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Why men like John Kelly do nothing when abuse allegations surface

Advocates who speak out against domestic violence debate the value of photos of bruises and strangulation marks on vi...

Posted: Feb 9, 2018 9:41 AM
Updated: Feb 9, 2018 9:41 AM

Advocates who speak out against domestic violence debate the value of photos of bruises and strangulation marks on victims of intimate partner abuse. Why do victims need proof? Shouldn't victims' words be believed? But it's hard to look away from the photo of Rob Porter's former wife released to the media, and the yellow-purple bruise that blackens her eye.

Her husband, now a former White House staff secretary, allegedly did that to her, in a hotel room in Italy, 15 years ago, under the most romantic of circumstances. Would you want to be this man's girlfriend, wife, or daughter? Would you hire him, or vote for him? Would you want him working in the West Wing of the White House, controlling all information leading to the commander in chief?

Of course, everyone's answer is no. And yet, despite two ex-wives with credible, consistent documentation that was shared with the FBI and at least some members of Trump's inner circle, Rob Porter was interviewed, hired and given elite political access into the top echelons of our government. Porter denied the allegations in a statement issued in the wake of his resignation.

Which explains why photographic evidence of abuse is necessary: it breaks through the powerful shield of denial. It's not an exclusive club, the ex-wives of abusive men. The National Domestic Violence Hotline estimates that one in three women are abused in their lifetimes. The challenge is how to break through the general public's ability to know about how common relationship violence is -- but still fail to take action about it.

Relationship abuse thrives when otherwise intelligent, powerful people ignore its warning signs. Visual proof is harder to ignore. In order to stop abusers, and to make powerful enablers like Chief of Staff John Kelly the exception, and not the norm, we all have to better understand how domestic violence unfolds, and the cost we all pay for it.

First comes the fairytale. Victims fall in love with the charming side of the abuser, a public persona. This potentially explains why John Kelly and White House senior aides who knew of the allegations -- not to mention Hope Hicks, who has been dating Porter -- all apparently worked willingly and peacefully with Rob Porter. White House press secretary Sarah Sanders defended Porter as "someone of the highest integrity and exemplary character." At work, perhaps Porter was.

But how a person treats his family members, the loved ones who are closest and most vulnerable to him, is the true test of character. The testimony and experiences of these intimates should never be ignored, especially because we know that men who abuse their wives and partners sometimes turn their rage outward: the Boston Marathon bomber, the Pulse nightclub shooter, and the Sutherland Springs shooter all had histories of relationship violence.

Abusers look like the rest of us, because they are the rest of us. Abuse happens in all religions, all countries, all neighborhoods -- at all income and education levels. Rob Porter graduated from Harvard one year ahead of Trump's son-on-law Jared Kushner. He's a Rhodes scholar. A lawyer. Exactly the type of person most people would consider "a good guy."

But abusive tendencies are triggered by the mix of isolation and intimacy that come with a sustained and intimate relationship. The next step of abuse is isolation, followed by the threat of violence, actual violence, profuse apology, and repeat. These are the sides of an abuser that only his (or her, because women are abusers, too) most loved ones see. The side ex-wives Colbie Holderness and Jennifer Willoughby tried to warn the Trump administration about. The side that Hope Hicks should be very, very worried about.

The lesson of the powerful #MeToo movement is that women's voices become amplified when we join together and corroborate each other's stories of violence and harassment. In essence, we become impossible to ignore.

The Daily Mail was able to break the Rob Porter story with confidence because his two ex-wives shared their stories honestly in FBI interviews that were part of their ex-husband's vetting for the staff secretary job in the Trump White House.

Despite Porter's resignation, the most troubling question remains: Why does it take so many women coming forward, and so much time passing, for people to believe us?

Victims need to speak out, to break the silence about relationship violence. But it's equally important that people in positions of power listen to us, and take action to ensure that there are no more victims.

Minnesota Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Confirmed Cases: 132122

Reported Deaths: 2381
CountyConfirmedDeaths
Hennepin33719984
Ramsey13909358
Dakota9686137
Anoka8552150
Washington583071
Stearns574343
Scott334834
Olmsted323230
St. Louis291267
Wright243214
Clay228043
Nobles225716
Blue Earth20367
Carver17677
Sherburne166521
Kandiyohi16585
Rice16289
Mower150815
Winona124319
Crow Wing99021
Chisago9812
Lyon9596
Waseca9279
Benton9238
Beltrami8767
Otter Tail8517
Todd7865
Steele7563
Itasca71917
Nicollet71817
Morrison7129
Douglas6723
Freeborn6664
Le Sueur6205
Polk6184
Martin61117
McLeod5884
Watonwan5784
Goodhue57311
Becker5513
Pine5310
Isanti5275
Chippewa4293
Carlton4231
Mille Lacs40115
Dodge3920
Hubbard3792
Wabasha3700
Cass3665
Pipestone34517
Meeker3253
Rock3244
Brown3203
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Cottonwood2760
Murray2753
Redwood27111
Roseau2590
Fillmore2570
Renville25011
Sibley2493
Faribault2280
Wadena2243
Jackson2081
Kanabec20510
Swift2011
Unassigned20153
Houston1971
Pennington1851
Lincoln1820
Stevens1811
Aitkin1772
Koochiching1674
Pope1550
Big Stone1360
Wilkin1334
Lac qui Parle1323
Lake1180
Norman1140
Mahnomen1102
Marshall1101
Clearwater1050
Grant964
Red Lake772
Traverse550
Lake of the Woods441
Kittson380
Cook130

Iowa Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Confirmed Cases: 114201

Reported Deaths: 1620
CountyConfirmedDeaths
Polk18758288
Woodbury712294
Johnson580330
Black Hawk551098
Linn5420129
Dubuque510957
Scott444638
Story397318
Dallas342044
Pottawattamie320444
Sioux239616
Buena Vista224512
Marshall199536
Webster182415
Plymouth163527
Wapello150762
Clinton145726
Muscatine142058
Cerro Gordo135425
Des Moines135410
Crawford135214
Warren12147
Carroll111412
Jasper108134
Henry10465
Marion98310
Lee94310
Tama93737
Delaware76212
Dickinson7257
Wright7161
Boone7119
Mahaska67824
Bremer6619
Washington65011
Harrison64611
Jackson5963
Benton5692
Lyon5427
Clay5244
Louisa51715
Winnebago47419
Hardin4697
Hamilton4664
Winneshiek4669
Kossuth4600
Poweshiek45411
Cedar4445
Buchanan4434
Jones4344
Floyd43011
Emmet42317
Clayton4073
Iowa3968
Cherokee3922
Page3890
Sac3894
Mills3871
Guthrie38415
Franklin38018
Cass3783
Fayette3684
Shelby3671
Butler3662
Allamakee3608
Madison3563
Chickasaw3461
Clarke3453
Humboldt3203
Hancock3124
Palo Alto3092
Grundy3035
Calhoun3004
Osceola2721
Mitchell2670
Howard2669
Monroe25811
Monona2411
Jefferson2341
Taylor2312
Union2294
Appanoose2233
Pocahontas2212
Lucas1996
Fremont1971
Ida1882
Greene1840
Van Buren1722
Davis1704
Montgomery1687
Keokuk1601
Adair1551
Decatur1490
Worth1420
Audubon1411
Wayne1173
Ringgold882
Adams790
Unassigned140
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