Colbie Holderness, the first wife of former White House staff secretary Rob Porter, spoke out in a Monday night Washington Post op-ed to criticize White House counselor Kellyanne Conway’s suggestion that Hope Hicks was too “strong” to become a victim of domestic abuse.
Holderness wrote that she was “dismayed” by Conway’s comments on CNN’s “State of the Union” on Sunday, where Conway said that she was not worried about White House Communications Director Hope Hicks, who was reportedly dating Porter, facing abuse because she is “strong” and has “excellent instincts.”
Holderness said that Conway’s “statement implies that those who have been in abusive relationships are not strong.”
“I beg to differ,” she wrote. “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. It’s often the subtler forms of abuse that inflict serious, persistent damage while making it hard for the victim to see the situation clearly.”
She argued that it took strength for her to leave her relationship with Porter and for her to tell others about her experience. She also charged that strength does not necessarily prevent someone from becoming a victim.
“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 came forward with her story last week and alleged that Porter punched her in 2005 while the two were on a trip in Italy. She provided pictures of herself with a black eye. Porter has denied the allegations and reportedly said that Holderness got the black eye when the two were arguing over a vase and the vase somehow hit Holderness.