Utah has a culture of sexual violence, and Orrin Hatch just reinforced it

Thursday , February 08, 2018 - 4:30 AM8 comments

STANDARD-EXAMINER EDITORIAL BOARD

Sen. Orrin Hatch represents 1.3 million Utah women.

One in three of those women will be raped or sexually assaulted during her lifetime, according to the Utah Health Department.

  • RELATED: “When we witness domestic violence, we have an obligation to at least call 911”

Before he leaves office this year, after seven terms in the Senate, perhaps Hatch can personally apologize to every woman in the state. Maybe he can make it part of his farewell tour.

Because he just perpetuated Utah’s culture of sexual violence.

Rob Porter announced Wednesday he’s stepping down as senior aide to President Donald Trump. But he isn’t quitting to pursue other opportunities. Nor is he leaving the White House to spend more time with his family.

He’s resigning because his two ex-wives accused him of physical and emotional abuse.

  • RELATED: “Senior White House official resigns after ex-wives' allegations of abuse”

Colbie Holderness, his first wife, said Porter physically abused her throughout their marriage. She accused him of punching her in the face in 2005, providing a photograph of her black eye as evidence.

Holderness demanded that Porter take a photo of her bruised face as proof of the attack.

"He threw me down and punched me in the face," she told The Washington Post. "He was trying to make it up to me and I said I wanted evidence if this should happen again."

Porter and his second wife, Jennie Willoughby, reached a separation agreement. But in June 2010, after he broke a window and refused to leave her Arlington, Virginia, residence, Willoughby went to court and received a temporary emergency protective order.

The Washington Post obtained a copy of the order, which stated that "reasonable grounds exist to believe that [Porter] has committed family abuse and there is probable danger of a further such offense."

Holderness and Willoughby both said they told FBI about Porter’s violent behavior. John Kelly, the White House chief of staff, hired Porter anyway.

Porter denied the accusations, published Tuesday by the Daily Mail, and the White House rushed to his defense.

"Rob Porter is a man of true integrity and honor and I can't say enough good things about him," Kelly said Tuesday night. "He is a friend, a confidante and a trusted professional. I am proud to serve alongside him."

But defending his aide’s character wasn’t enough; this being Trump’s White House, the president also needed to undercut the credibility of Porter’s accusers. For that he turned to Porter’s old boss, Hatch.

Porter served as Hatch’s chief of staff from March 2014 to January 2017.

"It's incredibly discouraging to see such a vile attack on such a decent man," Hatch said in a Tuesday statement.

He called the allegations by Holderness and Willoughby a “cynical campaign” to discredit Porter’s character.

Then, after he saw the photos of Holderness’s black eye, Hatch issued a second statement.

"I am heartbroken by today's allegations,” Hatch said Wednesday. “In every interaction I've had with Rob, he has been courteous, professional, and respectful. My staff loved him and he was a trusted advisor. I do not know the details of Rob's personal life. Domestic violence in any form is abhorrent. I am praying for Rob and those involved."

There, Senator. That’s what you should’ve said Tuesday.

Instead, in your initial statement, you contributed to the dangerous belief — prevalent in Utah for generations — that a woman who reports physical, emotional or sexual abuse is not to be taken seriously.

Without knowing the facts, you instinctively called Willoughby and Holderness liars.

How do you suppose that affects a woman who’s been sexually assaulted in Ogden? How do you think it affects a teenage girl who’s been beaten by her boyfriend in Provo?

Essentially, you’ve just told them they cannot be believed. Which is what Utah sexual assault victims hear all the time.

You’ve done more damage than you realize, Senator.

In a state where one in three women will be raped or assaulted, you’ve just perpetuated a culture of sexual violence.

And all in defense of a White House aide.

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