On Thursday, June 14th, actress and TV personality Chloe Dykstra published a powerful and highly personal essay on Medium in which she shared her experience with a past abusive relationship. Dykstra didn’t name any names, but said she was sharing her story now to create more awareness about the nature of emotional abuse. “Emotional abuse is a very common thing. More common than you’d think,” she wrote. She went on to describe a three-year relationship with a man 20 years her senior — who was also a podcaster-turned-successful CEO — which resulted in emotional abuse and repeated sexual assault.
It didn’t take long for fans on Twitter to suspect that Dykstra was referring to Nerdist creator, Chris Hardwick. The connection seemed so likely that Legendary Digital Networks, which has owned The Nerdist brand and its affiliated projects for about two years, released the following statement shortly after the essay was published:
And now, Hardwick himself has responded directly to the essay.
In a statement released to Deadline on Friday evening, June 15th, he said he was “heartbroken” by Dykstra’s account of their relationship and denied all claims of abuse.
Hardwick then went on to describe his own account of why they parted ways, claiming that he ended the relationship after he found out she had cheated on him. “For several weeks after we broke up, she asked to get back together with me and even told me she wanted to have kids with me, ‘build a life’ with me and told me that I was ‘the one,’ but I did not want to be with someone who was unfaithful.”
Hardwick’s response feels almost painfully familiar at this point in the #MeToo movement. So many of the men accused of abuse and sexual misconduct deny, then deflect — often by attempting to discredit their accusers. In this case, the podcaster was quick to bring up the fact that Dykstra was “unfaithful” (a detail she herself was candid about in her essay, writing, “I finally left him. For another man. That I had literally just met. I was so desperate to be out I just clung on to the first knight in shining armor to show up.”)
Let’s get one thing clear: Dykstra may have left Hardwick for another man, and even kissed that other man while they were still dating (which she fully admits to) — but that does not discredit anything she claims about emotional and sexual abuse during the relationship, nor is that the part of this narrative we should be focusing on in any way.
While we of course can’t ever know exactly what happened in any couple’s private relationship, at the end of the day, Hardwick’s statement feels rote, disingenuous, and ultimately desperate.
As always, we stand by all victims of sexual assault and abuse, and we applaud Dykstra for coming forward and sharing her story. Delving into past pain likely wasn’t easy, but we’re confident it will help so many others find their voice and feel less alone.