Colbie Holderness, an ex-wife of a former Trump administration official Rob Porter, took umbrage in a Washington Post op-ed at the seeming suggestion from counselor to the president Kellyanne Conway that victims of domestic violence lack strength.
Conway, in an appearance last weekend on CNN’s “State of the Union,” was asked about Porter, the former White House staff secretary who resigned last week amid allegations of abuse from Holderness and another ex-wife, Jennifer Willoughby. The counselor to the president told CNN she had no reason not to believe the allegations from Willoughby and Holderness, but when asked if she feared for White House communications director Hope Hicks, reported to be dating Porter, Conway said, “I’ve rarely met somebody so strong with such excellent instincts and loyalty and smarts.”
“Her statement implies that those who have been in abusive relationships are not strong,” Holderness wrote in her op-ed, published online Monday night. “I beg to differ.”
Of the allegations against Porter, Holderness’s are perhaps the most damning because they include a photo of her with a black eye for which she claims her ex-husband is responsible. In her op-ed, Holderness also wrote that she lived in “constant fear of Rob’s anger and being subjected to his degrading tirades,” a recollection of Porter’s behavior which matches that of Willoughby, who said he had been verbally and emotionally abusive towards her during their marriage.
Porter has denied the allegations against him.
Holderness wrote that she “walked away from that relationship a shell of the person I was when I went into it,” forced to take leave from her pursuit of a graduate degree and too scared to apply for jobs other than restaurant server. “It has taken me years to get my professional life back on track,” she said.
Beyond Porter’s resignation, the White House has taken significant criticism for its handling of and response to the allegations. Some have suggested that White House chief of staff John Kelly should be held responsible because he either knew or should have known about the allegations against Porter.
President Donald Trump himself has spoken warmly in public about Porter without any mention of his alleged victims.
“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,” 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.’”