Before June 15, 2018, Chris Hardwick was best known for being the founder of Nerdist and host of AMC’s Talking series. Then, his ex-girlfriend Chloe Dykstra published a Medium article revealing years of abuse she allegedly suffered while dating him.
The behavior she detailed was horrifying. Dykstra shared numerous examples of ways in which Hardwick attempted to control her behavior and life. She also accused Hardwick of sexual abuse.
“When cameras were on us? He was a prince,” Dykstra wrote. “Turn them off, he was a nightmare.”
Hardwick’s to the allegations were bold
Shortly after the story went viral, Nerdist scrubbed Hardwick’s name from the site and released a statement condemning the allegations and offering support to Dykstra. AMC pulled Hardwick’s Talking series, and San Diego Comic-Con announced that he would no longer be hosting a Doctor Who panel.
Fan reaction was a bit more mixed. Many condemned Hardwick and publicly expressed support for Dykstra. Others felt that he shouldn’t be judged until both sides of the story came out.
Late on June 15, Hardwick released a statement vehemently denying Dykstra’s account. He said, “These are very serious allegations and not to be taken lightly… Our three-year relationship was not perfect… and at no time did I sexually assault her.” He also claimed that their relationship ended when she was unfaithful — a detail that Dykstra more or less confirms in her account.
Leaked text messages gave us more insight
The he-said, she-said discourse intensified on June 19 when TMZ released screengrabs of text messages between the two. According to TMZ, Dykstra reached out to Hardwick several months after their relationship ended, hoping to reconcile.
Hardwick’s supporters claim that the text messages prove he didn’t abuse Dykstra. However, for many, the situation simply isn’t that cut and dry. Plenty of scholarship has focused on why victims of abuse struggle to leave their partners and stay away. Research suggests that everything from lack of income to fear of retribution and depleted feelings of self-worth can make it difficult for victims to end abusive relationships.
Dykstra’s claims aren’t disproven by the text messages
In her account, Dykstra said that during her relationship, “I ceased to be. I was an ex-person.” She also detailed the toll that Hardwick’s treatment took on her mental and physical health, leading to anorexia and thoughts of suicide.
She also shared how leaving Hardwick negatively affected her professional life. Dykstra wrote, “Because of my leaving him for someone else, 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. With the assistance of a woman who’d gained my trust and my heart over the past year, he steamrolled my career.”
In other words, it may be easy for some to read Dykstra’s text messages during the fallout from their relationship and assume that they “prove” she is lying today. But given what we know about the psychological impact of abuse, it’s not so easy to draw that conclusion.
Dykstra has yet to respond to the text message leak. But even if she doesn’t, we can’t assume that her claims against Hardwick are false. The only thing these text messages really reveal is that Dykstra and Hardwick had a contentious relationship — a fact that both have confirmed already.
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