Unfortunately, abusive relationships can (and do) happen to anyone. But since many victims never speak up, it’s not widely known just how common they are. But on June 15, 2018, one actress broke her silence when she revealed she was in an emotionally abusive relationship for years through an essay she shared on Medium, which led to her being blacklisted from Hollywood. And although she never named him, we can safely assume her abuser was her ex, comedian Chris Hardwick.
Actress Chloe Dykstra has been through hell, and she’s not staying quiet anymore.
She pointed out early warning signs
In her Medium piece, Dykstra states that her relationship with Hardwick was troubled from the start. She wrote:
“Our relationship started out poorly. Within 2 weeks, rules were quickly established. Some of these included:
- I ‘should not want to go somewhere at night’. My nights were expected to be reserved for him, as he had a busy schedule. This alienated me from my friends.
- I was to not have close male friends unless we worked together. All photos of male friends were to be removed from my apartment. This was heartbreaking for me, as my best friend happened to be male.
- As he was sober, I was not to drink alcohol. Before we began dating he said, ‘I noticed you have a glass of wine with dinner. That’s going to stop.’
- I was not to speak in public places (elevators, cars with drivers, restaurants where tables were too close) as he believed that people recognized him and were listening to our conversations. Our dinners out were usually silent, him on his phone.
- I wasn’t allowed to take a photo of us. (Eventually, he softened on this rule, but was very stern about me asking permission.)
She made excuses for his behavior
Dyskstra was quick to forgive her ex’s demands and restrictions because he’d just ended a long-term relationship. She assumed he was vulnerable and going through some “emotional discomfort.” In reality, he was using tactics common in abusers:
- Dominance. Abusers love to feel like they’re in control, and they will tell you what to do and expect you to obey.
- Humiliation. An abuser will do everything they can to make you feel bad about yourself. If you believe you’re worthless, you are easier to control.
- Isolation. If your partner tries to keep you from your friends or the outside world, this is a sign of control.
- Intimidation. Abusers will use a variety of intimidation tactics to keep you from leaving.
She developed an eating disorder
Dykstra’s stress over the volatile relationship soon manifested in other ways. She lost 15 pounds in a short amount of time, eventually losing her period for a year because of anorexia. But it didn’t stop there — it seemed as if she was trying to disappear. She wrote:
“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.”
Dykstra also said she was pulling her hair out from the stress and had to get extensions to hide it. And unfortunately, this isn’t uncommon for people who have been abused. Emotional abuse and body image are closely linked since the abuse can deeply affect how you feel about yourself and your body.
The sexual abuse was heartbreaking
One of the most gut-wrenching revelations in Dykstra’s article was the admission that she was also sexually violated. Her ex wanted sex constantly, she revealed, and when she tried to refuse him, he reminded her that his previous relationship had ended due to lack of sex. His manipulation worked, and Dykstra was intimate with him, even when she didn’t want to be. Her words are heartbreaking:
“Every night, I laid there for him, occasionally in tears. He called it ‘starfishing’. He thought the whole idea was funny. To be fair, I did go along with it out of fear of losing him. I’m still recovering from being sexually used (not in a super fun way) for three years.”
She was blacklisted from Hollywood for speaking out
Dykstra eventually left her abusive relationship when she met someone else. And because she’d left him for another man, her ex made it his mission to steamroll her career. She wrote about being blacklisted in Hollywood, unable to find work and isolated from others. Some of her good friends even turned their backs on her.
Tragically, Dykstra became depressed and suicidal during this time in her life, eventually turning to therapy and friends for help.
Does Dykstra’s story set off any warning bells?
In her essay, Dykstra wrote that emotional abuse is “more common than you’d think.” And she’s not wrong. While some arguments and conflicts are a normal part of a healthy relationship. there are definite signs that yours has crossed the line into abusive. If any of these apply to you, you may be a victim of emotional abuse or manipulation:
- You feel guilty for no real reason.
- Your partner regularly makes insulting remarks.
- Lack of empathy or understanding.
- Undermining you or dismissing your feelings.
- Gaslighting — convincing yo something is your fault when it’s not.
- Acting “overprotective” (but really, just controlling).
- Trying to turn you against your friends or family.
If you’re concerned for yourself or a loved one, contact the National Domestic Violence hotline at 1-800-799-SAFE (7233),
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