A close friend of a well-known and respected Hollywood Sex Therapist says the system failed her friend and led to her untimely death. Diana Arias says Amie Harwick was the victim of an abusive ex-boyfriend who, even years after their breakup, stalked and harassed her.
Police say on February 15th, Gareth Pursehouse strangled Harwick inside her home in the Hollywood Hills and threw Harwick from a 3rd story balcony. Arias says Pursehouse and Harwick dated about 10 years ago and after the two broke up Pursehouse wouldn’t leave Harwick alone, which forced Harwick to get a restraining order against Pursehouse. The restraining order was issued in 2012 and expired in 2015.
Arias told me she learned of Harwick’s death on Facebook and couldn’t believe it. She said she hoped Amie in the hospital and only injured, but when she finally realized her friend was dead, she was shocked. Arias said she wasn’t surprised to learn that Pursehouse was the lead suspect in the case. Arias told me she never knew Pursehouse but did on occasion discuss him with Harwick.
Harwick was also once engaged to comedian and TV host, Drew Carey. During his radio show he expressed his pain and distress over losing someone he said he was still very much in love with. You can hear a portion of his comments in my feature below.
Arias said she wanted to turn the tragedy of Harwick’s death into a movement for change. She went to the online petition site, change.org, and created a petition called ‘Justice4Amie’. The narrative reads:
Amie had a restraining order in place against a violent ex-boyfriend she dated over a decade ago. The restraining order had expired before her untimely death. In the last week of January 2020, this ex-boyfriend attended an event, at which she was making an appearance, and continued his harassment of her. He began to stalk her thereafter and on late Valentine's night decided to attack her in her own home. This man clearly needed treatment, incarceration and/or punishment for years prior to this attack. She should have never been in this situation like so many other victims. The process to get a restraining order is very difficult, traumatizing and must be repeated when the restraining order expires. With this in mind I believe the laws and statues need to be re-written as follows:
1. No expiration date or a longer protection term and to not be lifted until victim requests it to be cancelled.
2. Mandatory long-term counseling for the stalker/abuser. If they are deemed a harm to the victim or society, then institutionalization may be ordered.
3. Victims should not have to testify in a courtroom close to their abuser/stalker. There should be an option to live stream in a safe space in
a satellite location for the hearing with the judge. It's a traumatic experience that the victim is already dealing with and should not be subjected to it again if they do not feel they can. That is why many abusers get away with their actions: many victims back out of trial due to fear of facing their perpetrator.
4. Just like sex offenders, a national registry should be made to warn others of offenders that have restraining orders. There can be levels just like Sex Offender Registry. A national database so that you can look up an individual and see if they have multiple restraining orders out on them. It is very difficult to search an individual now to determine if they have had more than one Restraining Order without knowing the Victim etc.
5. Financial Abuse by Abusers is very serious and is another major reason why most victims find it difficult to leave their abuser. Identity Theft since the abuser may have all the personal and financial information of the victim. Their Credit Scores ruined by partners running up charges and not paying their debts to hurt the victim.
6. Free access to Attorneys just like criminals have free access to public defenders. A victim should not have to bear the legal fees that are incurred when seeking protection.
7. The personal addresses of anyone should be blocked from public access and remain private per individuals request. Voter Registration and Business Registration is an easy way to access someone's personal home information which gives Stalkers and Abusers access to the victim's home address. Privacy matters!
The petition is intended for local, state and federal lawmakers. During my interview with Arias I asked her if any of the politicians had reached out to her. At that time, they hadn’t, so I showed her an email and statement sent to me from California Congressman Adam Schiff. Here is the entire statement:
Statement from Congressman Adam Schiff:
“We’re all shocked and horrified by the murder of Amie Harwick, and my thoughts are with her family and friends at this time.
“Violence against women continues to be a scourge in our society that must be eradicated, and the circumstances of this crime by a man who had been subject to a restraining order are all too common and horrific. While this issue gets broad attention when those well known to the public are victimized, it affects countless women all over the county.
“Protective orders need to be easier to obtain and renew, and their enforcement — from police to prosecutor — must be much more highly prioritized to be effective. I have met with police, the city attorney and district attorney to advocate for victims on this issue, and I am going to continue to pursue the matter until all victims are protected. In Congress, we can start by reauthorizing the Violence Against Women Act which was passed by the House last year and remains held up by opposition in the Senate.”
Listen to my feature about Arias’ effort to create stronger laws to protect the victims of domestic violence, and to stop violence before it happens:
Photo courtesy of Diana Arias/change.org