A Response to the Rob Porter News Story


White House staff secretary Rob Porter announced this week he would resign his post.  Porter’s two ex-wives, Holderness and Willoughby, came forward sharing their experiences of abuse and violence by Porter. The abuse included: emotional, verbal and physical abuse, and Willoughby had to seek a protective order against him after the abuse.

Let’s focus on two vital & important quotes released from the ex-wives this week helping us gain more insights to understanding domestic violence.

1. Violence will almost always increase in severity over time.

Holderness told new media, “He graduated to choking me, not ever hard enough to make me pass out, or frankly to leave marks, but it was frightening and dehumanizing.” Referring to the time she says he punched her and gave her a black eye, she said, “Up until then, he had always done it in a way that didn’t leave marks.”

Violence in relationships has been proven to increase over time.  When working with anyone who describes an abusive experience, you must recognize that their potential risk is always moving to a higher risk over time.  If they describe a shove or a push this time – well, what about next time?  

There is a continuum of family violence:


Victims of abuse often minimize the danger and damage to them for many reasons. One is the shame that they feel, and the belief that they somehow let this happen to them. If only I hadn’t done….then the abuse wouldn’t have happened.  Victims are victims and it is not their fault they are being abused by another person. 

Why does that person abuse?  This is the right question we should be asking ourselves and challenging our communities, how do we stop this from happening?

Often victims who have struggled with years of emotional and verbal abuse will consider suicide, which is a common pattern when you view the continuum of family violence. 

When physical abuse begins, if it reaches the threshold of strangling, this is quite serious.  Most victims will say that "he tried to choke me."  Choking is an object lodged in the throat. Strangling is the act of shutting off someone’s air to cause damage or death.  It is a very sobering moment when you think of the word choice of choking vs strangling.

2. Abusive people are very likely to be charming, fun, well liked in their community, and yet have an evil side or persona that is only shown to an intimate partner.

Willoughby told news media, “My experience of our entire marriage was being with a man who could be both charming and romantic and fun — and even thoughtful and kind; and horribly angry and manipulative." It was the duality of both of those things existing at the same time and not necessarily knowing what in his life would trigger the anger.

Abuse is about power and control. Domestic violence is a pattern of behavior using power and control over another person through fear, force or manipulation.  Abusers use this power and control over their intimate partners and their behavior with them is quite different than with any other person.

Often we are asked, “Don’t abusers have anger issues?” It is much more than just anger, in a person with anger or rage issues they exhibit these behaviors and out of control outbursts in many areas in their life: at work, in traffic and at home.  With people who are abusive, they only exhibit these behaviors with the person they use tactics of power and control to get what they want, when they want.  An abusive person who is very dangerous in the home, may never show these signs at work, at church or in their community.  It is very common for abusers to be charismatic, well-liked, the life of the party, and in positions of (you named it) power and control.  The most three common professions for individuals who have been convicted of abuse and required to take the Batters Intervention and Prevention Program (BIPP) were doctors, lawyers and pastors. 

Victims of abuse live in fear for the next outburst, or the next verbal assault of machine gun words. Over time the victim will live in a hyper vigilant state focusing all their energy on keeping their abuser happy so they do not have cause to explode, get angry or get upset.  The problem with this belief is that the victim doesn’t have control to make the abuse start or stop.  It is the reaction of the abusive person that is to blame. 

Click to download PDF.

Click to download PDF.

Red Flags of An Abusive Person

  • Threaten to hurt pets, children or heirlooms
  • Threaten to harm you or self to make you comply
  • Play mind games, trick you make fun of you
  • Humiliate or punish you
  • Yells, screams, growls
  • Pushes, pulls, slaps, shoves, bites, kicks, blocks, pins down
  • Punches doors, walls, breaks, smashes objects
  • Takes away money, access to a phone, makes all the decisions, forces you to be isolated

Complete our 15-question evaluation, Are You Being Abused, to find out if you are in an abusive relationship.



Rick Jones