By Lia Beck
Jan 29, 2019 @ 10:45 am
ABC

Content warning: This article contains a description of sexual assault, the details of which may be hard for some to read.

We’re really getting into the thick of it on season 23 of The Bachelor, with Monday night’s episode beginning with only half of the original 30 women remaining. Things are getting more serious, too — in fact, on this particular episode, a few of the women took the time to open up to Colton about deeper issues in their lives. Tayshia talked about being divorced, and the show's villain, Demi shared that her mom was recently (as in, during filming of the show) released from prison. But it was Caelynn’s story about being raped during college that was the most powerful. Overall — and perhaps surprisingly, given the franchise’s strange handling of issues around sex in the past —  it was handled very well by the show, by Colton in his response, and of course, by Caelynn herself.

ICYMI: After their shopping spree date, Caelynn and Colton met up for dinner. She told him that she needed to share something serious with him that could affect their relationship, particularly when it comes to intimacy. Caelynn then said that during her sophomore year of college, she and two of her friends were raped after their drinks were drugged at a gathering at someone’s house. She also said that explicit photos were taken of her while she was passed out.

As she was telling the story on air, it was clear that Caelynn wanted people to know the truth about how rape — specifically collegiate rape — is handled. She explained that only one of the men she claims was involved was expelled, while nothing happened to the others. She made a point to mention that she did go to have a rape kit done —  the first hospital she went to turned her down, and by the time she made her way to the second hospital, it was too late. She also talked about the shame leading her to hide the story from her mom for a year. She was sharing with Colton, sure — but more so, it seemed like she was telling her whole truth for the audience, and anyone who might be able to relate.

In response to Caelynn’s story, Colton gave thoughtful, sincere responses, and spoke about dating someone in the past who had been sexually assaulted. (I’m guessing that he is referring to his ex-girlfriend Aly Raisman, who lead the charge against former USA Gymnastics doctor Larry Nassar). Their conversation was genuine, and the show handled a tough situation with the seriousness and time it deserved. That was something that viewers appreciated:

That said, there are two things the show could have done differently to handle the situation even better: One, put a trigger warning before that segment of the show for those who are sensitive to conversations about rape. Two, ABC could have handled the promos that were shared on social media differently. A video the show’s official Instagram account posted about the episode teased “a powerful conversation you can’t miss.” Judging by the promo, Caelynn could have been talking about anything, and a conversation about something as serious as sexual assault should not be teased, period.

It was important for The Bachelor to air this conversation to such a big audience (especially since it left much to be desired in its discussion of sexual assault allegations in the past), but overall, Caelynn is the one responsible for this moment. Her handling of her story and her bravery in speaking to not just Colton, but to all of us, is surely already helping people who have been assaulted feel understood and encouraging those who immediately doubt an accuser to think twice. Bravo, Caelynn. No matter where this journey takes you, you’ve made one of the biggest impacts The Bachelor has ever seen.

If you or someone you know has been sexually assaulted, call the National Sexual Assault Telephone Hotline at 800-656-HOPE (4673) or visit online.rainn.org.

 

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