‘Bachelorette’ Katie Thurston’s sexual assault disclosure was powerful and necessary

Ffrom the moment The bachelorette started airing Katie Thurston’s group date with guest star Nick Viall, you could tell something was going to be different. Candles, rose petals, and jewelry tones faded in favor of an austere circle of chairs inside what looked like a dark studio space. But if the setup seemed awkward or consciously serious at first, it soon became clear why.

The Bachelorette began having a conversation about vulnerability, in which (most of) her suitors revealed the darkest moments they had grown up from. The men spoke of divorces, betrayals and drunkenness they were conspicuously most ashamed of. Next, Thurston opened up about her own past and said she was sexually assaulted while drunk for a year on New Year’s Eve.

“I know you see me today as this very positive and confident woman,” Thurston said. “She hasn’t always been here.

Thurston said she was “involved in a situation where there was no consent” and then tried to form a relationship with her attacker by denying what had happened. “When that didn’t work, for years I had a very unhealthy relationship with sex,” she said. “… And it took me a long time to get to where I am now by being open and comfortable talking about it, loving myself and accepting things that I can’t control anymore.” “

“I’ve come a long way in who I was 10 years ago,” Thurston said, adding that she had come to appreciate consent and communication. She also stressed “how important it is not to make someone feel guilty for not having enough sex with them. They are guilty of not having had sex with them in general.

The conversation was not without precedent for The single person, but it was the most important the franchise had ever had.

The single personThe most important discussion of consent has taken place under unfortunate circumstances. In 2017, Baccalaureate in paradise briefly stopped production after a producer reportedly indicated that Corinne Olympios and DeMario Jackson had engaged in sexual acts while very drunk. After two weeks, Warner Bros. said an investigation had concluded there was “no evidence of actor misconduct on set.”

Filming resumed in Puerto Vallarta without Olympios and Jackson, and the first found now old Single host Chris Harrison led a disturbing discussion about consent that basically boiled down to Bachelor in Paradise: we are not responsible.

What happened that year Baccalaureate in paradise is also to be considered alongside Matt James’ recently botched season. As disparate as the two scandals may seem at first glance, they both bear witness to the franchise’s past failures to protect its participants. Competitors of color in the Single-verse have always dealt with the ignorance of producers and outright racism, the candidates endured misogyny, and as Rachel Lindsay and several of James’ contestants can attest, black women usually end up doing the worst of all. Against this backdrop, Thurston’s talk on Monday night looks like a step forward for a dating franchise that, ironically, must demonstrate its emotional intelligence and empathy.

As disparate as the two scandals may seem at first glance, they both bear witness to the franchise’s past failures to protect its participants.

While Olympios and Jackson were both allegedly too intoxicated to give consent when they met while intoxicated in 2017, some reports adopted a narrative that emphasized Olympios’ vulnerability, implicitly portraying Jackson as the aggressor. Rachel Lindsay’s Bachelorette season, which included Jackson among its cast, had previously exposed the franchise’s struggles with race. It is perhaps because of this that the discussion of the actors during the paradise the first swung in the other direction from the press. While some reporters were too keen to blame Jackson, a mistake that Olympios castmates brought up in their own discussion when asked if they thought race was factored into how the film was cast. encounter was covered, they seemed reluctant to sympathize with Olympios’ claim that she felt like “a victim.”

A few of the cast made sure to point out that they weren’t blaming Olympios for what happened. But then came remarks like “Maybe she… wanted to try to save face.” Raven Gates shared that she had been assaulted before and said she hoped the BEEP the ordeal would not deter “real” victims.

From what is publicly known about the incident, at least, it doesn’t appear that empathy for Jackson and Olympios should have been mutually exclusive. Much of the discussion at the time focused on the extent to which producers can influence actors in these manipulative environments, and their responsibilities when alcohol is involved. Olympios herself never said she felt Jackson had victimized her and affirmative in a People interview that she didn’t think he had. Jackson also acknowledged that in his own interview with Hollywood journalist when asked why he didn’t “need” anything from Olympios to move on. As the scandal progressed, Olympios and Jackson faced relentless racist and sexist bullying online. (Harassment is another issue that the franchise has been struggling to address within his fandom.)

As the scandal progressed, Olympios and Jackson faced relentless racist and sexist bullying online.

At the time, the Baccalaureate in paradise the ordeal seemed like a potential turning point for the show – and its impact remained in subtle ways. As BEEP makes sure to report it on his return, a consumption limit is now in place. The franchise’s race issues have obviously become a recurring topic of discussion. And when Colton Underwood’s season The single person debuted in 2018, it featured an important discussion of sexual assault that provided a model for Thurston’s Monday night session.

Caelynn Miller-Keyes, a season favorite who also talks about sexual assault in high school and college, told Underwood she was raped in college four years earlier. “It’s not an easy thing for me to talk about,” she said, “but it’s something that’s really important, especially in relationships, because it’s something that’s happened. located between privacy and a lot of different things in my life. ” She spoke of reporting the incident to the police and being illegally turned away from a hospital while trying to have a rape kit prepared. She discussed the guilt and shame she carried for years afterward, and how she dealt with the triggers for months.

Thurston’s conversation seemed like the next step in the conversation Miller-Keyes had started. While no account is braver to share than another, it’s worth noting the distinction between the two. Victim blame runs deep in too many conversations about assault, which may make some listeners more sympathetic to an experience like Miller-Keyes – being drugged without knowing it – than those who, like Thurston, were simply unwell. drunkenness.

After sharing his story with his contestants, Thurston added one final point to his narrative in a live interview with the producers. “What I shared with the group today is something I never really talked about,” she said. “For a long time, I felt responsible for being too drunk, too irresponsible, too stupid. But it’s not my fault, because consent is important and I didn’t give it that night.

Katie Thurston talks to men about The bachelorette

Craig Sjodin / ABC

Shortly after the broadcast ended, RAINN, the largest national organization combating sexual violence, posted a statement on Twitter thanking her for sharing her story. “It doesn’t matter if you drink or what you wear, sexual violence is never the victim’s fault, only the abuser is responsible,” the statement said. “Consent is important and ALWAYS necessary. The message also includes an image that reads, “Consent is enthusiastic and freely given.” You can change your mind at any time if you feel uncomfortable.

The conversation Thurston and his competitors shared on Monday night epitomizes the potential of The bachelorette and the series love it when they embrace empathy and authentic storytelling. But this episode, revolutionary as it is, comes at a troubled time. Rachel Lindsay just released a Amazing tale of her experience as the first Black Bachelorette after Matt James’ season as the franchise’s first black male leader, exposed his perennial shortcomings in racing. (Again). Chris Harrison has just left the show after nearly two decades as host after defending Rachael Kirkconnell – James’ eventual season winner – for attending a pre-bellum South themed party in 2018. (James and Kirkconnell went their separate ways following the public explosion of the incident, but have since reconciled.)

A lot depends on Katie Thurston’s season, and it’s hard not to imagine that the producers saw this story as a chance to win back the goodwill of fans and critics. If the execution had been cynical, the episode wouldn’t have worked. Thurston said that before agreeing to become the next Bachelorette, “I expressed what I wanted with my journey, and I think I was listened to.” The way that conversation went, and in particular how prepared and secure Thurston clearly felt throughout, is an encouraging sign that Thurston’s hints about his season were more than empty platitudes.

To give it the credit it deserves, Thurston has an unusually good group of men to choose from. And while some of the franchises more odious tricks remain in the mix, its journey has felt less strongly produced than other recent cycles. As James’ season ignored the love stories that unfolded between the first Black Bachelor and its colored contestants in favor of petty white female dramas, Thurston saw a return to the story-driven approach that the fans are actually looking.

Still, it would be wrong to assume that the producers ‘lighter touch in Thurston’s season proves the franchise has absorbed the most important lessons of James’ season. The production of ham-fist tormented Single leads both blacks and whites, but the fundamental mismanagement of James’ season – the production choices that made it so impossible to watch – came from a place of racial ignorance and prejudice. Thurston’s season has been a refreshing and encouraging improvement so far, but it’s not enough on its own. that of michelle young Bachelorette The season, which premieres in September, will be a much more telling test of where this franchise is heading – and even then, the work has only just begun.

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