Ex-Pol Found Not Guilty of Sexually Abusing Wife with Alzheimer's

Illustration for article titled Ex-Pol Found Not Guilty of Sexually Abusing Wife with Alzheimers

Ex-Iowa legislator Henry Rayhons has been found not guilty of felony sexual abuse. A jury of seven women and five men acquitted Rayhons today on charges that he’d had sex with his wife Donna while she was in the late stages of Alzheimer’s disease and unable to consent.


Rayhons was arrested in August, charged with having sexual contact with Donna last May in her nursing home bed. He initially told an an officer from Iowa’s Division of Criminal Investigation that they’d engaged in sexual conduct, but on the stand, testified that they hadn’t, saying she’d put on a nightgown, he’d tucked her into bed, and they prayed together before he left.

The Des Moines Register reports that shortly after the verdict was returned, Rayhons told the press, “The truth finally came out,” adding that Donna, who died shortly before he was arrested, had been “with me” during the trial. Several photos from the courtroom show Rayhons hugging his family and crying.


Rayons, right, with his attorney. Screengrab via KIMT

Contact the author at anna.merlan@jezebel.com.
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I’m getting so frustrated with people’s perspectives on this because it really lacks an understanding of dementia and what it would mean to be in mental decline and not be allowed physical intimacy. Someone with alcohol can be prevented from having sex because we know they’ll be sober tomorrow. However, it’s a lot more complicated when you’re not going to be waking up sober. You’re stuck like that. And other people are deciding for you that you will never again until you die have the ability to consent to sex.

And people with dementia still want sex. Trust me. I’ve been a CNA, and I’ve chaperoned a lot of uncomfortable elderly person couch make out sessions. All of this talk about “good days” and “moments of lucidity” play into some weird cultural trope of dementia as wild and inconsistent, when in my experience their moods are quite consistent. They’re people. They don’t lose their mind for no reason or randomly drop into another time; this isn’t “The Notebook”. They have as consistent reactions as anyone and their moods are not just random and quicksilver. They have boundaries and are capable of expressing them. Short of the stage where residents become immobile and essentially vegetables, you can even discuss and negotiate boundaries: we will always roll to this side when changing your brief, I will always have an extra towel for you to cover yourself with, etc.

It just breaks my heart to see people talking about consent in such a black and white way when so many of us will be in their position someday. We will want love and freedom. We will want care facilities that treat our sexuality as natural and look for ways for us to express it without risk to our physical bodies. This is just not a simple question, and treating it like one has more to do with ageism making people comfortable pushing it under the rug.