Colbie Holderness, ex-wife of former White House staff secretary Rob Porter, is “dismayed” by White House counselor Kellyanne Conway’s recent suggestion that only weak women are involved in abusive relationships.
Holderness published an op-ed in The Washington Post on Monday responding to Conway’s and President Trump’s comments about her recent allegations of domestic violence against Porter.
Both Holderness and Porter’s second ex-wife, Jennie Willoughby, publicly accused the former White House staff secretary of abusing them emotionally, verbally and physically during their marriages. Although Porter denies the allegations, he resigned last week.
Conway said she has “no reason not to believe” Holderness and Willoughby in a CNN interview on Sunday. She later added that she’s not worried about Hope Hicks, the White House communications director and current girlfriend of Porter, because she’s “rarely met somebody so strong with such excellent instincts and loyalty and smarts.”
In her essay, Holderness addressed this comment and rebutted Conway’s suggestion that only weak women find themselves in abusive relationships.
“Borrowing Conway’s words, I have no reason not to believe her when she says that Hicks is a strong woman,” Holderness wrote. “But her statement implies that those who have been in abusive relationships are not strong.”
Holderness explained that it takes strength to not only recognize an abusive relationship, but it also takes strength to escape one.
“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,” she wrote. ” … Telling others about the abuse takes strength. Talking to family, friends, clergy, counselors and, later, the FBI, I would often find myself struggling to find the words to convey an adequate picture of the situation.”
She added that it takes strength to face people who simply don’t believe your experience. It also takes strength to put “the pieces of your life back together” after leaving your abuser.
“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,” Holderness wrote. “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 also addressed White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders, who declined to comment on whether she believes Holderness’ and Willoughby’s allegations.
“While I cannot say I am surprised, I expected a woman to do better,” she wrote.
Head over to The Washington Post to read Holderness’ full essay.