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Jennifer Willoughby (The Washington Post/YouTube)

‘Why I stayed’

Ex-wife of disgraced former White House staff secretary shares her story of domestic abuse

By WITW Staff on February 8, 2018

White House staff secretary Rob Porter resigned on Wednesday after the publication of allegations from two of his ex-wives that he had been physically and emotionally abusive toward them. Senior aides to President Donald Trump, including Chief of Staff John Kelly, had reportedly known about the allegations for months after learning that the FBI had declined to give Porter a security clearance.

In a journal entry on her website dated April 24, 2017 — and titled, “Why I Stayed” — writer Jennifer Willoughby wrote that the first time Porter “called me a ‘fucking bitch’ was on our honeymoon.” Years later, Willoughby added, she discovered that “he had kicked his first wife on thiers.” Willoughby also revealed that it was just a month into their marriage when he first “physically prevented me from leaving the house.” Within another two months, she wrote, she filed a protective order against him because he had “punched in the glass on our front door while I was locked inside.”

In an interview with The Washington Post, Willoughby said she had known “the verbal and emotional abuse that I was enduring was not ‘normal,’” but that she hadn’t put herself “in the category of someone whose husband laid hands on her” until just after their one-year anniversary, when her husband physically dragged her out of the shower after a verbal fight.

“Rob wasn’t finished fighting, I suppose,” she told The Post. “He came and grabbed me by the shoulders here and pulled me out of the shower in a rage … That was the first time that anger had gone beyond the words and the insults and the regular rage I had been accustomed to.”

“After the end of about three years of marriage I was a shell of a person,” she added. “A muted version of the person I had been when I met Rob.”

It wasn’t until 2017, after Porter was named to Trump’s White House administration, that Willoughby spoke with Porter’s first ex-wife, Colbie Holderness, who told her about the extensive physical abuse she had suffered in her first marriage. In a 2005 photo, Holderness can be seen with a black eye that Porter allegedly left her with after punching her in the face.

Porter has denied his ex-wives’ claims of abuse.

Watch Willoughby’s interview with The Washington Post below.

Read Willoughby’s account at, and read more on the story at CNN and The Washington Post.


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