Received this posting from Richard Stimson.  He is not only the founder and pastor of The Special Gathering, he is an advocate for the mentally challenged community.

This article was sent to me: http://www.healthnewsflorida.org/top_story/read/disabilities-acting-director-resigns 

This is one of those issues that I find myself getting really upset over.  While this issue is important, there is a deeper more important issue and I do not find anyone addressing the basic legal issue of informed consent.

What do we do with the sexuality of mentally challenged persons? The controversy centers around one group home. According to healthnewsflorida.org, “The St. Petersburg Times has reported extensively about a practice known as ‘quiet time,’ when male residents of the home were allowed to have sex in their rooms. The practice allegedly led to abuse of some residents who couldn’t protect themselves.”  Everyone is in shock and horror regarding the sexual abuse that has been documented to have occurred in this home.  While this may be characterized as an extreme case, it cries out for a written policy to be developed by APD regarding sexual practices in group home.  Why is it so hard for APD to develop a policy regarding sexual practices in group home? 

In my opinion, it is basically illegal for mentally challenged persons to be sexually active.  As I understand it, the law assumes that a mentally challenged person is unable to give informed consent to have sex.  If a “normal” person has sex with a mentally challenged person they are guilty of rape (just like an adult having sex with a 14 year old).  This is a law being enforced today with people in jail over the issue. 

Just because both parties involved are mentally challenged and willing does not change the fact that the law assumes they cannot give informed consent.  If an agency policy facilitates this sexual behavior, there will be a lawsuit.  This became an issue in NY.  In fact, a book was written about the issue and I have a copy of it in my library.  The book is, in fact, a collection of presentations on the issue.  There were two cases in NY.  There was a client that was allowed to eat himself to death. The second case evolved from a father who successfully brought a lawsuit against an agency that allowed his daughter to be sexually active with a male client in the group home.  It is the old issue of mentally challenged persons being forever children or if they are adults like anyone else or something in between. 

How can APD develop a policy to facilitate an activity that the law assumes that client cannot give informed consent to do?  If you say that mentally challenged persons have the “right” to be sexually active then the law needs to be changed.  Can you imagine the media coverage regarding a law in Florida that makes it legal for “normal” persons to have sex with mentally challenged persons?   

But neither does APD want to outlaw mentally challenged clients being sexually active.  I hear people talk about having an assessment that shows informed consent.  It may exist but how well that would hold up in a lawsuit?  I was in New Orleans when AAMR came out with their book on informed consent.  It was the main attraction.  There were hundreds of people there.  I got there early and got a seat in the second row.  After they did their presentation, I asked a question based on the NY lawsuit and sex.  Their answer was “this is why you have insurance”!  Not what agency heads wanted to hear.

I think most of you know that I am a conservative preacher so I believe and teach that it is God’s plan for sex to be between one man and one woman within marriage.  I think there are mentally challenged persons who are able to function within marriage and should be allowed to be married.  Therefore, I do not make the case that we should assume all mentally challenged persons are unable to give informed consent.  That being said, I also think many if not most of the people I serve have an informed consent issue.   

So was the issue with the Tampa home that safeguards were not in place to protect those that did not want to have sex? Or is it that it was inappropriate for the agency to be facilitating sexual behavior?  In fact, didn’t they have a responsibility to stop it from happening?  Or is there another option?

For the record, I also sent a letter to both people involved in church ministry and those who work professionally within the field and I know that this post will be read by many people who do not share my same moral values.  If you have time to respond, I would hope you would comment.  I would also hope you would be respectful to those with whom you may fundamentally disagree.

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