A Young (Transsexual) Wife Exercises Her Older Husband to Death. And the Lesson Is…?
This bizarre story is true. At face value, it is about a middle-age wife who exercised her elderly husband to death in a swimming pool. But on a gut level we know there is more.“A transsexual woman has admitted exercising her 73-year-old husband to death in a swimming pool by repeatedly refusing to let him leave the water,” reported the Daily Mail in the 2009 story. “An elderly man who feared his wife, and water, died after apparently spending too much time with both,” is how NBC Augusta described the tragedy.
Both sites reported that surveillance video showed wife Christine Newton-John (Mrs. Mason) , 41, pulling her husband Mr. James Mason around the pool by his arms and legs. Repeatedly. She was sentenced to 4 years in prison, The Huffington Post reports.
There are many twists and turns to this story. As a clinician, the intake (gathering of information at the opening of a case) might possibly take hours. On the surface, this case might be interpreted by some as being about an individual who became fanatical about exercise, who took the concept of healthy living to a twisted extreme. Or about a May-December romance gone awry.
According to the Associated Press, Mason was a longtime friend of his wife’s family. He knew her as John Vallandingham before she had gender reassignment surgery in 1993 and changed her name. They married in 2006.
After reading that detail, people will focus on the sexuality of the new spouse. But this story is not about that. Now dig deeper. What the story is really about is someone exploiting the trust of someone more frail and dependent, of trying to control and dominate. It is about elder abuse. This can happen in first marriages, too (and in third marriages), and it can also happen between parent and child, between spouses of same and opposite sex, between any two people when the balance of power is shifted because one is more dependent on the other. It can be physical, mental, emotional and fiduciary. Thankfully, it does not always happen, but it can. And does.
When an unfortunate soul and his family are desperate to get the care an older adult needs, it can happen. At one point in time someone from the family may have even looked up to the new wife for being such a “go-getter,” and for trying to “help” her spouse. Even this makes little sense. According to police (you will see via the link) Mr. Mason was, in fact, afraid of water.
Was this woman a narcissist? Sadist? Mentally ill? All of the above? Yes, it matters that we ask these questions aloud and talk about them to build our own awareness. The story states that there had been other reports of abuse in the marriage, but does not provide details.
This story strikes a chord because we want to trust that people are generally good.
Which is why we need to trust our gut when we feel something is just not right.
Photo credit: Flickr/zik ” Tây
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