The Trump Administration's Handling Of Domestic Violence Allegations Is Evidence Of A Larger Problem

Photo: Jabin Botsford/The Washington Post/Getty Images.
On Wednesday, top White House aide Rob Porter resigned from his position after two of his ex-wives went public with allegations that he physically abused them. Though he handed in his resignation, he still hasn't announced when he will officially leave his position.
The allegations against Porter are disturbing. One of his former wives, Colbie Holderness, told CNN Porter would often throw her down and jab her with an elbow or a knee or choke her. The abuse escalated, Holderness said, on a vacation in Florence, Italy where Porter punched her in the face, giving her a black eye.
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His second wife, Jennifer Willoughby, told the network Porter was verbally abusive, once punched through a glass window of her home, and forcibly grabbed her out of the shower. Willoughby took out a protective order against Porter.
Despite the severity of the allegations against him (the claims of abuse reportedly led the FBI to deny Porter security clearance), the White House did not push Porter out of his job; instead, the administration defended him.
"Rob Porter is a man of true integrity and honor and I can't say enough good things about him. He is a friend, a confidante and a trusted professional. I am proud to serve alongside him," White House Chief of Staff John Kelly, who allegedly knew about the abuse claims for several months and even elevated Porter's role, said in a statement Tuesday. White House communications director Hope Hicks — who is dating Porter — reportedly helped draft Kelly's statement.
Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said Porter was "effective in his role" and that he is someone of the "highest integrity and exemplary character."
The White House's defense of Porter — and its quickness to paint his accusers as liars — is perfectly in line with how the administration handles women who accuse men of bad behavior.
Trump (and the RNC, for that matter) forcefully endorsed eventual-loser Roy Moore for Alabama Senate despite the fact that Moore had been credibly accused of child molestation and sexual misconduct by several women.
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Also, it is the White House's official position that all the women accusing the president of sexual misconduct are liars.
And when it comes to domestic violence, the White House's defense of Porter is particularly dangerous. In the U.S., nearly three women are killed each day by an intimate partner, according to statistics by the Violence Policy Center.
"A common thread across many cases of domestic violence is that our society tends to place blame on the victim; to believe there is something the victim should have done, or not done, to prevent the abuse," Cameka Crawford, Chief Communications Officer at the National Domestic Violence Hotline, said in a statement to Refinery29. "The difficulties facing a victim after an instance of abuse are deep and complex and rather than being vessels of blame, guilt or shame, we should make sure that we always take an open-minded and supportive approach, and be there for them as they heal."
Jimmy Meagher, a director at Safe Horizon, a leading victim assistance organization and the largest provider of domestic violence services in NYC, said the administration's decision to initially defend Porter is "concerning."
"Whether it’s this case, Ray Rice, or Harvey Weinstein, sometimes it appears that we only see an institution respond or hold the individual in question accountable when confronted by a potential PR nightmare," Meagher told Refinery29. "We know violence exists in our communities, and so, we need to get ahead of it. Individuals need to be held accountable regardless of PR concerns, certainly, but we also need to start wrestling with the larger systems of oppression like racism, sexism, and misogyny that are interconnected with intimate partner violence and sexual violence and that normalize abuse."
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"This disturbing episode speaks volumes about the values of this President and his most senior aides," Elizabeth Renda, media director for the DNC's Women's Media Center, said in a statement to Refinery29. "Clearly, the President who promised to hire ‘the best people’ has set no standard for the character of those who serve in some of the most important positions in our government."
As noted by blogger Jennifer Rubin in the Washington Post, the administration also hasn't appointed a director for the Office on Violence Against Women, an office dedicated to "developing the nation's capacity to reduce violence against women, and administering justice for, and strengthening service to, victims of domestic violence, dating violence, sexual assault and stalking."
The fact that Porter could be working in the White House, handling classified and sensitive information despite being an accused domestic abuser and denied security clearance speaks volumes to the administration's priorities.
“The Trump administration consistently chooses not to believe the accounts of brave women," Renda told Refinery29. "One man’s denial means more than a room full of women raising their voices.”
This story was originally published on Feb. 8, 2018 at 3: 26 p.m. It has since been updated.
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