Tuesday, June 19 , 2018, 6:05 pm | Fair 71º

 
 
 
 

Jamie Stiehm: ‘Domestic’ Violence Is Still Violence, as Rob Porter Case Shows

Let’s not call it “domestic” violence anymore. Or, as police say, “a domestic” when they’ve been to the house before. It sounds second-class and female.

High time to take the “domestic” out of domestic violence. Violence is violence.

A Rhodes Scholar and a Harvard man, Rob Porter, the departed and disgraced White House staff secretary, shattered society’s glass illusions about this very private topic.

We need to know this harm happens often, on both sides of the tracks. It’s a raging, hidden epidemic that does lasting damage. It tears families apart, though they seem together.

Unlike other violent crimes, there’s no sense that once the incident is over the healing can begin. The dread of repetition, even of escalation, stays firmly rooted. Home is not a safe place. It’s the loneliest life, keeping secrets out of shame. This is not supposed to happen to you. Believe me.

Running deep in families, violence behind closed doors can be lethal. Yet “domestic violence” is the only kind of violence that comes categorized in two words in plain English. I wonder why. Almost always, the victim is a woman and the doer is a man.

It’s the oldest crime in the book, the subject of tired jokes in our culture. Misogyny is a factor, but not a word found in police reports. Justice is a long time coming.

Fortunately, a major FBI investigation sheds light. We know Porter’s two ex-wives feared his anger. One got an emergency restraining order. Colbie Holderness and Jennifer Willoughby were questioned by the FBI, the way relatives and friends are always checked out for a full security clearance. The bureau found their stories of serious violence credible, accounts backed up by photos that tell no lie.

Then the two women dared to give their names and faces to the wider world, the news media and the public. We are indebted to them for courageously telling their truths.

They broke social silences, which is the core of the #MeToo movement. That’s how progress moves forward, painfully. Women’s voices must be heard in the public square as the path to empowerment and first-class status.

In fact, coming out into the open heals more scars than one’s own. The ex-wives and an ex-girlfriend of Porter’s compared notes and found stunningly similar tales of abuse. They were not alone. That helps.

So, patterns of hurting women are embedded in the abuser’s psyche and history. Yet a charmer like Porter, who passes for Ned Nickerson, can always get another girlfriend. Next was Hope Hicks, 29, director of communications in the White House, who tried to shield him from the blow of leaving his post.

On the job, Porter, 40, presented a polished face and gave President Donald Trump’s White House a touch of class. Chief of staff John Kelly thought Porter was a cut above the motley crew: full of “integrity and honor.” The comment came after Kelly learned of Porter’s troubled background, according to the FBI timetable, sworn under oath.

From the FBI timeline, Kelly apparently shrugged off Porter’s failure to get a full security clearance as just a “domestic” problem. The scowling Kelly was an old-school Marine general, not in a good way. The Marine Corps is the most ruggedly masculine of all armed services.

At home, a new side of Porter surfaced, his first wife wrote in The Washington Post. The college boyfriend she fell in love with and her young husband were like different people, Holderness said. A compulsion to control, mixed with blazing anger, created cruel scenes of force. It started on their honeymoon. As time went by, she said, he choked her. (Thank you, Daily Mail, for breaking this.)

One look at the bruised eyes and faces of Porter’s ex-wives shows there’s nothing soft, tame or second-class about what they suffered.

Keep in mind that a camera can’t capture the psychological effects. Holderness, a Wellesley graduate, said that when she left Porter, her self-confidence was “destroyed.”

Here we have a chance for simple truths to spark a larger conversation in the public square, that violence is violence. It’s not just “domestic.”

Jamie Stiehm writes about politics, culture and history as a weekly Creators Syndicate columnist and regular contributor to U.S. News & World Report. Follow her on Twitter: @jamiestiehm. Click here to read previous columns. The opinions expressed are her own.

Support Noozhawk Today

You are an important ally in our mission to deliver clear, objective, high-quality professional news reporting for Santa Barbara, Goleta and the rest of Santa Barbara County. Join the Hawks Club today to help keep Noozhawk soaring.

We offer four membership levels: $5 a month, $10 a month, $25 a month or $1 a week. Payments can be made through PayPal below, or click here for information on recurring credit-card payments.

Thank you for your vital support.

Become a Noozhawk Supporter

First name
Last name
Enter your email
Select your membership level
×

Payment Information

You are purchasing:

Payment Method

Pay by Credit Card:

Mastercard, Visa, American Express, Discover

Pay with Apple Pay or Google Pay:

Noozhawk partners with Stripe to provide secure invoicing and payments processing.

  • Ask
  • Vote
  • Investigate
  • Answer

Noozhawk Asks: What’s Your Question?

Welcome to Noozhawk Asks, a new feature in which you ask the questions, you help decide what Noozhawk investigates, and you work with us to find the answers.

Here’s how it works: You share your questions with us in the nearby box. In some cases, we may work with you to find the answers. In others, we may ask you to vote on your top choices to help us narrow the scope. And we’ll be regularly asking you for your feedback on a specific issue or topic.

We also expect to work together with the reader who asked the winning questions to find the answer together. Noozhawk’s objective is to come at questions from a place of curiosity and openness, and we believe a transparent collaboration is the key to achieve it.

The results of our investigation will be published here in this Noozhawk Asks section. Once or twice a month, we plan to do a review of what was asked and answered.

Thanks for asking!

Click Here to Get Started >

Reader Comments

Noozhawk is no longer accepting reader comments on our articles. Click here for the announcement. Readers are instead invited to submit letters to the editor by emailing them to [email protected]. Please provide your full name and community, as well as contact information for verification purposes only.

Daily Noozhawk

Subscribe to Noozhawk's A.M. Report, our free e-Bulletin sent out every day at 4:15 a.m. with Noozhawk's top stories, hand-picked by the editors.

Sign Up Now >