When Jennie Willoughby first met her ex-husband, former staff secretary at the White House Robert Porter, she said he was “charming, chivalrous and romantic”.
She had no idea of the anger that he was hiding inside, she only knew the successful, impressive public face he put forward. Willoughby, 39, would eventually be allegedly abused by him. She learned later that Porter’s first wife, Colbie Holderness, 37, was also an alleged victim of physical and emotional abuse at the hands of the man they both, at one time, loved.
Since the allegations against Porter, 40, were made public last Wednesday, the senior White House staffer has announced his resignation while denying the accusations. And his immediate superior, Chief of Staff John Kelly, who answers to the president, says he’s willing to resign, also.
It’s unclear how much Kelly, or President Donald Trump, knew of Porter’s past. To appoint Porter his (pending) security clearance, vetting should have uncovered the protective order filed by one of his ex-wives against him and – one would think – given the White House reason to pause.
Both the president and chief of staff were quick to defend Porter’s character and professionalism after the allegations were published in Daily Mail last week. And on Sunday evening, after yet another staffer – this time a speech writer – resigned amid domestic violence allegations, the president tweeted:
“People’s lives are being shattered and destroyed by a mere allegation. Some are true and some are false. Some are old and some are new. There is no recovery for someone falsely accused – life and career are gone. Is there no such thing any longer as Due Process?”
LISTEN: Mia Freedman and Amelia Lester discuss the mistake Hillary made by not firing a staffer accused of sexual assault. Post continues after.
Now, in an open letter for Time, Willoughby says it doesn’t matter to her that the president is calling her a liar.
She’s speaking out to help other women realise what domestic violence looks like and how it can escalate from “charming chivalry” to a “low-grade constant terror of not knowing what I might do to set things off,” as she told CNN.
Willoughby and Porter were married in 2009 and she said the verbal abuse started soon after. She filed a temporary protective order in June 2010 when Porter allegedly punched a hole through the glass door of the apartment she was living in after she’d asked him to leave.
“Up until that moment I didn’t realise I was in an abusive marriage,” the writer and public speaker told CNN.
Speaking to Daily Mail, Willoughby said the pair “bought a house to make up for it”.
“He offered to get help and even went to a few counselling sessions and therapy groups. And so I stayed,” she said. “He belittled my intelligence and destroyed my confidence. And so I stayed. I felt ashamed and trapped. And so I stayed. Friends and clergy didn’t believe me. And so I stayed.”