#MeToo. #TimesUp. The campaign has swept through the nation. It’s in the press, it’s on social media, it’s printed on t-shirts and written on signs. The campaign echoes the demands of thousands of people who are coming together for change. But little does it matter if the most powerful people in our country can not ingrain it in their minds and their hearts. Little does it matter if the most powerful people in our country do not respect or value this campaign and what it stands for.
On Feb. 6, 2018, the Daily Mail released allegations about the abusive actions of Rob Porter, a high level White House political aid who worked closely with President Donald Trump. The women who accused Porter were his ex-wives, Colbie Holderness (married 2003-2008) and Jennifer Willoughby (married 2009-2013) , both of whom stated that Porter’s abusive actions led to their divorce. The press also released information of a third woman who previously dated Porter. The anonymous woman, who also works in the federal government, contacted Holderness and Willoughby in 2016 asking if they had endured the same abuse she had.
On Feb. 7, after his ex-wives spoke out about his abusive actions to the Daily Mail, Rob Porter resigned, still denying all the allegations. Just a few days later, on Feb. 9, Trump expressed his support for Porter in an interview as well as on his Twitter account.
He said: “… We wish him well… It’s obviously a tough time for him. He did a very good job when he was in the White House, and we hope he has a wonderful career…Now he also — as you probably know, he says he’s innocent, and I think you have to remember that…”
To further illustrate his perspective on this issue, Trump tweeted, “People’s lives are being shattered and destroyed by a mere allegation. Some are true and some are false. Some are old and some are new. There is no recovery for someone falsely accused – life and career are gone. Is there no such thing any longer as Due Process?”
Peoples lives are being shattered and destroyed by a mere allegation. Some are true and some are false. Some are old and some are new. There is no recovery for someone falsely accused – life and career are gone. Is there no such thing any longer as Due Process?
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) February 10, 2018
And with just one tweet and one quote, Trump has once again belittled millions of women and their struggles.
Two women have openly come out about their experiences with abuse. Holderness shared a personal photo of her swollen and bruised eye, explaining that she came out of her relationship with Porter “depressed,” “unable to complete work” and with a destroyed feeling of self confidence and self worth. Willoughby explained that Porter called her crude names, “belittled her intelligence, and destroyed [her] confidence” through “personal” threats and “terror.”
Despite knowing all of this, President Trump still did not say a word about what these women’s experienced. Rather, Trump justified Porter’s actions by his “very good” performance at the White House. He implied that the women’s accounts, complete with hard evidence in the form of pictures and restraining orders, were just “mere allegations” that ruined Porter’s life and career.
These women suffered through years of abuse and will carry mental and emotional scars for the rest of their life. They have been forced to review and recount traumatic experiences regarding some of their most personal matters to the world. Their every step and every move is criticized and ridiculed by people they don’t even know. But it was Porter’s life that was ruined?
It takes a great deal of courage to share traumatic experiences like what these women went through, especially to such a wide audience. By tweeting that people are being “falsely accused” and emphasizing that Porter defends his innocence, Trump is essentially calling Holderness and WIlloughby liars, and therefore trivializing the pain they endured. He is trivializing the cause and movement that thousands of people worldwide are fighting for.
Millions of people respect President Trump and his staff. They represent our country. They have the ability to shape our society.
If the most influential and powerful people in the world will not listen and empathize with women’s struggles, then who will? If the most influential and powerful people in the world will not listen and empathize with women’s struggles, then who will?
I understand that our country’s justice system is built off the idea of “innocent until proven guilty”, and no one’s career should be terminated without concrete proof. However, Porter has been accused by multiple women on multiple occasions and has a history with abuse. Still, Holderness and Willoughby are scrutinized.
Women should not have to justify their pain and the validity of their claims about abuse. They should not be questioned and doubted. Rather, they should be supported. They should be shown that their pain matters. They should know that their violators will be punished, and Trump has failed to do all of the latter.These women suffered through years of abuse and will carry mental and emotional scars for the rest of their life. They have been forced to review and recount traumatic experiences regarding some of their most personal matters to the world. Their every step and every move is criticized and ridiculed by people they don’t even know. But it was Porter’s life that was ruined?
In his interview, Trump stated that Porter was “obviously going through a tough time.” At the same time, he did not once express sympathy for the two women who have been abused, or even claim that he understands their side of the story. In fact, he completely disregards the women’s right to justice and safety by failing to address Porter’s wrongdoings.
According to a CNN article, even prior to the public allegations, the White House knew about Porter’s history with abuse, and therefore only granted him interim security clearance. Both Holderness and Willoughby had reported Porter’s abuse to the FBI. Both women were interviewed by the FBI and were honest about the violence in their marriages. Willoughby had even filed a protective order against Porter in 2010.
Still, Porter handled serious and confidential information. He helped write the president’s State of the Union speech. He traveled on Trump’s Air Force One. He handled sensitive documents. He was even up for multiple promotions.
Porter’s success speaks to our society’s standpoint on domestic violence on a much larger scale. We are not serious about abuse. If we were, someone reported multiple times would never have been able to hold so much power.
We can make social media campaigns to call for change. We can write about it and speak about it and complain about it. But until the people in power, like Donald Trump and his staff, genuinely feel like abuse is a serious and unforgivable offense, nothing will change. Until they genuinely understand and sympathize what women go through with abuse, nothing will change. Until they set the tone for the rest of the country by punishing violators, nothing will change.
So please, President Trump, listen to your country. Listen to the mothers, the daughters, the wives; take our struggles into account. We need you now, more than ever, to take action and be the face of change we want to see.