Actress and TV personality Chloe Dykstra quietly posted an extremely emotional and intimate essay to Medium on Thursday, alleging that she suffered “long-term abuse” at the hands of one of her unnamed ex-boyfriends.
Through the many context clues given in the essay, it’s not difficult to surmise that the man in question is none other than Chris Hardwick, the host of AMC’s Talking Dead and the former host of Comedy Central’s @Midnight. Hardwick is recognized as a prominent figure in the “geek” community, thanks to his cultivation of Nerdist Industries.
In her essay, Dykstra describes how, in her early 20’s, she “ended up falling for a man almost 20 years my senior” at a convention. Dykstra says that as soon as she began dating this man, she was required to follow a “series of rules,” which included:
1.) She “should not want to go somewhere at night,” as her evenings were reserved for him.
2.) She wasn’t allowed to have any male friends unless they happened to be working together in a professional capacity.
3.) She wasn’t allowed to drink alcohol, allegedly because the man in question was sober.
4.) Dykstra wasn’t allowed to speak when they were out in public places because the man believed that people recognized him and that they would eavesdrop on the couple’s conversations.
5.) Dykstra wasn’t allowed to take any photos of the two of them together.
Basically, Dykstra found herself in a relationship where she was essentially expected to be silent arm candy — but, since she was being emotionally conditioned to fear her boyfriend’s outbursts, she would acquiesce to all of his requests.
“Our first convention together, San Diego Comic Con, he instructed me to not leave the hotel room,” she recalls. “He went to parties by himself and got a famous actress’s number with intention to date her at the same time as me. I found out months later, and couldn’t bring myself to say anything because by this time, my self-worth was in the toilet.”
Dykstra says that the man in question also manipulated her sexually, and expected her to be “ready” for him when he came home every night — regardless of whether she wanted to have sex or not.
“One night he initiated, and I said, ‘I’m so sorry, can we not tonight? I’m feeling really sick,’” she remembers. “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.”
Dykstra describes how her stress and anxiety about the confines of the controlling relationship caused her to lose massive amounts of weight and even some of her hair. When Dykstra became pregnant ectopically and had to undergo a life-saving surgery, she says that it had gotten to the point where she was more concerned about her partner’s potentially angry reaction to her pregnancy than she was about death.
When she finally worked up the nerve to leave him, he continued to exercise his control over her by ruining her career. “He made calls to several companies I received regular work from to get me fired by threatening to never work with them. He succeeded. I was blacklisted.”
Dykstra says that public acknowledgment of the existence of emotional abuse is vital —because it happens so frequently in relationships that are easy to write-off as simply “unhappy.”
When posed with the question of why she didn’t leave the abusive relationship sooner, Dykstra has a surprisingly poignant analogy.
“Here is my answer: I believed that, to borrow an analogy from a friend, if I kept digging I would find water. And sometimes I did. Just enough to sustain me. And when you’re dying of thirst, that water is the best water you’ll ever drink. When you’re alienated from your friends, there’s no one to tell you that there’s a drinking fountain 20 feet away. And when your self-worth reaches such depths after years of being treated like you’re worthless, you might find you think you deserve that sort of treatment, and no one else will love you.”
Dykstra finishes her piece with a message to the man who is, presumably, Chris Hardwick:
“A sincere and heartfelt apology could have made my last four years a hell of a lot easier. The person I used to date would try to sue me due to pride- I would not recommend it. I have audio/video that will support and prove many of the things I’ve stated in this post.”
Many people on Twitter were horrified and enraged by Dykstra’s account of Hardwick’s alleged behavior. Former and current Nerdist employees spoke out in support of Dykstra, and many tried to emphasize the importance of understanding emotional abuse.
Hardwick and his representatives have yet to release a statement on the matter — but, considering his new entertainment talkshow, Talking with Chris Hardwick, premieres on AMC this Sunday, it’s entirely plausible that Hardwick will refuse to acknowledge the accusations.
Dykstra, however, has responded and thanked her supporters, letting them know that she may be taking a break from Twitter until the frenzy dies down.
You can continue reading the full account of Dykstra’s experience on Medium.