• to strive to achieve or attain something in the face of difficulty or resistance.
• have difficulty handling or coping with
• to engage in conflict
• a conflict or contest
• a determined effort under difficulties
• a very difficult task
I’ve been keeping up with the story of Rob Porter since it first broke, but I’m only now feeling capable of writing about it. Anger over so many of this administration’s decisions and choices hasn’t stolen my voice; it’s flooded my system with too many words making it that much harder to put them in order. In the past, I’ve been able to translate my anger into energy to fuel my writing on domestic violence and abuse and other issues, but recently it’s become frustratingly difficult to do that. It’s taken me 15 minutes just to find the right words to write this paragraph.
I can blame the PTSD I now suffer as a survivor of domestic violence and abuse (DVA), but I am tired of this excuse – I’m tired of this mental health disorder that drowns me with its overload of emotions and how it leaves me gasping and grasping for words. But then, what words could possibly describe the wrongness of ignoring/dismissing/overlooking/whatever-you-want-to-call-it the abusive history of a man like Rob Porter when filling a position of power in the White House?
In an op-ed piece for the Washington Post, Colbie Holderness, Porter’s first wife, writes, “Telling others about the abuse takes strength. Talking to family, friends, clergy, counselors and, later, the FBI, I would often find myself struggling to find the words to convey an adequate picture of the situation.” Conveying an adequate picture of a situation of abuse might seem like an easy task. One would think that if a woman simply told a person in authority that their husband/boyfriend/lover controlled them, verbally assaulted them, beat them, threatened them, terrorized them, gave them a black eye, and had photographic evidence it would be enough. Except, it usually isn’t.
See, this is what it boils down to for me: the realities of my capabilities, strengths, struggles, limitations, and the realities and who I am now, as a result of having been a victim of DVA, are rendered meaningless each and every time an abuser gets appointed, promoted, chosen, and/or defended. It’s as if the people in charge looked me straight in the eye and said: what happened to you doesn’t matter, you don’t matter, and we don’t care if you matter or not. It’s as if those same people then turned towards my abuser and said, what you did to her doesn’t matter because you matter way more than she does. It’s no longer about the horrors of the abuse I went through; it’s the horror of realizing how easy it is for others to dismiss the abusive and violent behavior of my abuser.
But, I do matter. Victims and survivors of abuse matter. What’s more, abusive, violent behavior also matters. It matters if a person - any person – is abusive towards another. Violent, abusive behavior draws a pretty clear picture of a person. So why is it such a struggle for people to hear and properly process these definitive words?
Finding the words, the right ones, that make something click in the hearts and minds of the hearer/reader; the ones that paint so vivid a picture that they are drawn into it; the ones that reach them, change them, and call them to action – finding those words – is a constant, exhausting struggle. Words have always been my weapon of choice for defending myself and others. Words form my story – a story others have tried to silence and I have fought to tell anyway. Words, specifically my word and the word of witnesses to my abuse, are the only evidence I have for the abusive situation I was in. Words have meaning, they have power, and they should matter.
My words should matter. The words of Colbie Holderness and Jennifer Willoughby’s (Porter’s other ex-wife/victim) should have mattered. Their words should have detonated metaphorical fireworks under the bottoms of anyone and everyone involved in Rob Porter working in the White House. Their words should have been red flags smacking so hard upside the heads of those in authority that people like Chief of Staff, John Kelly, should still be dizzy from the impact. Their words should have mattered the moment they struggled free from the lips of these two survivors. No, it’s not enough to say that at least someone in the FBI thought that their words were worth keeping Porter from getting security clearances. Holderness and Willoughby’s words were whispered to an administration with a proclivity towards selective hearing a year ago when they should have been as loud as sirens screaming, “WARNING! DANGER! RUN! CATASTROPHIC FAILURE IMMINENT!”
Yet here I am, struggling with words. I am struggling to find words that will finally open the ears of those who don’t want to hear. I am struggling with adequately describing the destructive nature of domestic violence and abuse. I am struggling with finding words that will give people sufficient knowledge to make educated, intelligent, and good decisions. I am struggling to find the right words to present a clear explanation as to how dangerous domestic abusers are and can be – not just to the people with whom they are in relationships, but to any and everyone around them. I am struggling to find the words that will convince those in authority that abusers are manipulators, have narcissistic tendencies, often look great on paper as well as in public, and should not be placed or allowed to remain in positions of power.
The struggle is real and, as Colbie Holderness reminded me, it’s not just my struggle; it’s the struggle of at least one in every three women worldwide. I, and other survivors like me, shouldn’t have to spend our time struggling to find the words to describe the abuse that happened to us.
To get help, learn more about domestic violence and abuse, or get involved visit the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence at ncadv.org
Click here to read more statistics on domestic violence and abuse.