Henry Rayhons was a state lawmaker in Iowa for a number of years. He was married for decades before his first wife died. Then he met Donna Young, and the two hit it off.
In December 2007, Henry and Donna, also widowed, decided to get married. What followed was an unlikely second chance at true love. Bloomberg’s Bryan Gruley notes that the pair did everything together.
“For the next six-and-a-half years,” Gruley writes, “Henry and Donna Rayhons were inseparable. She sat near him in the state House chamber while he worked as a Republican legislator. He helped with her beekeeping. She rode alongside him in a combine as he harvested corn and soybeans on his 700 acres in northern Iowa. They sang in the choir at Sunday Mass.”
“We just loved being together,” Rayhons told the news site.
So when Donna was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s, it was a blow to Henry, who continued to see her until her death on August 8, just four days shy of her 79th birthday.
One week later, Henry Rayhons was arrested.
The reason: On May 23, during a visit to his wife in the Concord Care Center in Garner, Iowa, Rayhons and Donna had intercourse. Now prosecutors have charged Henry with rape for having relations with his wife when “she lacked the mental capacity to consent because she had Alzheimer’s.”
“To convict Rayhons,” Gruley says, “prosecutors must first convince a jury that a sex act occurred in his wife’s room… If prosecutors prove that, his guilt or innocence will turn on whether Donna wanted sex or not, and whether her dementia prevented her from making that judgment and communicating her wishes.”
By most laws, Iowa included, a spouse has the right to say no to sex, thus making it possible to sexually assault one’s husband or wife. In the case of Henry Rayhons, his four children are standing by his side while two of Donna’s three children were implicated as instigating the investigation.
It presents a dilemma for couples who maintain sexual activity well into their senior years, as dementia is more likely to take hold and blur the lines of consent.
Gruley points out that in the case of the Rayhons-Young marriage, the two were notably in love and even both families were approving of their marriage.
Washington Post columnist Eugene Volokh adds that in a case such as that of Henry Rayhons, it seems as though the past should be an important factor in determining whether what happened in Donna’s last days was rape or consensual.
“… it seems to me… obvious that we must consider the parties’ past and unrevoked consent as relevant in some situations where there’s neither a “no” or a “yes.” If A starts caressing B’s genitals while B is sleeping, that’s generally a serious crime. But if A and B are sexually involved, it seems to me it shouldn’t be a crime at all — especially if this has happened before and both parties were quite happy about it — unless B wakes up and says no, or has indicated lack of consent to such behavior in the past.”
What do you think, readers? If Henry Rayhons had sex with his wife who was suffering from dementia, do you think he should be prosecuted? And what factors should prosecutors take into consideration about Henry and the relationship before moving forward?
[Image via Bloomberg, linked above]