Monday night’s Bachelorette episode took a sharp turn away from the show’s usual shenanigans when leading lady Katie Thurston revealed she’s a survivor of sexual assault. Speaking with a group of contestants during a “vulnerability” themed date, Thurston disclosed that she was assaulted by a man a decade ago during a New Year’s Eve party, where she had been consuming alcohol. “I was involved in a situation where there wasn’t consent,” Thurston explained during the episode. “That is not something I wish upon anybody and I was in denial about what happened. So much so that I tried to form a relationship with him, because I didn’t want to believe what actually had happened.” Thurston, who’s perhaps the most sex-positive Bachelorette lead over 17 seasons, said that the aftermath of the assault left her with a “very unhealthy relationship” with sex for several years. She also told the contestants that her mom had been unaware of her story until now. “For a long time I felt responsible for being too drunk, too irresponsible, too stupid,” Thurston added. “But it’s not my fault because consent is important and I did not give it that night.”
Appearing on Good Morning America on Tuesday to further discuss her decision to open up about her assault on national television, Thurston said that she went into the group date not expecting to share the story at all. However, she was encouraged by the men, all of whom were candid about their past traumas and vulnerabilities. Prior to the date airing, only two of Thurston’s close friends were aware of the assault.
“You see it in that episode this like emotional relief of just like, it’s not my fault, you know, and that was a burden I felt for a very long time as if it was my fault,” Thurston said on GMA. “And I do hope men and women who’ve gone through something similar know that it’s not their fault as well, because that kind of relief from that pain is just — it’s so great.” She added, bluntly, “If you aren’t comfortable asking about consent, then you’re probably not ready to be having sex to begin with.”