Has anyone bothered to stop and think of how former White House staff secretary Rob Porter’s ex-wives may have felt, upon hearing President Trump praise the man who abused them, then doubling down on his reaction on Twitter the next day?
In a Saturday tweet, Trump bemoaned lives being ruined – but he wasn’t talking about the victims of domestic violence.
The ruined lives he mourned were those of the abusers, lives ruined by “mere allegations.”
Except Rob Porter’s case wasn’t “mere allegations.”
The accounts of two ex-wives, a girlfriend, photo evidence, and an order of protection are decidedly more than “mere allegations,” and Trump, once again, handled it horribly.
As has been pointed out elsewhere, however, it’s not that Trump just screwed up the messaging. It’s that Trump is a horrible, abusive person, and he identifies more with the abuser than the abused.
All he cares about is how well someone serves him. Are they a member of his team? How do their efforts benefit him?
That’s who Trump is, so, no. He doesn’t care about the victims.
Jennie Willoughby, the second wife of Rob Porter was watching while our president praised the work of her abuser, and emphasized that Porter had asserted his innocence.
She penned a piece for Time.com that appeared on Sunday afternoon:
On Friday, a friend and I watched as the President of the United States sat in the Oval Office and praised the work of my ex-husband, Rob Porter, and wished him future success. I can’t say I was surprised. But when Donald Trump repeated twice that Rob declared his innocence, I was floored. What was his intent in emphasizing that point? My friend turned to me and said, “The President of the United States just called you a liar.”
Yes. And so he did.
She also pointed out Trump’s Saturday tweet.
Peoples lives are being shattered and destroyed by a mere allegation. Some are true and some are false. Some are old and some are new. There is no recovery for someone falsely accused – life and career are gone. Is there no such thing any longer as Due Process?
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) February 10, 2018
There it is again. The words “mere allegation” and “falsely accused” meant to imply that I am a liar. That Colbie Holderness is a liar. That the work Rob was doing in the White House was of higher value than our mental, emotional or physical wellbeing. That his professional contributions are worth more than the truth. That abuse is something to be questioned and doubted.
She went on to say she forgave Trump, because her self-worth and strength were not reliant on “outside belief.”
That’s a solid stance to take. Unfortunately, so many others are crushed with the fear of being labeled as “liars.”
The problem wasn’t that members of Trump’s administration chose not to believer her, or to protect Porter, but that there is a culture at work that cringes and shrinks away from the difficult and ugly realities about abuse.
The tendency to avoid, deny, or cover up abuse is never really about power, or money, or an old boys’ club. It is deeper than that. Rather than embarrass an abuser, society is subconsciously trained to question a victim of abuse. I would call it an ignorant denial based on the residual, puritan, collective agreement that abuse is uncomfortable to talk about.
Amidst the recent rash of sexual assault revelations born of the #MeToo movement, even I found myself questioning the accuser. I almost allowed my societal conditioning to override what my heart knows to be true: Abuse is scary and demoralizing and degrading. It chisels away at your self-esteem and self-worth until you are unsure whether your version of reality is valid or not.
If someone finds the strength and courage to come forward, he or she is to be believed. Because that declaration only came after an uphill battle toward rebirth.
She also posed the question: If the most powerful office in the land doubts and demeans the stories of the abused, even with evidence, how are they to hope that anyone else will believe them?
While I may have compassion for my ex-husband and recognize his need for help, I do not tolerate abuse. While I may understand President Trump and Gen. Kelly’s incredulity at such a counter-image of their golden boy, I do not condone their choice to support him.
Nor should she (or anyone else, for that matter).
Her final message was one of solidarity to other victims.
In light of the President’s and the White House’s continued dismissal of me and Colbie, I want to assure you my truth has not been diminished. I own my story and now that I have been compelled to share it, I’m not willing to cover it up for anyone. And for any men, women, or children currently in situations of abuse, please know:
It is real.
You are not crazy.
You are not alone.
I believe you.
And as someone who has been exactly where Holderness and Willoughby are, I’ll add this final note: If you are in a situation where you are being abused, don’t worry about what the outside world thinks. This is your life you’re saving. There are resources for you.
You can talk to someone, find resources in your area, and get help. Call the National Domestic Violence Hotline, 24-hours a day at 1-800-799-7233.