In the wake of Chloe Dykstra’s disturbing account of the emotional abuse, sexual coercion, and subsequent blacklisting she experienced in her relationship with her ex-boyfriend Chris Hardwick (who went unnamed in her initial account on Medium), we’ve seen a lot of different responses — some in defense of Dykstra, and others of Hardwick. Hardwick himself released a swift denial, so at this point I think we can safely say that everyone — both the accuser and the accused in these allegations — has been heard.
Which brings me to the latest statement on the matter, from Chris Hardwick’s ex-ex-girlfriend Jacinda Barrett, an actress and former Real World cast member who dated Hardwick for four years in the 90s. Here’s what she had to say:
This past week I have watched someone I once loved and shared four years of my life with be publicly accused of misconduct and abuse, then swiftly fired and shunned. The accuser’s story bears no resemblance to the one I shared with him all those years ago, but what is of supreme importance here is that every woman and every man deserves a voice. Accuser and Accused. Everyone deserves to be heard. A rush to judgement denies the right to due process; the Metoo movement deserves due process. #metoomovement #dueprocess #chrishardwick @hardwick
I agree with her, that everyone deserves a voice in these matters and to be heard. People have a right to discuss their own experiences — and when that discussion involves the possible misconduct of another person, the accused can and should address the matter and share their own truth. Which, as we established up front, is exactly what happened: everyone DID have a voice, and they WERE heard. Hell, we even “heard” the weirdly suspicious text messages sent between Hardwick and Dykstra at the time of their break-up! And for that matter, we’ve heard the voices of people I honestly had no idea were even tangentially related to this situation (i.e. Jacinda Barrett).
Whether it’s Barrett or Hardwick’s wife Lydia Hearst herself — they have the right to speak up on behalf of their loved one. I would never say otherwise. But in the rush to paint that positive picture of the person they know, often the support falls into a familiar trap: “The accuser’s story bears no resemblance to the one I shared with him all those years ago,” as Barrett put it. And look, at this point I feel like we’re used to pointing out to men that, hey, just because that guy you’re defending was always super chill and fun with you, it in no way means he wasn’t a nasty piece of work to his romantic partners. But there’s a distinction to be made, even amongst romantic partners of the same person, that yes, just because someone treated you well doesn’t mean he treated the next person the same way.
Or maybe he did, and that’s the thing. People can experience the same sorts of behaviors differently! The #MeToo waters are muddy, and some of the manipulative, abusive behaviors being discussed are subtle. Some women might not think twice about being told they can’t drink or go out at night with their friends, or about being given a curfew, or the expectation that they be sexually available as needed — all behaviors described in Dykstra’s account. But that doesn’t mean that those behaviors weren’t abusive to Dykstra. That doesn’t mean she’s lying. It just means her story is her own.
Terry Crews knows what I’m talking about:
The other issue that keeps coming up is “due process,” which — I mean, nobody is against due process. Not even this motherfucker right here, when it suits him…
Peoples lives are being shattered and destroyed by a mere allegation. Some are true and some are false. Some are old and some are new. There is no recovery for someone falsely accused - life and career are gone. Is there no such thing any longer as Due Process?— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) February 10, 2018
But the Constitutional right to due process, as provided by the Fifth and Fourteenth Amendments, is a legal matter. And in a situation like this, nobody is going to court (despite what Barrett’s instagram prose may call to mind). Dykstra isn’t suing Hardwick, and he isn’t charged with any criminal activity. The jobs that Hardwick has lost because of this scandal were terminated by private companies, and the only court involved is that of public opinion. And let’s face it: if everyone has a right to be heard, then the loudest voices will often be random yahoos on the internet.
But the principle of due process — the principle of fairness — can still be discussed, and here’s where things get tricky.
I don’t know what went down between Dykstra and Hardwick, neither does Hearst or Barrett or Hardwick’s employers or anyone else, really. Relationships between two people are like that. There isn’t always evidence. It is often he said/she said. And for too long that meant that there was no semblance of any kind of “due process” available to women. There was only skepticism. But thanks to #MeToo, that’s starting to change — and for the first time people are starting to truly listen. People are starting to believe! The fact that we’re even having this conversation is proof that progress is being made, but the responses to allegations like these are bound to be imperfect. Even extreme in some cases. This is new territory — the idea that it’s OK to talk about what goes on behind closed doors, and that women might be believed, that emotional manipulation or sexual coercion are even abusive behaviors at all, and that men might actually face some sort of consequences for their misconduct — and we’re all confronting it together. I mean, I personally may think that AMC was right to put Hardwick’s talk show on hold, but I’m not going call that an act of fairness — I’m fairly certain it was less a moral judgment and more a ditch effort to stave off bad press. When it comes to employers, each one is reinventing the wheel to some extent, and their process is obscure. We don’t know what Amazon’s investigation into Jeffrey Tambor entailed, but we know the result: they cut him from Transparent. And the reality is that while men like Hardwick and Tambor are starting to face career repercussions over accusations like these, the flipside has long been the case: that women who tried to stand up for themselves, women who were assaulted and spoke out, also faced repercussions.
Hell, Dykstra was (allegedly) blacklisted over a break-up.
As for the shunning? Well, the default for a long time was to paint accusers as exaggerating or emotional or liars without any sort of proof. Now it’s the accused who is vilified. Maybe fairness is simply acknowledging that, when given two opposing stories, the public has the right to support whichever one they choose and act accordingly.
So I’m willing to acknowledge that yes, perhaps our cultural “due process” isn’t perfectly balanced yet, but I believe that sort of thing takes time. The pendulum is simply swinging in the other direction now. The situation has never been fair, and now maybe it’s just unfair in a different way. But employers will continue honing their process for dealing with these sorts of situations as they come up. And as for the rest of us? We need to continue having this dialogue. We need to continue speaking up, and listening, and sharing our concerns. We need to face the things we’ve let fester in the shadows, and tell our own stories, and remember that just because something doesn’t look like abuse to you, doesn’t mean it doesn’t feel like abuse to the person it’s happened to.
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