For the first time since her Medium post went viral, Chloe Dykstra is speaking out about her #MeToo experience. In a new article on a year of sexual misconduct allegations, Dykstra told Time that, “After months of reading horrible things about myself, I got to such a low point that I considered ending it.”
Dykstra’s alleged abuser, whom she has never actually named, is presumed to be Nerdist founder and Talking Dead host Chris Hardwick. A Mashable report on the “traumatic account of the couple’s relationship” explained, “Although Dykstra does not out Hardwick as the ex by name in the post, she provided details that could have only been Hardwick.” Hardwick denied Dykstra’s allegations in a lengthy statement, insisting at one point that, “At no time did I sexually assault her.”
Looking back on her experience after speaking out, Dykstra told Time, “I didn’t really have guidance because you can’t really Google, ‘How to handle being an accuser?’”
The original Medium post, entitled “Rose-Colored Glasses: A Confession,” went viral in June. In the essay, Dykstra writes about her ex, a man “almost 20 years my senior” whom she met at a convention. “Within 2 weeks,” she wrote, “rules were quickly established.” Dykstra was expected to clear her schedule, reserving every weeknight for her partner. She was barred from having close male friends, from drinking alcohol, and from speaking “in public places.”
“I was terrified to piss him off—so I did what he said,” Dykstra recalls. “Including let him sexually assault me. Regularly. I was expected to be ready for him when he came home from work…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.”
“I, myself, had very little personal support, as I’d been alienated from my own friends, other than an occasional party I was obligated to leave early when he decided it was time. Sometimes he’d let me go play D&D, but I always had a curfew. He would yell in his voicemails at me if I didn’t answer his calls. I was expected to follow him everywhere and exist pretty much solely for him, save for a hosting job once in awhile. When cameras were on us? He was a prince. Turn them off, he was a nightmare.”
Dykstra went on to detail how she lost herself “both mentally and physically” during this relationship, missing her period for a year due to an eating disorder. When Dykstra eventually left her ex for another man, she was allegedly blacklisted as a result. “He made calls to several companies I received regular work from to get me fired by threatening to never work with them,” she writes. “He succeeded.”
“While we were together, he repeatedly shared with me that he was terrified I would talk publicly about how he treated me, but I’m done protecting him at the expense of my own mental health,” Dykstra concludes. “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.”
In the immediate aftermath of Dykstra’s post, Hardwick’s name was scrubbed from the Nerdist website, and AMC announced that they would be launching an internal investigation into the host. “While we assess the situation, Talking with Chris Hardwick will not air on AMC,” the network wrote in a statement, “and Chris has decided to step aside from moderating planned AMC and BBC America panels at Comic-Con International in San Diego next month.”
A month later, AMC issued a new statement announcing Hardwick’s imminent return: “Following a comprehensive assessment by AMC, working with Ivy Kagan Bierman of the firm Loeb & Loeb, who has considerable experience in this area, Chris Hardwick will return to AMC as the host of Talking Dead and Talking with Chris Hardwick. We take these matters very seriously and given the information available to us after a very careful review, including interviews with numerous individuals, we believe returning Chris to work is the appropriate step.” Reportedly, a female executive producer and a “handful” of Talking Dead staff walked away from the show in response to Hardwick’s reinstatement.
Hardwick’s name was also restored on the Nerdist website, and NBC confirmed that Hardwick would be returning to their network as well, appearing as a guest judge on America’s Got Talent and continuing to host The Wall game show.
In a social media response, Dykstra revealed that she did not participate in the investigation. “I have been adamant since I came forward with my essay that I never set out to ruin the career of the person I spoke about,” she wrote. “For that reason, I chose not to participate in the investigation against the person I spoke of.”
In the Time piece published Thursday, Dykstra explained, “When I found out he had gotten his jobs back, I was actually relieved because I knew [the online harassment] wasn’t going to stop until he was reinstated.”
She also recalled the moment when she first checked Twitter and saw that her face was “trending”: “It was the most terrifying thing I have ever experienced. I was just like, ‘No, no, no.’” While the first wave of responses to Dykstra’s essay was supportive, “The tide kind of shifted,” she told Time. “I was attacked relentlessly. There was an organized group of people online whose sole purpose was to try to disprove me. I was terrified people were going to figure out where I lived.”
“Hey dudes,” Dykstra tweeted in August. “Just a reminder: I 100% stand by every single word of my essay. I made sure it was unembellished, factual, and that I had evidence to back it up in order to protect myself in case of ACTUAL litigation (not a network investigation, where I’m not protected). That is all.”