“I’ve known Chris for over 15 years. We dated years and years ago,” Savage tells PEOPLE. “He is one of the kindest, most supportive, women-supporting, intelligent people I’ve ever met.”
Based on her own experiences with Hardwick, Savage, 45, says she did not recognize the person described in Dykstra’s post.
“None of this rang true in terms of my experience with him,” she says. “He’s truly one of the least controlling people. That’s not the Chris I know.”
Savage dated Hardwick from 2002 to 2003 and the two have remained close friends in the years since. The actress reached out to him shortly after the allegations first surfaced.
“I was just like, ‘Hey, I’m sure you’re having a really, really terrible day. Just wanted to say you have support out there if you need it,’ ” she says.
Savage says she ultimately decided to speak out on Hardwick’s behalf out of a greater concern for the #MeToo movement. She doesn’t want people to feel afraid of standing up for those they love.
“I feel like we’re suddenly in this environment where people are able to publicly name and accuse you of things, but then nobody else is allowed to give their experience with that person and defend their character,” she explains. “If you’re a woman and you say something like this, you’re not supportive of women and against the MeToo movement. If you’re a man, forget it, you can’t say anything.”
She continues: “I feel like the MeToo movement is so important, and it’s such a fragile platform on social media and the Internet for women whose voices are not being heard and literally, have no where else to turn. I feel like as much as we’re calling on men to take responsibility, women need to, as well, to protect this channel because it is powerful. When you say something, it has serious repercussions.”
But despite her own relationship with Hardwick, Savage does say that if he is guilty of any inappropriate behavior, he should have to face the consequences.
“If he’s done something criminal, he’s got to be called to it,” she says. “I just felt like, ‘You know what? This doesn’t feel right.’ Even if something is true, that doesn’t change my 17-year history with him.”
Dykstra, 29, wrote about her painful experience with sexual assault in an emotional first-person essay earlier this month, although she never named her former boyfriend.
In the essay, titled “Rose-Colored Glasses: A Confession,” the TV personality doesn’t name the subject, though certain key details led many fans on Twitter to believe that she was referring to ex-boyfriend Hardwick, 46.
Hours after Dykstra’s claims went public, Hardwick gave a statement obtained by PEOPLE saying he made sure to take time to respond to the “very serious allegations.”
“I was heartbroken to read Chloe’s post. Our three-year relationship was not perfect — we were ultimately not a good match and argues — even shouted at each other — but I loved her and did my best to uplift and support her as a partner and companion in any way and at no time did I sexually assault her,” said Hardwick.
Along with speaking out about issues including the #MeToo movement, Savage also uses her platform as an actress to support women.
In her hit TruTV show I’m Sorry — which she created, wrote and stars in — she wanted to show a well-rounded, realistic portrayal of a working mom.
“The mission behind it is very supportive of women,” she says. “I wanted to show a nuanced character that you just can’t put into two dimensions. I’m a mom. All my friends are moms, and we’re real moms. We’re still the people we used to be. We’re funny. We’re dirty. We’re flawed, but we’re trying, and we’re good, for the most part, but not always perfect.”
I’m Sorry returns for a second season on TruTv later this year.