Did The Mormon Church Ignore Rob Porter's Alleged Abuse?

According to the former wives of ex-White House staffer Rob Porter, the Mormon Church did nothing when they sought help for the domestic abuse they endured.

Former White House staffer Rob Porter is accused of physically and verbally abusing his two ex-wives, but it seems his actions may have been covered up by his church.

Porter is a follower of the Mormon faith, and his two ex-wives, Jennifer Willoughby and Colbie Holderness, have each detailed how Mormon bishops responded when they sought help.

“For years, I would go to Mormon bishops, and I would try to find the words to explain what was going on, but I was at a loss beyond the explanation that he got physical with me,” Holderness told the Daily Mail.

“It wasn’t until I went to a secular counselor at my work place one summer and told him what was going on that he was the first person, and not a male religious leader, who told me that what was happening was not OK.”

In a blog post last year, Willoughby recounted a very similar experience.

“When I tried to get help, I was counseled to consider carefully how what I said might affect his career,” she said.

She also told The Intercept that she had described Porter’s anger issues to a lay official in the Mormon church. She said the official told her to think about what she said publicly regarding Porter’s behavior.

“Keep in mind, Rob has career ambitions,” she recalled the official telling her.

By these two women’s accounts, it seems that the church leaders downplayed their experiences in an effort to convince them that nothing was wrong so that they would remain silent. It should also be noted that divorce is strongly discouraged and frowned upon in the Mormon community.

“When men and women marry, they make solemn covenants with each other and with God. Every effort should be made to keep these covenants and preserve marriage,” The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints website reads.

Despite all of this, Eric Hawkins — a spokesman for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints — insists that the church has “zero tolerance” for abuse, however, he did not directly address the stories of Porter’s exes.

“It is difficult to speak to specific circumstances without complete information from all involved, but the position of the church is clear: There is zero tolerance for abuse of any kind,” Hawkins said, according to The Salt Lake Tribune. “Church leaders are given instruction on how to prevent and report abuse and how to care for those who have been abused.”

Hawkins’ words should be taken with a grain of salt, considering that his job is to protect the reputation, integrity, and credibility of the church.

Furthermore, his generalized statement about the church’s policies doesn't take into account biases that likely affected the judgment of the religious leaders Holderness and Willoughby confided in.

These bishops obviously knew Porter personally and likely were more inclined to sympathize with him and dismiss the women’s claims because they didn’t seem to accurately describe the so-called good man they thought they knew.

“Since it is more likely that the bishop knows the husband (because they’ve been in church classes together, maybe even served together in callings), it is more likely that the bishop will sympathize with the male,” said Julie de Azevedo Hanks, a Salt Lake City therapist who is also a Mormon.

Regardless of the church's teachings about the preservation of marriage, these women deserved better. Their safety was disregarded for the sake of upholding religious values and protecting the reputation and career of an apparent monster.    

Thumbnail/Banner Credits: Reuters, Jonathan Ernst 

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