Dr. Hager's Family Values
By 1995, according to Davis's account, Hager's treatment of his wife had moved beyond morally reprehensible to potentially felonious. It was a uniquely stressful year for Davis. Her mother, dying of cancer, had moved in with the family and was in need of constant care. At the same time, Davis was suffering from a seemingly inexplicable exhaustion during the day. She began exhibiting a series of strange behaviors, like falling asleep in such curious places as the mall and her closet. Occasionally she would--as she describes it--"zone out" in midsentence in a conversation, and her legs would buckle. Eventually, Davis was diagnosed as having narcolepsy, a neurological disorder that affects the brain's ability to regulate normal sleep-wake cycles.
For Davis, the diagnosis spelled relief, and a physician placed her on several medications to attain "sleep hygiene," or a consistent sleep pattern. But Davis says it was after the diagnosis that the period of the most severe abuse began. For the next seven years Hager sodomized Davis without her consent while she slept roughly once a month until their divorce in 2002, she claims. "My sense is that he saw [my narcolepsy] as an opportunity," Davis surmises. Sometimes she fought Hager off and he would quit for a while, only to circle back later that same night; at other times, "the most expedient thing was to try and somehow get it [over with]. In order to keep any peace, I had to maintain the illusion of being available to him." At still other moments, she says, she attempted to avoid Hager's predatory advances in various ways--for example, by sleeping in other rooms in the house, or by struggling to stay awake until Hager was in a deep sleep himself. But, she says, nothing worked. One of Davis's lifelong confidantes remembers when Davis first told her about the abuse. "[Linda] was very angry and shaken," she recalled.
As Hager began fielding calls from the White House personnel office in 2001, the stress in the household--and, with it, the abuse--hit an all-time high, according to Davis. She says she confronted her husband on numerous occasions: "[I said to him,] 'Every time you do this, I hate your guts. And it blows a bridge out between us that takes weeks, if not months, to heal.'" She says that Hager would, in rare instances, admit what he had done and apologize, but typically would deny it altogether.
For a while, fears of poverty, isolation and damnation were enough to keep Davis from seeking a divorce. She says that she had never cheated on Hager, but after reuniting with a high school sweetheart (not her current husband) in the chaotic aftermath of September 11, she had a brief affair. En route to their first, and only, rendezvous, she prayed aloud. "I said to the Lord, 'All right. I do not want to die without having sex with someone I love,'" she remembers. "'I want to know what that's like, Lord. I know that it's a sin, and I know this is adultery. But I have to know what it's like.'"
Davis was sure that God would strike her dead on her way home that weekend. But when nothing happened, she took it as a good sign. Back in Lexington, she walked through her front door and made a decision right there on the spot. "I said, 'David, I want a divorce.'"
Marital rape is a foreign concept to many women with stories like this one. Indeed, Linda Davis had never heard the term until midway through her divorce. In Kentucky a person is guilty of rape in the first degree when he engages in sexual intercourse with another person by "forcible compulsion"; or when the victim is incapable of consent because she is physically helpless. The same standards apply to the crime of sodomy in the first degree (equivalent to rape, and distinct from consensual sodomy). Both are felonies.
In sexual assault cases, the outcome hinges on the issue of consent. A high-level domestic violence prosecutor in Kentucky confirmed that a scenario such as this one, in which Davis was in a deep sleep from the narcolepsy, could meet the "physically helpless" standard required for a first-degree offense. A prosecutor could also argue that Hager engaged in sodomy with Davis by means of forcible compulsion, even though the alleged encounters did not involve violence. According to the Kentucky Supreme Court's decision in 1992 in Yarnell v. Commonwealth, a climate of abuse involving "constant emotional, verbal, and physical duress" is tantamount to forcible compulsion. In that case, the victims submitted to the sex acts to avoid a loss of financial security, as well as to maintain peace in the household.