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Holderness writes: "I was dismayed when Conway, appearing on CNN's 'State of the Union,' went on to say that she does not fear for White House Communications Director Hope Hicks, who has reportedly been dating Porter. 'I've rarely met somebody so strong with such excellent instincts and loyalty and smarts.'"

White House staff secretary Rob Porter has been accused of abuse by his ex-wives. (photo: WP)
White House staff secretary Rob Porter has been accused of abuse by his ex-wives. (photo: WP)

Rob Porter Is My Ex-Husband. Here's What You Should Know About Abuse.

By Colbie Holderness, The Washington Post

13 February 18


hite House counselor Kellyanne Conway said Sunday that she has no reason not to believe statements that Jennifer Willoughby and I have made about our ex-husband, former White House aide Rob Porter. I actually appreciated her saying that she at least did not not believe us.

But I was dismayed when Conway, appearing on CNN’s “State of the Union,” went on to say that she does not fear for White House Communications Director Hope Hicks, who has reportedly been dating Porter. “I’ve rarely met somebody so strong with such excellent instincts and loyalty and smarts.”

Borrowing Conway’s words, I have no reason not to believe her when she says that Hicks is a strong woman. But her statement implies that those who have been in abusive relationships are not strong.

I beg to differ.

Recognizing and surviving in an abusive relationship take strength. The abuse can be terrifying, life-threatening and almost constant. Or it can ebb and flow, with no violence for long periods. It’s often the subtler forms of abuse that inflict serious, persistent damage while making it hard for the victim to see the situation clearly.

For me, living in constant fear of Rob’s anger and being subjected to his degrading tirades for years chipped away at my independence and sense of self-worth. I walked away from that relationship a shell of the person I was when I went into it, but it took me a long time to realize the toll that his behavior was taking on me. (Rob has denied the abuse, but Willoughby and I know what happened.)

Telling others about the abuse takes strength. Talking to family, friends, clergy, counselors and, later, the FBI, I would often find myself struggling to find the words to convey an adequate picture of the situation. When Rob’s now ex-girlfriend reached out to both Willoughby and me, she described her relationship in terms we each found familiar, immediately following up her description with “Am I crazy?” Boy, I could identify with that question.

Then there is the just-as-serious issue of being believed and supported by those you choose to tell. Sometimes people don’t believe you. Sometimes they have difficulty truly understanding what you are trying to tell them. Both Willoughby and I raised our cases with clergy. Both of us had a hard time getting them to fully address the abuse taking place. It wasn’t until I spoke to a professional counselor that I was met with understanding.

Leaving and putting the pieces of your life back together take strength. Willoughby had to obtain a protective order as she was trying to extricate herself from her marriage. I had to take an extended leave from graduate school because I was depressed and unable to complete the work. When I finally left Rob for good, my self-confidence was so destroyed that I was too scared to apply to any jobs other than that of server at a restaurant. It has taken me years to get my professional life back on track.

Victims are often with their abusers for long periods of time. They marry them, become financially intertwined with them, have children with them. There are many reasons people find it difficult to leave. The bottom line is, it takes strength to pull yourself away and start over.

I never imagined myself in the situation I’m in now — no one could have. I’m not a partisan. I’m not an activist — far from it, in fact. Willoughby and I didn’t seek to tell our stories in such a public way. Rather, others sought us out in the course of investigating Rob.

I also never imagined I would be in an abusive relationship.

Being strong — with excellent instincts and loyalty and smarts — does not inoculate a person against abuse. It doesn’t prevent her from entering into a relationship with an abuser. Abuse often doesn’t manifest itself early on — only later, when you’re in deep and behind closed doors. The really ugly side of Rob’s abuse only came out after we married, following three years of dating.

Abuse comes in many forms. It is visited on the poor and the rich, the least educated and the most, people with a strong and deep network of friends and family and those without a support structure. And an abusive nature is certainly not something most colleagues are able to spot in a professional setting, especially if they are blinded by a stellar résumé and background.

Conway’s statements were made as she was trying to address the good wishes that President Trump sent to Rob, along with his tweets seeming to call into question the allegations and the #MeToo movement overall. Monday, White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders again declined to say whether the president believes Willoughby and me. While I cannot say I am surprised, I expected a woman to do better. But Conway and I definitely agree on one thing she said during that interview: “There’s a stigma and a silence surrounding all these issues. . . . Those who are in a position to do something about it ought to.” your social media marketing partner


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+28 # evolver 2018-02-13 11:26
I want to see this kind of coverage and truth from Ivana Trump and Marla Maples!! I've always been a dreamer!
+23 # Wise woman 2018-02-13 11:30
This is so true. When I was a child living with an abusive father (and husband), I was so ashamed. Somehow, I thought I was the cause of his behavior. I remember going to school with welts on my legs and trying to hide them under my desk. My teacher knew but there was nothing to be done in those days. I don't think that much has really changed for the average child or woman.
+19 # librarian1984 2018-02-13 12:10
Conway did a decent job not upsetting Trump while she expressed support for aporter's victims -- but I too cringed when she said she wasn't worried about Hicks because she was 'a strong woman'. That was an ignorant thing to say. Anyone who cares about Hicks should be worried for her, especially with Porter undoubtedly very angry about what's happened to him.

Holderness has been articulate on this subject. It's obvious she is a strong, intelligent woman too. That's what these guys destroy. I'm glad she got it back.
+18 # Blackjack 2018-02-13 15:22
Often abused women do not tell anyone because, first, they fear not being believed, and second, if believed, they fear being blamed. And they often blame themselves, wondering if what they said/did set off the tirades. That, in turn, can trigger self loathing and guilt, from which it can take years to recover. The stories I hear today via the media regarding the rich and powerful who abuse and are abused are no different from the stories I heard from college age students while I was a substance/sexua l abuse counselor, except that most of the students had little financial or emotional support. Even my professional supervisors, who had the power to intervene, did little except to berate me because "you're spending too much time with those people; you have other cases." These young women and I decided, however, that we would pursue our own pathway, thus began a weekly group dedicated to this topic. The group proved to be the best form of therapy because all came from the same general experiences and learned to hold each other and themselves responsible for the healing that needed to take place. Sometimes the abused have to find their own sources of courage in order to survive because there are so many built-in barriers that too often give men the benefit of the doubt while withholding support from the abused.
+17 # janie1893 2018-02-14 01:22
Living life waiting each day for 'the other shoe to drop' is as crazy-making as the actual beatings. It's hell on earth. Get out while you can!
+5 # DongiC 2018-02-14 19:41
There are just too many scumbags out there, mostly male, who are getting away with psychological mayhem. Women must get together and along with supportive men meet this scourage head on. We can start by electing a whole lot more female politicians to all kinds of offices from the president down to school board member. We can provide a lot more assistance to abused females including locking up some of the guilty perpretators. And, if the president himself backs the abusing men, maybe he should pay some penalties. Like impeachment and conviction.

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