Saturday, September 22News That Matters

Colbie Holderness survived Rob Porter's abuse: Tells White House, don't call me weak

Colbie Holderness, the first wife of former White House staff secretary Rob Porter—and the woman whose bruised face you’ve probably seen pictures of—is now speaking out. Holderness responded in the Washington Post to Kellyanne Conway’s Sunday comments about Porter, including that “I have no reason not to believe the women,” about which Holderness wrote “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.

Holderness pointed out that “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.” So Porter could be treating Hicks wonderfully right now and abuse could still lie down the road—something Conway should damn well know. After all, the man has abused two wives and one girlfriend that we know of. And, as Holderness writes, “smarts” and strength were required to get away from him. It takes strength to go to your Mormon bishop and talk about abuse and it takes more strength to leave when you’re counseled to stay. It takes strength to stand up for the truth when the White House is sending people out to praise your abuser.

As for “smarts,” however charming Porter is in person, anyone in the White House who believes Porter’s ridiculous explanations for the most egregious reported examples of his abuse should question themselves. Seriously, this guy is supposed to be such a shining intellect and yet his explanations seem to come out of some Clumsy Abuser Excuses 101 book.