Colbie Holderness, one of the women who have gone public with allegations of spousal abuse by a former top White House aide, wrote in a piece published Monday evening that abuse affects many different types of people.
“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,” Holderness wrote in a Washington Post op-ed.
White House staff secretary Rob Porter resigned last week after news reports detailed accusations from his ex-wives about abuse they had endured from him, which he denied. As the reports came out, the White House initially backed Porter, and in comments Friday, President Donald Trump did not express sympathy with the women and said Porter expressed innocence “very strongly.”
Trump counselor Kellyanne Conway addressed the issue Sunday during an appearance on CNN’s “State of the Union,” saying she had no reason not to believe the women accusing Porter of abuse.
In her piece responding to Conway, Holderness said she appreciated Conway “saying that she at least did not not believe us” but was troubled by another response Conway had made in the interview.
When asked about concern that White House communications director Hope Hicks might be in danger because she is said to have been dating Porter, Conway said she does not “worry about her in that respect.”
“In the case of Hope, I rarely met somebody so strong with such excellent instincts and loyalty and smarts,” Conway said.
Pressed on the possible implication that strong women do not endure abuse, Conway said there was “no question” that many women are abused and she spoke against the stigma around abuse that prevents some people from coming forward. She said Hicks has a “great support system” and went on to say that people who can help remove barriers to ending abuse should do so.
“These are societal scourges that preceded this White House, that will follow this White House, but those who are in a position to do something about it ought to, and not just once or twice a month in some scintillating story,” Conway said.
Holderness said Conway’s statement “implies that those who have been in abusive relationships are not strong.”
“I beg to differ,” Holderness said, noting that women demonstrate strength while surviving and trying to move on safely from abuse.
She also noted that abuse happens to people with strong support systems and can be hard for people to detect in a coworker day to day.
“Abuse comes in many forms,” Holderness wrote. “It is visited on the poor and the rich, the least educated and the most, people with a strong and deep network of friends and family and those without a support structure. And an abusive nature is certainly not something most colleagues are able to spot in a professional setting, especially if they are blinded by a stellar résumé and background.”