On Wednesday, Henry Rayhons, aged 78, was found not guilty of sexually assaulting this wife when she was an Alzheimer's patient in a nursing home. The case is an interesting one and raises a powerful question. Is there a time when "Yes" no longer means consent is given?
From the various articles I've read on the case, the couple were devoted to each other. It was a second marriage for both and there appears to have been friction with Mrs. Rayhons daughters. Mrs. Rayhons developed Alzheimer's and was eventually placed in a nursing home where Mr. Rayhons continued to visit her regularly. According to the articles, physical intimacy was a regular part of their relationship and Mrs. Rayhons was happy to see her husband when he visited her in the nursing home. At some point, he was advised that she was incapable of giving consent to intercourse. But was she?
Without Mrs. Rayhons alive to speak for herself, we have no way of knowing. Could he have taken advantage of her? Yes, of course he could have. I don't know if he did or did not. However, I would like to posit that it is entirely possible that Mrs. Rayhons, even in a late stage of Alzheimer's may have given him indications that she was interested in physical intimacy.
Sex is a primal and instinctual activity in which most of us engage. We have sex because it feels good even when we're not trying to produce offspring. We have sex long after we've left our childbearing years behind. People can enjoy sex regardless of a physical or intellectual disability. If Lyn was living in a group home, she would be sexually active and willing.
So, is it possible that Mrs. Rayhons still sought physical intimacy even though she couldn't remember her daughter's name? Yes. I believe it is. So, when is "Yes" no longer consent? Is it when your legal guardian or your caregiver decides that you're too impaired to know what you want? How do they make that decision? Is it when they are personally uncomfortable with the thought of an impaired individual having or wanting intimacy?
I don't know but I do believe we need to discuss this. Mom and I have discussed it and I'm under very clear orders to stay out of her business if she's having an intimate moment no matter how old or impaired she is at the time. And to that I say "Yes, ma'am!"
Changes in Sexual Behavior
Intimacy, Sexuality, and Alzheimer's Disease: A Resource List
Intimacy and Sexual Issues