Woodward: Listen to the screaming women

The death of a Hollywood therapist raises concern over domestic abuse cases and lack of action.

Woodward: Listen to the screaming women

Samantha Woodward

The day after Valentine’s Day for most people is spent eating leftover chocolates and crying for one reason or another. For the friends and family of West Hollywood sex and family therapist Dr. Amie Harwick, unanswered questions and sorrow took up the most of the day. 

Police were called to Harwick’s home on the morning of Feb. 15 after reports of a woman screaming were made. Harwick’s roommate claimed she was being assaulted inside the apartment. The 38-year old ex-fiancee of comedian Drew Carey was found at her Hollywood Hills home suffering from injuries consistent with a fall. She later died at the hospital. Her ex-boyfriend Gareth Pursehouse was arrested, released, and then re-arrested on a no-bail warrant, in connection with her death.

Prior to her passing, Harwick had filed two restraining orders against Pursehouse. NBC News reported that “the restraining order had expired and the victim had seen this former boyfriend two weeks ago.” The Los Angeles Police Department stated in a news release that “Detectives learned that [the] victim had recently expressed fear about a former boyfriend and had previously filed a restraining order against this person.”

If two restraining orders and expressed fear towards a partner are not enough to signal that someone is dangerous, I don’t know what is. How much louder did she need to scream before someone listened?

Domestic abuse in instances like Amie’s is not uncommon. The Center for Disease Control reports that 1 in 4 women will experience some sort of physical violence and about 1 in 3 women will experience some sort of sexual violence from a partner in their lifetime. Here on campus, the Aurora Center offers access to counseling as well as helplines for those suffering from domestic abuse and relationship violence. The website offers links to help obtain restraining orders as well as provides other safety suggestions if you feel you’re in danger. Additionally, at the bottom right of the page, there is a “Quick Escape” button that closes out of all tabs related to the Aurora Center information page. 

Harwick and her work have left a lasting impact on the people of California. She specialized in helping recognize abusive relationships as well as offering support for those who removed themselves. Emily Sears, an Australian model, tweeted that her therapist Amie dedicated herself to “helping others heal from trauma.” Harwick dedicated her life’s work to ensure the safety and comfort of her patients.

We’ve seen through data that stories like this come across news headlines far too often. Any person dying the way that Amie Harwick did would be tragic, but the irony of the context of her passing makes her absence that much worse. Hernando Chaves, a fellow sex therapist and long-time friend of Harwick’s, told the Los Angeles Times this sad truth: “She did everything she could do to protect herself, and this person still sought her out and was violent toward her,” said Chavez. “That is what people I hope are going to see — not the sensationalism of her dating Drew Carey or being a ‘Hollywood sex therapist’… but that our system is not protecting women.”

We need to believe people when they express fear. We need to believe those who are screaming for help out of fear of being hurt by those who are supposed to love them. We cannot allow for loopholes like an expired restraining order or dismissive “she’ll be fine” behavior to take the lives of the women who thought the system would keep them safe. 

Amie’s story is yet again another sad tale of “How could we have helped?” You can help. Listen to your friends, offer your love and support, and protect the people you care about. No one deserves to be feeling the pain that Amie’s loved ones are feeling right now. Amie would be here today championing the protection of women in dangerous situations just like her if it had not been for an abusive relationship and a broken system. It’s time that we listen to the concerns of women when they’re first brought up, instead of being shocked when their screams have gone silent. 

In the event of an emergency, call 911

For On-Campus Support

Aurora Center (M-F 8am-4:30pm only)

Emergencies: Call 911

24hr Helpline: (612) 626-9111

Textline: (612) 615-8911

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Visit: Appleby Hall, Suite 117

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For Off-Campus support

Violence Free Minnesota (St. Paul)

Violence Free Minnesota

60 East Plato Blvd.,

Suite 230

St. Paul, MN 55107

(651) 646-6177

Tubman Family Violence (Minneapolis)

24-hour crisis & resource line at 612-825-0000

3111 First Avenue South  Minneapolis, Minnesota 55408