Abuse in all its awful forms is inexcusable and unacceptable. Physical, emotional and sexual abuse of any kind must not be defended, normalized or swept under the rug. The victims’ voices must be heard, their warning cries must be heeded and their often-broken hearts and lives must be healed.
The nation has been rocked by credible reports of a politically powerful man being accused of abuse. White House staff secretary Rob Porter, while denying allegations of physical, verbal and mental abuse by two former wives, hastily resigned this week amid the controversy.
The media can play an important role in ensuring facts are revealed in this and other similar circumstances. Honest reporting over sensationalized stories is paramount.
Justifying behavior because someone is talented, useful or aligned politically is wrong. Weaponizing a victim’s tragedy to inflict maximum personal damage on a political foe is also wrong. Both approaches cause more suffering for victims and harm to the innocent and create confusion rather than clarity for the public.
The country must get comfortable having uncomfortable conversations on a host of issues from domestic abuse to opioid addiction so real change can be made.
Sadly, what Americans have become comfortable with is not having the right conversation. Sensational distractions, including panels of party loyalists defending their own while being doggedly determined to drag the other side through the mud with them, are not helpful. Sweeping generalizations, outrage (feigned and real), finger-pointing and fundraising emails are not furthering the conversation or aiding the victims. None of this adds to the conversation the country should be having.
Hard questions must be asked, including why abuse is happening in the first place.
As Deseret News reporter Lois Collins wrote in August: “The National Coalition Against Domestic Violence says on average 20 people are abused by an intimate partner in America every minute — about 10 million women and men a year. One-third of women and one-fourth of men experience some form of physical violence by a partner within their lifetime. On a typical day, there are more than 20,000 phone calls placed to domestic violence hotlines nationwide.”
What causes men or women to become angry? What causes them to be abusive? Has a loss of common principles led to a loss of moral foundation? If our anything-goes society is changing the rules on restraint, does that carry into personal relationships, where a hookup culture changes what is valued?
Rightly, there are questions to be asked in the Porter case about the actions of the White House. But missing in the wall-to-wall coverage is a discussion of these other principled questions. Focusing on the behavior alone without also connecting the dots to the underlying principles of morality, decency and fidelity only ensures the floodwaters of abuse and misconduct will rise again. It is time for a different conversation about abuse.