Why Men Remain In High Power Positions Despite Claims Of Abuse

Feb 9, 2018
Originally published on February 9, 2018 11:12 pm
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ARI SHAPIRO, HOST:

The White House has offered a few different explanations for why staff secretary Rob Porter remained on the job even after senior aides learned that his ex-wives had accused him of abuse. One rationale is that he was good at his job. President Trump echoed that today and said he was sad to hear about Porter's history.

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PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: He said very strongly yesterday that he's innocent. So you'll have to talk to him about that. But we absolutely wish him well - did a very good job while he was at the White House.

SHAPIRO: Leslie Morgan Steiner writes about this in an op-ed in The Washington Post. Welcome to the program.

LESLIE MORGAN STEINER: Thanks for having me.

SHAPIRO: You talk about your own experience with somebody who was effective at a high-pressure job in public but abusive in private. Tell us about your ex-husband.

STEINER: My ex-husband was a clean-cut, handsome Wall Street trader who had just graduated from an Ivy League school. And for a very long time, he made me feel like the most beloved, special woman on earth. And I didn't know that underneath that charming facade there was a deep well of rage.

SHAPIRO: It's such a high-pressure environment. Your husband worked on Wall Street. Rob Porter worked in the White House. Why wouldn't that kind of a high-pressure workplace bring out the kind of behavior that you experienced in private and Rob Porter's ex-wives say they experienced in private?

STEINER: This is one of the complicated things about domestic violence that is really important for everybody to understand. And that is that abuse - abusive rage is triggered by intimacy and love. So that's why Rob Porter didn't display any of these tendencies on the job. It's also why Ray Rice, for instance, never, you know, hit his - any of his coaches or any of his NFL colleagues - because it is only triggered in the most intimate of circumstances. And that's what I found, too. I dated and, you know, spent a tremendous amount of time with my ex-husband before he even raised his voice to me.

SHAPIRO: In that case, do you blame his bosses, his ex-bosses, who defended Rob Porter before seeing the photographs for initially saying, this is not the guy we know?

STEINER: Yes, I do, actually, because victims should always be believed. People do not want to be domestic violence victims. And we don't lie about it. And another thing that this case shows is the power of credible, consistent evidence from victims. And there were two ex-wives in this case. They had been very forthcoming with the FBI and with other people about what had happened. And there's no excuse for not believing them and allowing somebody as psychologically unstable as Rob Porter to be in this position of power.

SHAPIRO: How do you balance the principle of victims should be believed with the principle of innocent until proven guilty?

STEINER: So this is so very tricky. And I'm not a lawyer. I don't know how to answer that. As a survivor myself and a domestic violence advocate, my bias is always to believe victims for - usually because they're not lying but also because data has shown that it's incredibly healing for a victim to be believed the first time that he or she confesses about abuse. So my bias as an advocate is that I want to help victims.

And I think that everybody in our country - because abuse is so widespread, it's really in our own best interest to understand how rare it is that victims lie and how common it is for abusers to be hiding in plain sight and how complicated this is that somebody can be in some ways very effective at their jobs and in some ways a - even a good spouse.

My ex-husband was like that, too. I wouldn't have fallen in love with him and stayed with him for years if he hadn't been. But underneath all of that is a very deep rage. And if an abuser doesn't deal with that, it is going to come out again and again and again. And they need to get help. They don't need to be protected.

SHAPIRO: That was Leslie Morgan Steiner. Her memoir is called "Crazy Love." And an update on that story - this evening we learned that another White House aide has resigned amid allegations of domestic abuse. Speechwriter David Sorensen denies the allegations. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.