Was This What You Meant By Rape?

It was a second marriage for both Donna Lou Young and Henry V. Rayhons, after their long-time spouses passed.  In their 70s, they were, by the account of Bryan Gruley at Bloomberg, a most loving couple.

For the next six-and-a-half years, 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,” Henry Rayhons says.

Henry Rayhons is awaiting trial for the rape of his wife.

The Iowa Attorney General’s office says Rayhons had intercourse with his wife when she lacked the mental capacity to consent because she had Alzheimer’s. She died on Aug. 8, four days short of her 79th birthday, of complications from the disease. One week later, Rayhons, 78, was arrested. He pleaded not guilty.

As happens with older folks, Donna Rayhons developed dementia from her Alzheimer’s. Even without Alzheimer’s, dementia to some greater or lesser degree strikes a lot of people about that time of life.  It is not uncommon.

Donna’s daughters felt that Henry was incapable of properly caring for her, and, as the children of the elderly often do, decided to take charge of their parent’s situation.

By early this year, two of Donna Rayhons’ daughters were concerned about their mother’s worsening dementia and the way Rayhons was caring for her. Linda Dunshee, 54, and Suzan Brunes, 52, had heard from a legislator, a lobbyist and other people working in the Capitol that he sometimes left her alone while he was in meetings. They worried she’d wander the hallways or outside on her own, according to their statements to investigators and other court documents.

Brunes, a hospital administrator, and Dunshee, executive director of a non-profit serving people with intellectual disabilities, had talked to Rayhons about putting their mother in a nursing home. He had resisted.

So one day when Henry wasn’t there, the daughters whisked their mother away to a nursing home.  This was probably warranted, and an extremely difficult decision under the best of circumstances.  That Henry resisted, didn’t believe it was necessary or that he couldn’t care for his beloved wife, isn’t uncommon either.  There is no flashing light over an old person’s head that proclaims her time is almost up, and the desire to live an independent life for as long as possible is strong.

Still, Henry did as much as he could to maintain his relationship with the wife he loved, even in the nursing home.

Donna had a room to herself where one afternoon a nurse opened the door to find her in bed and Rayhons kneeling in prayer. Brink later told a state investigator that the two held hands and “Henry was more affectionate with Donna than most people were,” an interview summary said.

Because the legislature was in session, Rayhons awoke many days at 5 a.m. so he could see Donna before driving two hours to Des Moines. When the House finished for the day, he drove back to have dinner with her, say a Rosary, and kiss her goodnight, he said.

It’s remarkably sweet, and yet not sweet enough.

There was increasing friction between Rayhons and Donna’s daughters, Brunes and Dunshee. Rayhons pushed for taking his wife out on outings, which the daughters thought agitated their mother, and made derogatory remarks to Donna about the daughters and Concord Care, according to the daughters’ log. Rayhons says now that Donna became upset because he couldn’t be with her all the time.

While Henry and Donna no longer shared the same roof, they did, apparently, share the same bed.

Brunes and Dunshee also were increasingly concerned that their mother was having sex with Rayhons when she lacked the capacity to knowingly consent, according to interviews with investigators and other documents. The daughters’ log says a nurse told the women that on a number of occasions, Donna was wearing nothing but a robe after a visit from Rayhons, and that staffers “felt sickened by what he was doing to her.”

Brunes told a state investigator that her mother said Rayhons wanted sex one to two times daily, and that Donna once pointed at her crotch and said, “Henry likes this a lot.” Rayhons later told the investigator that his wife enjoyed sex whenever they had it.

After a physician checked off a box that Donna was not competent to consent to sexual activity, and Henry had sex with this wife, the daughter, Dunshee, called police and accused Henry of rape.  After learning of the accusation, Henry’s visits to his wife were subject to his daughter’s approval.

Rayhons saw his wife for the last time on Aug. 7. It was only the second time he’d been allowed to see her for several weeks. He and son Gary made the 45-minute drive to Hampton, Iowa, where Donna had been moved to an ABCM facility with an Alzheimer’s unit.

Dunshee and Brunes were with their mother. She was incommunicative. Rayhons knelt by her bed and prayed the Rosary. Gary said his father held Donna’s hand and said, “Love you, Honey.”

She died the next day.

Three days after Donna Rayhons funeral, Henry was arrested for the rape of his wife, for having sex with her when she was incompetent to consent.

“Any partner in a marriage has the right to say no,” said Katherine C. Pearson, who teaches and writes about elder law at the Penn State Dickinson School of Law and reviewed the Rayhons case at the request of Bloomberg News. “What we haven’t completely understood is, as in this case, at what point in dementia do you lose the right to say yes?”

As it turns out, the application of law that seems so wonderful given the anecdotes offered in support of it may lose a bit of its luster when applied to those situations its advocates never thought about.  There aren’t separate definitions of rape for college women and geriatric women.  Bet you never thought of that.

H/T Walter Olson at Overlawyered

14 thoughts on “Was This What You Meant By Rape?

  1. Marc R

    I’m guessing there’s a “companion” probate case.

    Certainly there’s married people who cannot consult whether permanent (i.e. brain injury) or temporary (i.e. impaired) but this case here seems different. Maybe it’s the duration of the marriage; maybe because there wasn’t enough info on the wife’s medical condition.

    1. SHG Post author

      Based upon the Bloomberg article, it would appear that the key factor was the late-in-life, second marriage, which turned out to be the deciding issue for Donna’s daughters. While competent, Donna could make her own sexual decisions, but once dementia set in and they took control, incipient animosity turned sex into rape. And indeed, Donna may not have been competent to make decisions, but does that make Henry a rapist?

  2. DDJ

    One can only hope that there’s a deep-enough pit in Hell for Donna’s daughters.

    This is only a more striking example than usual of women playing the Rape Card to get even with a man who they decide they just don’t like.

  3. Anne Krone

    I have worked in a residential nursing home for Alzheimer’s patients and this case is just terriffying. Alzheimer’s is highly individualized. No two people lose the same things in the same order or at the same rate, though short term memory is most often the first thing to suffer. Without a series of very detailed interviews and case history, there is absolutely no way to tell if she was competent at the moment of sex or not. This is very important. I have seen an Alzheimer’s patient be absolutely incompetent in the morning and perfectly lucid in the afternoon. My natural inclination is to trust the husband with a history of a solid loving marriage before the disease took effect to know if his wife was willing or not at any given point.
    Also the daughters bringing of the case sets off every alarm in my body. Unfortunately far too many people believe that the elderly (and especially their own parents) should be sexless drones. I have seen more than one case of the children of a first marriage perfectly outraged that their father (mother) would defile the memory of their sainted dead mother (father) by re-marrying. When you are fully functional, you can tell your prude children to bugger off, but once you start losing bits and pieces of your memory, the flood gates are open for interference and you have no way to fight back.

  4. LTMG

    Nothing good will come from prosecuting this case, I think. There is nothing a prosecutor can do to look good in the course of trying the case and afterwards. Justice is at risk, and compassion seems to have fled. Henry Rayhons is forever besmirched by the mere fact of being accused. The daughters will forever be seen as evil and grasping. If the case is ever tried, there’s a good chance that the Rayhons estate will be significantly consumed by legal fees leaving little for the daughters. if so, all the better. I’d hate to be a juror for this case. I hope an enlightened attorney general will see fit to immediately drop this.

        1. SHG Post author

          It is. It’s fair, accurate and inoffensive, which is why I decided to pick on it. It’s not that there is anything wrong with it, as much as its pedestrian and obvious. I’m using the comment to demonstrate the point of illumination. It’s not because it’s bad, just not insightful on a lawyer level.

          1. Jim March

            The only point I’d take issue with is that I would indeed like to be a juror on this case (if I was in that state which I’m not) just so I could tell the DA to fuck off violently with a nail-studded broomhandle.

            I think we are deep into “no jury would convict” territory. I hope to God I’m right.

            1. SHG Post author

              While I wouldn’t bet my life on it, it really doesn’t matter. The charge alone ended his political career, prevented him from seeing his wife more than a couple time in her final few weeks of life and left an old man in misery. Whether they can prove a case is doubtful, but he’s already been punished.

  5. KP

    I’ll take the non-lawyer’s chance SHG…

    Surely she gave permission when she promised to “love, honour and obey” at the wedding.

    Either the “love” or the “obey” would remove any case of not having sex with him. If she didn’t want to follow that she only had to get divorced.

    1. SHG Post author

      Surely? No. Wedding vows are sweet, but do not trump the law. A husband can most assuredly rape his wife under the law.

  6. Pingback: Iowa prosecuting man over alleged sex in nursing home with demented wife - Overlawyered

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