The public reaction to the death of L.A. model and therapist Dr. Amie Harwick last week was raw and intense. Grief quickly turned to anger and anger drove many — mostly women who have dealt with domestic violence and relationships with dangerous men — to seek change to the system that failed her. Her death has shone a bright light on these issues, but, sadly, a lot of the media attention has been exploitative because of who she was engaged to at one time, the nature of her work (sex and relationships) and her striking looks.
The violent and senseless way she died also stunned both those who knew her and those who didn’t. An ex-boyfriend she had filed restraining orders against in the past (not someone she had been seeing recently as had been implied, but an ex from a decade prior she avoided for years ) came to her home, attacked her and threw her off a three-story building balcony. It was the day after Valentine’s Day. The man, whose name I feel no need to share here (it’s everywhere), is currently in custody and charged with murder and burglary. He will remain jailed without bail until his arraignment in a downtown courthouse on March 4. The murder charge includes an allegation of “lying in wait,” making him eligible for the death penalty.
Based on what I read on social media last week, Amie Nicole (as many knew her) was an inspiration, an example of someone who chased their dreams with moxie and heart. She was an advocate for women (and many men too) who was always there to lend an ear and provide not only perspective but support, making the world a better place in the process.
With the media frenzy surrounding the case saturating everyone’s social feeds, there was a call for friends and acquaintances to cease talking to press about her at the end of last week, just as I was struggling with how to cover her passing in a way that did not contribute to the noise. Getting the word out about the movement Harwick is inspiring is still very important. Her death will not be in vain if her friends and fans have anything to say about it, and watching everyone move into action has been beautiful yet bittersweet.
There is a Change.org petition circulating that seeks to change the laws as they might protect women, and many are looking to mobilize in other ways too. Her family asked for donations to Rock to Recovery (a charity close to Amie’s heart) in lieu of flowers for her funeral last week. #JusticeforAmie T-shirts are being sold with proceeds going to victim assistance group Safe Horizon. And many have changed their social media profile photos to #JusticeforAmie art. A special on CBS’ 48 Hours this past weekend told Amie’s story via interviews with close friends and that of other stalker victims, profiling her assailant and highlighting the problems with our legal system and the need for solutions. An L.A. memorial for Harwick is planned for March 28; location and details are still TBA.
To honor this L.A. woman who touched so many here, I wanted something personal, something that refrained from repeating the same information we were inundated with last week. I spoke with a couple close mutual friends early last week, and I’m so glad Vera and Barbara Ann Duffy agreed to share some thoughts. Amie had just been on the sisters’ podcast to talk about relationships a couple weeks ago, but the pair knew her in a much deeper way, and here, I think they best convey why so many people in Los Angeles are mourning and missing this extraordinary woman right now.
Barbara Ann Duffy:
It’s expected that you would gaze back at your friend through a glowy, perfecting gauze once she’s gone. It’s far rarer to find yourself gazing right at her in a similar light, but that was my experience of Amie while my sister and I recorded a conversation with her recently. Classically beautiful and timelessly elegant, why yes, she was. But did she have to elevate it all to such ridiculous heights with that perfectly irreverent wit, that effortless eloquence, that impossible to manufacture authenticity? Add to the list a flawless ability to pare down and articulate psychological concepts for all of us so desperate to know what she’d learned in her therapy practice, as well as her generosity in sharing this wealth of intelligence, and you get a sense of why she dazzled. She talked nonstop for the duration of our recording and she was pure grace.
Once the mics were off that day, the Amie who isn’t required to hold this fractured world together for others continued to share some of her recent experiences for another solid hour — exciting and well-deserved career news, her enthusiasm for her nonprofit work, more hilarious and true stories from her life, as well as her sadness, confusion and analysis of recently dissipated relationships. Even when her news was not great, she presented it with such refrain and dignity, and always an impish smile, that it took a real presence of mind to recognize that what she said was not OK, that she was not okay. Her courage dazzled too, but sadly, it wasn’t enough.