The National Coalition Against Domestic Violence (NCADV) is disturbed by this week’s revelations that former White House staff secretary Rob Porter’s history of violence against his ex-wives was known to Chief of Staff John Kelly. Instead of taking immediate action to fire Porter, John Kelly waited until the news was made public and allegedly tried to talk Porter out of resigning, then issued statements defending him.
Despite a subsequent statement in which Kelly acknowledged the serious charges, today, President Trump told reporters that Porter insists on his innocence. "He says he's innocent, and I think you have to remember that," said Trump. These remarks are familiar and dangerous for many reasons. Abusers frequently deny accusations of abuse and work to successfully convince others around them that they are not capable of abuse. Their message to their victims: no one will believe you. The Trump Administration continues to ignore opportunities to take a public stance against domestic violence. By siding with and supporting Porter, the President, Chief of Staff Kelly, and other Administration officials are reinforcing the message that abusers will be believed over their victims--and protected--despite documented proof of abuse and an order of protection issued by a court of law, as in Porter’s case.
As evidenced by the recent #MeToo movement, the American people want change, and the American people want accountability. The Administration has a responsibility to proactively ensure that the people in its employ exemplify important values such as treating all women and all people with dignity, respect, and grace.
“We believe both Ms. Holderness and Ms. Willoughby and applaud them for their bravery in coming forward and holding both Mr. Porter and the White House accountable,” says Ruth M. Glenn, NCADV’s President/CEO. “Domestic abuse is a very serious and violent crime. People who serve in positions of power, such as Chief of Staff Kelly, have a responsibility to be role models for this nation and should be enforcing zero tolerance for abuse rather than ignoring it. Abuse is a choice, and it is imperative that we as a society hold abusers accountable for their dangerous and criminal actions. Otherwise, victims and survivors of violence will remain unsafe, will continue to be silenced, will continue to be trapped, and all-too-often, killed by their abusers. If we as a nation are to ever realize zero tolerance of domestic violence, we must ensure that people in positions of power lead by example, now and always.”