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June 01, 1999 01:58am
Group Home in Pornography Battle
Source: AP

LEWISTON, Maine (AP) - Marie likes to color, watch cartoons and play with animals. She uses pens scented with watermelon and blueberry, and hugs and squeezes her five cats.

The 29-year-old woman is clearly not interested in sex. But sex is the reason she may have to find a new home.

The Department of Human Services plans to pull the license for the Jaricot Foster Home for mentally retarded adults unless Monique Dostie, who runs it, lifts her rules forbidding pornography and sexual activity.

Ms. Dostie is unrepentant in trying to shield her residents from ``perversion.''

``I teach them that it's wrong, that they don't need that (sex) to survive,'' said Ms. Dostie, a devout Roman Catholic who lives in the home. ``I teach them their faith and bring God into their lives.''

The case may ultimately be decided in the courts if she fails in her appeal to the state to keep her license.

State rules say people with mental retardation and autism in group homes have a right to participate in activities of choice, which include using pornographic material and sexual acts such as masturbation and consensual sex.

None of Ms. Dostie's three residents is complaining. In fact, some of their guardians chose the home because of its policies.

Nancy Nicholson of Coos Bay, Ore., said she would place her mentally retarded 24-year-old daughter in a sex-free environment if she could find one.

``The problem is you are dealing with a group of individuals who have a chronological age of an adult, but the maturation of a 3- to 5-year-old. We would recognize that a 3- to 5-year-old is not capable of sex,'' she said. ``We would call it pedophilia.''

Ms. Dostie said the developmentally disabled can't handle decisions of daily living, never mind the complex atmosphere of sexual relations.

Joni Fritz, executive director of the American Network of Community Options and Resources, which represents group homes, said Ms. Dostie is denying human sexuality by forbidding sex or masturbation.

``For years, people who lived in institutions were told that they couldn't have sex and they were prohibited from masturbating. They would find ways to gratify themselves,'' Fritz said. ``Sometimes prohibition of that kind of thing has led to an increase in deviate behavior.''

Curt Decker, executive director of the National Association of Protection and Advocacy Systems for people with disabilities in Washington, said with fewer people institutionalized nationwide, it is important to make sure the biases of group home providers don't overtake individual choices.

``This is not taking care of children. This is taking care of adults who have some cognitive deficiencies but who have a lot of abilities,'' Decker said.

James Bendell, who is representing Ms. Dostie on behalf of the American Catholic Lawyers Association, says the state believes every group home must be the same, and makes no exceptions.

He said such a ``cookie cutter approach'' is not in the best interest of all group home residents.

Ms. Dostie said her residents could be placed in another home.

``But they don't want to,'' she said. ``They're not the ones asking for sex or pornography. It's the state that's mandating it.''

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