“(H)er statement implies that those who have been in abusive relationships are not strong,” wrote Colbie Holderness in a Washington Post op-ed
The ex-wife of a former White House aide accused of domestic abuse took issue Monday with Counselor to the President Kellyanne Conway, who recently said she doesn’t worry for Rob Porter’s reported girlfriend Hope Hicks because she’s “so strong with such excellent instincts and loyalty and smarts.”
“(H)er statement implies that those who have been in abusive relationships are not strong. I beg to differ,” wrote Porter’s first wife, Colbie Holderness, in a gut-wrenching Washington Post op-ed. “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.”
Porter resigned from his White House staff secretary post last week amid domestic abuse allegations from Holderness and his second ex-wife, Jennie Willoughby. Conway drew criticism last weekend over her interview with CNN’s “State of the Union,” where she did attempt to clarify her remarks after host Jake Tapper pointed out “strong women get abused too.” “Oh, many women get abused, no question. And let me agree with you on that,” Conway replied, adding that abuse “knows no demographic or geographic bounds.”
Holderness, who has shared photos of herself bearing a black eye she says Porter gave her, spoke in her op-ed of “living in constant fear of Rob’s anger” and the strength it took to tell others about the alleged abuse, leave her marriage and begin anew. (Porter, for his part, has denied the allegations.) Nearly one in four women and one in seven men have endured severe physical violence by an intimate partner during their lifetime, according to the CDC’s National Intimate Partner and Sexual Violence Survey.
“The bottom line is, it takes strength to pull yourself away and start over,” Holderness wrote. “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.”
She went on to reference President Trump, who has publicly praised Porter and lamented in a recent tweet that “lives are being shattered and destroyed by a mere allegation,” and criticize Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders, who has refused to tell reporters whether Trump believes Porter’s accusers.
“While I cannot say I am surprised, I expected a woman to do better,” Holderness wrote. “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.’”
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