From the moment Katie Thurston first appeared on Matt James’ Bachelor season, she became a fan-favorite for her authentic, sex-positive attitude. But she let viewers in on a much more personal level during the June 21 episode of her Bachelorette season. The moment was a reminder that, at its best, the Bachelor franchise can shine light on important issues while telling a love story, and Katie’s powerful story about being a sexual assault survivor is an example of that.
During Week 3 of The Bachelorette, Bachelor Nation alum Nick Viall hosted a group date centered around Katie and her guys opening up about their pasts. After hearing the men share their stories, Katie was inspired to share one of her own that she said “a lot of people don’t know, including my own mom.” She revealed she wasn’t always the sex-positive, confident woman viewers know today, and that a decade ago, she was sexually assaulted.
“Ten years ago, it was New Year’s Eve and I had been drinking. I was involved in a situation where there wasn’t consent, and that is not something I wish upon anybody,” Katie told the group.
She said that after the experience, she was in denial and tried to form a relationship with her abuser to avoid confronting what happened. “When that didn’t work out, for years, I had a very unhealthy relationship with sex. I didn’t want to have sex, which affects a relationship. I didn’t like talking about sex,” she said. “It’s taken me a long time to get where I am now, and being open and comfortable to talk about it, and loving myself, and accepting things that I can no longer control.”
Katie added that she wanted to be open with the men to illustrate “how important consent is, how important communication is.” In a confessional afterward, Katie said telling her story made her feel “liberated.”
"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 did not give it that night," she said. “I feel like this weight has been lifted.”
Speaking about consent on a major network series is an incredibly important moment, especially since it’s only the second time the topic has been so openly discussed in Bachelor Nation history. (Bachelor contestant Caelynn Miller-Keyes previously spoke about being a rape survivor on Colton Underwood’s season in 2019). Shame and stigma around sex can make consensually and comfortably navigating sexual encounters difficult, and having a Bachelorette discuss consent feels like a long overdue step forward for the franchise.
Immediately following the moment on the show, fans showed an outpouring of support for Katie on social media. Katie responded by thanking fans and sharing the contact information for RAINN (Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network), a message echoed by the official Bachelorette social media accounts.
The Bachelorette continues Mondays at 8 p.m. ET on ABC.
If you or someone you know has been sexually assaulted, you can call the National Sexual Assault Telephone Hotline at 800-656-HOPE (4673) or visit online.rainn.org.