Other Voices

White House abuse scandal raises awareness; help available in Tarrant County

Chief of Staff John Kelly has been criticized for his handling of abuse charges from the ex-wives of White House aide Rob Porter.
Chief of Staff John Kelly has been criticized for his handling of abuse charges from the ex-wives of White House aide Rob Porter. Washington Post

White House staff secretary Rob Porter recently resigned because of to allegations of domestic violence. Mr. Porter has been described by colleagues at the White House as “a man of true integrity and honor” and “someone of exemplary character.”

Porter has denied the abuse.

It can be hard for us to rationalize the person we know with the abuser known to an intimate partner. How do we believe victims of domestic violence while abusers seem to be the opposite when in the public eye?

First of all, we don’t want to believe that someone we know and love may have a very serious problem. Accepting the idea that violence is happening between a couple in our circle of friends, especially if we ourselves are in a healthy relationship, can be difficult.

It is also sad to think about women we value living in fear and being hurt physically. To deal with that reality, we would rather believe this doesn’t happen in our neighborhoods, churches, or offices. This certainly must be something that happens outside of ‘here,' wherever ‘here’ happens to be.

And finally, what brings insult to injury, is that domestic violence abusers can be very cunning, charming — charismatic, even. Domestic violence isn’t about drug abuse or alcohol, although those can be catalysts, they are not a cause. Domestic violence isn’t about anger management — abusers manage their anger with ease when around supervisors, pastors, or law enforcement. Domestic violence is about and is only about power and control. It is about one person’s need to have power over someone else, and exert that power through controlling the victim.

It is not surprising the White House staff characterized their colleague as “courteous, professional, and respectful.” It is very common that alleged abusers are described as such, which of course makes it even more challenging for victims to come forward and speak up. It took the a photograph of a former wife with a black eye for Rob Porter to resign. Again, he said he didn't do it. One of the best things we can do for victims of abuse is to believe them.

This is really a small piece of what makes domestic violence a complex and upsetting issue. Thankfully Tarrant County has one of the largest service providers in Texas right here at SafeHaven. And SafeHaven leads the charge with addressing domestic violence, including working relationships with the office of the criminal district attorney and the Tarrant County Family Justice Center.

If you or someone you know is in an abusive relationship and you’re not sure what the next steps are, please reach out. Calls are confidential. 877.701.7233.

Kathryn Jacob is the president and CEO of SafeHaven, a domestic violence service provider in Tarrant County.