Chloe Dykstra’s description of the abuse she endured is absolutely heartbreaking
Yesterday, actress and model Chloe Dykstra shared a heart-wrenching essay she penned on Medium, where she describes enduring years of sexual and emotional abuse at the hands of an ex-boyfriend. It’s been revealed that the ex in question is Chris Hardwick, founder of famous podcast site Nerdist and former host of MTV’s Singled Out a million years ago.
In her essay, titled “Rose-Colored Glasses: A Confession,” Dykstra declined to name her abuser but did mention that they dated for three years and that she was with him as he went from a “podcaster to a powerhouse CEO of his own company.”
[Trigger warning: Dykstra’s essay vividly describes sexual and emotional abuse, and struggles with anorexia.]
Dykstra says she was in her early 20s when she “fell for a man” nearly 20 years older. Within weeks, she says she was forbidden to go out at night, continue relationships with male friends, drink alcohol, or speak in public places.
“During all of this I lost myself, both mentally and physically,” she writes. “I lost 15 lbs within weeks, started pulling out my hair (and had to get extensions regularly to hide it). I generally stopped speaking unless spoken to while with him, drifting through life like a ghost. I would try to sleep in as late as possible so my days were shorter. I stopped listening to music entirely. I ceased to be. I was an ex-person.”
She describes the isolation of being alienated from her friends and being terrified to “piss him off.” She describes “doing what he said” as a survival tactic. Hardwick, she says, regularly sexually assaulted her.
“I was expected to be ready for him when he came home from work,” she writes. “At the beginning of our relationship, I was quite ill often due to my diet, something I’ll get to in a bit. One night he initiated, and I said, ‘I’m so sorry, can we not tonight? I’m feeling really sick.’ He responded, ‘I just want to remind you, the reason my last relationship didn’t work out was because of the lack of sex.’ It was a veiled threat. I succumbed.”
She describes how Hardwick humiliated her when she wasn’t receptive to his advances. “He called it ‘starfishing.’ He thought the whole idea was funny.”
In perhaps the most heartbreaking portion of her essay, she says she became pregnant while in the relationship — the pregnancy was ectopic, and she had to undergo emergency surgery immediately. She says she called him, apologizing for the pregnancy because she was scared of what his reaction would be. “My fear of his anger at me for getting pregnant was literally greater than my fear of death.”
When you’re that deep into an abusive relationship, there is no “just leave.” Your entire existence is wrapped up in your abuser, because you no longer have a sense of self or self-worth. You are broken. Utterly and completely.
Dykstra eventually left her abuser for another man, after which she alleges Hardwick called several companies she regularly worked for and had her “blacklisted.” The thought of losing her career at the age of just 25 lead her to contemplate suicide, she says.
Hardwick has responded to Dykstra’s essay, saying he was “heartbroken” to read Dykstra’s essay, and denies all allegations of sexual abuse. “I’m devastated to read that she is now accusing me of conduct that did not occur,” Hardwick says. “I was blindsided by her post and always wanted the best for her.”
Nerdist, the site Hardwick founded, has completely cut ties with Hardwick following the essay’s wide circulation. “He no longer has any affiliation with Legendary Digital Networks. The company has removed all reference to Mr. Hardwick even as the original Founder of Nerdist pending further investigation.”
Dykstra says she “struggled with such a great fear of talking publicly” about her experience, because as we all know — when women come forward with their accounts of abuse, they put their reputations and careers at risk. The #MeToo movement, while profound in its ability to now provide women with the platform to share their stories of abuse, is just beginning. There is still a long way to go before women of all backgrounds and professions can feel safe sharing their stories and protected moving forward.
She says she chose to share her story because that type of treatment is too common in relationships. “Normalizing behavior happens incredibly quickly, and one can lose track of what is acceptable treatment.”
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