Despite Trump’s praise of Rob Porter, domestic violence remains a deadly threat

The National Domestic Violence Hotline has received 4 million calls, texts, and chats in the last 20 years.

The emerging facts and photos about former White House staff secretary Rob Porter spell out a dark truth about the prevalence of domestic abuse.

It happens no matter how “strong” women are. White House senior adviser Kellyanne Conway foolishly argued in a CNN interview that White House communications director Hope Hicks, who is dating Porter, was “immune” to such abuse because she was a “strong woman.”

Earth to Kellyanne: The perpetrator can be a Harvard graduate and a Rhodes Scholar, like Porter, or a high school dropout. He can work at the White House or be unemployed. He can be a Mormon or not take part in any religion at all. As Porter’s first ex-wife, Colbie Holderness, the one with the black eye in the photos, wrote in an op-ed in The Washington Post:

Abuse comes in many forms. It is visited on the poor and the rich, the least educated and the most, people with a strong and deep network of friends and family and those without a support structure. And an abusive nature is certainly not something most colleagues are able to spot in a professional setting, especially if they are blinded by a stellar résumé and background.

Domestic violence is an equal-opportunity evil. It transcends race, economic status, income level, education level, religion, political party, sexual orientation, and ethnic background.

Of course, in the case of this White House, it wasn’t just one case. Speechwriter David Sorensen also resigned amid allegations of domestic abuse. Instead of having a black eye like Colbie Holderness, Sorensen’s ex-wife, Jessica Corbett, alleged that Sorenson ran a car over her foot and put out a cigarette on her hand.

Rob Porter was one of more than 100 White House staffers with only an interim rather than a permanent security clearance (a scandal all by itself) as late as last November. White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders keeps telling ever-changing stories on why that’s so. When she’s not spouting that nonsense, she’s making laughable claims that “we’ve condemned domestic violence in every way possible.” Sanders touted the fact that the budget proposed by Donald Trump “fully funds” the Violence Against Women Act.

As if there should ever be any question about that funding. But in the age of President Grab-’em-by-the-pussy, nothing is sure.

Here are some quick facts about domestic violence:

  • The United Nations reports that worldwide, 35 percent of women have experienced physical and/or sexual intimate partner violence or non-partner sexual violence.
  • Every day, an average of three or more women in the U.S. are murdered by husbands or boyfriends, says a report from the American Psychological Association.
  • Also from the APA: One in five female high school students reports being physically and/or sexually abused by a dating partner. More than one in three women and more than one in four men in the U.S. have experienced rape, physical violence, and/or stalking by an intimate partner in their lifetime.
  • The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports that every year, some 10 million women and men are victims of violence by their intimate partners.
  • In 2016, the National Domestic Violence Hotline (and loveisrespect, the hotline’s partner project for teens) answered nearly 325,000 calls, texts, and chats. The hotline (1-800-799-SAFE, or 7233) is open 24/7. Together, both programs have responded to a total of 4 million communications over the last 20 years.

Those are some pretty big numbers and impressive statistics. But apparently they aren’t big enough for Donald Trump.

Just like he did with the neo-Nazis marching in Charlottesville, Virginia (some “very fine people”), Trump refused to condemn Porter. Likely because of his own checkered history with women and the charges from 22 women about his own sexual misconduct, Trump always falls back on the “he denied it”  and “he says he’s innocent” lines, refusing to acknowledge the obvious. He praised Porter’s work (“We wish him well. It’s obviously been a tough time for him”) without a word about how tough it’s been for the two wives and girlfriend who were abused.

Comedian and satirist Randy Rainbow has some ideas why.

Trump was finally forced to grudgingly admit that he was “totally opposed” to domestic violence.

“I’m totally opposed to domestic violence of any kind. Everyone knows that. And it almost wouldn’t even have to be said. So, now you hear it, but you all know.”

We all know? Actually, we don’t know, because Trump tends to excuse men accused of sexual assault, sexual harassment, domestic violence, and trolling for teenage girls in shopping malls. Why acknowledge the harm done to women when there are so many great, stand-up guys to praise?

The Violence Against Women Act was passed in 1994, a law that former Vice President Joe Biden always claims as one of his proudest accomplishments. It established the Office on Violence Against Women as part of the Department of Justice. Congress has reauthorized the law three times, although there have been fights over funding and pushback by Republicans over whether the law should apply to same-sex partnerships. (It does.) It also has been expanded to cover Native American women and undocumented immigrants, although since Trump took office, there have been numerous reports that many of those women now fear deportation if they report a partner and thus are making fewer calls.

Here’s what that office’s website has to say about domestic violence:

Domestic violence can happen to anyone regardless of race, age, sexual orientation, religion, or gender. Domestic violence affects people of all socioeconomic backgrounds and education levels. Domestic violence occurs in both opposite-sex and same-sex relationships and can happen to intimate partners who are married, living together, or dating.

Domestic violence not only affects those who are abused, but also has a substantial effect on family members, friends, co-workers, other witnesses, and the community at large. Children, who grow up witnessing domestic violence, are among those seriously affected by this crime. Frequent exposure to violence in the home not only predisposes children to numerous social and physical problems, but also teaches them that violence is a normal way of life — therefore, increasing their risk of becoming society’s next generation of victims and abusers.

Yet Trump, the guy “totally against domestic violence,” hasn’t even nominated anyone to head the Office of Violence Against Women.

Actually, the most chilling facts about domestic abusers are these: More than one-half of all mass shootings in the United States are related to domestic or family violence. And nine of the perpetrators of the top 10 most deadly mass shootings in modern America committed violence against women, threatened violence against women, or disparaged women. Those with a history of domestic abuse are supposed by be barred from buying guns. But the quick-check doesn’t affect the guns already owned or those obtained in states with lax gun laws.

If all of this is not enough to take domestic abuse — not to mention the issue of gun safety — seriously, I don’t know what is. And in case there was any doubt: Nikolas Cruz, the 19-year-old accused of killing 17 people at a Florida high school, reportedly had a history of abusing an ex-girlfriend, fighting with the ex-girlfriend’s new boyfriend, and stalking and threatening other girls at school.

Originally posted on Daily Kos on Feb. 18, 2018.

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