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story.lead_photo.caption Dr. Robert Rook

CONWAY — The trial of a Conway doctor accused of sexually assaulting patients began Tuesday morning with opening statements and testimony from the patient who first reported him to authorities.

Before Faulkner County Circuit Judge Charles E. Clawson Jr., jurors heard from Robert Rook’s attorney, who argued that accusers had no physical evidence to convict his client but rather accounts from behind closed doors.

“That’s concerning,” defense attorney Patrick Benca* said. “It’s their word against his word.”

Rook, 63, faces 10 counts of sexual assault in the second-degree and six counts of sexual assault in the third-degree, records show.

Prosecutors, meanwhile, said the physician had clearly abused the trust of patients, reportedly telling them to put on gowns that were later at least partially removed without a nurse present.

Special prosecutor Jason Barrett outlined accusations made by several female patients who said they were inappropriately touched — often in examinations unrelated to their intended visit.

One such patient, a 30-year-old woman who had called Rook her doctor for about two years, said in filings that her breasts were fondled in a Oct. 12, 2015, visit to his office. She reported the assault three days later to police.

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By noon Tuesday, that patient had taken the stand, explaining that visit as well as other less-invasive breast examinations she had in the past from a separate doctor.

“A doctor is supposed to be helping you. I was in denial about what was happening to me,” the 30-year-old said when questioned about why she didn't report the incident immediately.

Nine other women were mentioned as victims of sexual assault, and their stories similarly told of inappropriate touching while alone in a patient room at Rook’s practice.

During Tuesday’s proceedings, Benca argued that the nine additional accusations made after the Oct. 15, 2015, report came because attention to the case in the media had spurred public interest.

More witnesses were set to take the stand later Tuesday in Rook’s trial, including former employees at his practice and officers with the Conway Police Department who worked on the case.

*CORRECTION: Dr. Robert Rook is represented by defense attorney Patrick Benca. His name was incorrect in a previous version of this story.

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