Many of the women, ages 17 to 51 at the time of the alleged crimes, are expected to testify in a trial before Judge Dana Simonds expected to run four weeks.

The 31-year-old woman who testified, a self-described land developer identified only as Jane Doe 11, said she had been going to chiropractors most of her life but never experienced anything like what Bunyad did to her.

In the first incident, she said Bunyad stood behind her, crossed his arms around her chest and picked her up, cracking her back. As he put her down, she said he slipped his hand inside her shirt and bra, touching her nipple.

“It happened so fast, I was like, did that just happen?” the woman testified.

She waited before returning for other visits. The final time, she described him tapping three fingers on her vagina as she lay on an exam table.

“It was awkward,” she said. “I got up and just left.”

You can reach Staff Writer Paul Payne at 707-568-5312 or paul.payne@pressdemocrat.com. On Twitter @ppayne.

UPDATED: Please read and follow our commenting policy:

  • This is a family newspaper, please use a kind and respectful tone.
  • No profanity, hate speech or personal attacks. No off-topic remarks.
  • No disinformation about current events.
  • We will remove any comments — or commenters — that do not follow this commenting policy.
Send a letter to the editor

Our Network

Sonoma Index-Tribune
Petaluma Argus Courier
North Bay Business Journal
Sonoma Magazine
Bite Club Eats
La Prensa Sonoma
Emerald Report
Spirited Magazine