In a gut-wrenching essay on Medium, actor Chloe Dykstra describes a years-long emotionally abusive relationship with a man 20 years her senior, who she supported as he went from “a mildly successful podcaster to a powerhouse CEO of his own company.” Though she never mentions him by name in her piece, many are speculating that the man in question is Nerdist founder and host of @midnight and Talking Dead, Chris Hardwick.
In the essay, titled “Rose-Colored Glasses: A Confession,” Dykstra says that her relationship, which began after meeting her ex at a convention, became immediately controlling, with her partner forbidding that she go out at night without him, drink alcohol (he is sober), or have male friends.
“I made the choice to accept his controlling behavior, as he’d just left his long-term girlfriend and I assumed that he was going through some serious emotional discomfort,” Dykstra writes. “This was a huge mistake.”
(Hardwick was in a relationship with actor Janet Varney for several years before dating Dykstra.)
Her ex’s behavior grew increasingly controlling and emotionally abusive over time, Dykstra describes, with him calling her names and pressuring her to appear on camera for his company.
Dykstra also details ongoing sexual assault:
...I was terrified to piss him off- so I did what he said.
…Including let him sexually assault me. Regularly. I was expected to be ready for him when he came home from work.
How did this happen? 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.
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.
Throughout the relationship, Dykstra struggled with anorexia, eventually becoming so sick that she stopped getting her period. Still, she suffered from an ectopic pregnancy (a dangerous, sometimes fatal occurrence where the fertilized egg implants outside of the uterus):
I lost my period for a year because of anorexia. Somehow, I got pregnant ectopically (I was told I’d have to have surgery IMMEDIATELY because ectopic pregnancies are very dangerous and can often be fatal)- when I found out, I collapsed on the floor, terrified he would be furious with me. Between sobs I told him over the phone, “Please don’t be mad, and don’t worry, I have to have surgery to have it removed or it could kill me at any time.”
My fear of his anger at me for getting pregnant was literally greater than my fear of death.
Let me add here: I’ll never forget the night this man slept in a cot at the foot of my hospital bed after my surgery. It made me believe that deep down inside of him maybe there was a man who loved me.
Then, after my recovery, he and my mother were greeted by the doctor.
“The surgery went well, she’ll be fine,” said my doctor.
“Thank god,” said my mother.
“That’s great. When do you think I can have sex with her again?” said my ex.
It was his first question. My mother never forgot.
After leaving her abusive partner for someone else, Dykstra says her ex “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.”
Dykstra says that she is now on the road to recovery and has since begun working again. As for why she’s stayed quiet until now (a question women are somehow still forced to answer about their abusers), she writes, “I knew it was unlikely people would choose to believe me over a cheery-sounding famous guy. All it would do to properly come forward was hurt me. And guess what? It will probably hurt me now too, despite the #MeToo movement. We’ve come a long way, but we still have a ways to go.”
The essay, she explains, was named after a Bojack Horseman line:
“You know, it’s funny; when you look at someone through rose-colored glasses, all the red flags just look like flags.”
Jezebel has reached out to Chris Hardwick’s publicist for a statement. We will update if and when they reply. Meanwhile, Nerdist has removed all mention of Hardwick from the website.
In a statement published by the Hollywood Reporter, a company spokesperson said, “Chris Hardwick had no operational involvement with Nerdist for the two years preceding the expiration of his contract in December 2017. 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.”