The Bachelor Franchise says “Me Too”

Here at JWI, several of us identify as members of Bachelor Nation (many have watched every season), and last night Caelynn’s disclosure to Colton about her experiences as a sexual assault survivor deeply resonated with us. Currently in its 22nd season, The Bachelor draws an audience of more than 7 million viewers weekly. Even though most of us are keenly focused on the drama and rapid dialogue between contestants (Demi and Courtney, we’re looking at you), the show presents a powerful opportunity to address issues impacting women and girls. One in five women are sexual assault survivors, which means one in five women watching the Bachelor are victims of sexual assault. Caelynn’s public confession is more than incredibly brave; it’s an opportunity to open a critical dialogue. Many Bachelor contestants and survivors rushed to social media to share their solidarity and support, and for some, to Tweet, Snap or share: “Me Too.”

By Sasha Altschuler and Erin McMullen

According to the National Sexual Violence Resource Center, “in 8 out of 10 cases of rape, the victim knew the perpetrator.” Survivors’ experiences are also worsened by the rise of social media and technology. Caelynn described how several people at the party blasted her assault on social media. Rather than helping her, they used her assault as content. 

Caelynn immediately tried to get a rape kit but was turned away from the hospital because it didn’t have a SANE nurse available. In order to best support survivors and their recent trauma, hospitals will hire Sexual Assault Nurse Examiners (SANE), but they often don’t have them on staff so survivors may be turned away. Even if survivors are able to get access to a rape kit but not within the recommended 24-72 hour period, doctors will often claim the rape kit results are “inconclusive.” In rural America, where there is a shortage of SANE nurses, survivors may need to drive several hours to find a hospital that has them on staff. According to a 2016 study by the Government Accountability Office, in a state like “Wisconsin...for example, reported that nearly half of the state’s counties lacked a single examiner available for a patient who requested a rape kit. Nebraska struggled with the same imbalance.” Nationally, there is a backlog of sexual assault forensic exams that were never sent to the crime lab or tested after they were received.

We get it, this isn’t the type of stuff you think about when watching the Bachelor. But as members of JWI staff, we do, and we want to recognize and validate this trauma. Caelynn’s intentions were made very clear: she was someone who wanted to seek justice. She reported her assault to the police the next day. But unfortunately, there is a statute of limitations for the time frame in which you can report a crime. According to multiple sources “statutes of limitation vary by state, type of crime, age of the victim, and various other factors.” Reporting is extremely scary, but also brave. Some people might ask: why don’t victims come forward sooner? Many survivors report feeling “guilty” or full of “shame” (as Caelynn felt) especially if the perpetrator is someone they know, which can make this process even more difficult. Some survivors delay sharing their story, if they ever do.

Reporting to police and sharing your story with close family and friends has lasting impacts on the survivor’s journey. How loved ones respond to a survivor sharing their story has a huge impact on how the survivor processes their trauma moving forward. Through our Safe Smart Dating program, JWI trains college students to respond to disclosures with survivor-affirming phrases such as “I believe you,” “I am here for you,” and “It’s not your fault,” to convey validation and care. Caelynn told Colton that it took her a year to tell her mother, and we hope that if more people were trained on how to best respond, survivors would feel more comfortable speaking out sooner.

It’s critically important that we change the culture and normalizing discussions about this issue. Caelynn explained that her experience as a survivor is “something that will always be a part of (her) and will always come up in relationships." We applaud her and the Bachelor franchise for opening the dialogue about gender-based violence and giving a powerful example of how to have a conversation about an issue that can be difficult to talk about with loved ones, much less to an audience of 7+ million viewers.

According to the National Domestic Violence Hotline, females aged 18 to 34 experienced the highest rates of intimate partner violence. Females aged 18-49 are the largest percentage of Bachelor viewership so there’s a direct correlation between Bachelor Nation demographics and those who say “me too.” With its huge audience and opportunities for impact, pop culture can be a critical avenue for changing the culture and creating social change. We’re excited to see that Bachelor Nation agrees with us and look forward to more conversations that can lead to positive social change.

You can take action now to support all survivors by submitting a comment to the Department of Education to keep their #HandsOffIX:

If you or someone you know has been impacted by sexual assault, please feel free to reach out to the National Sexual Assault Hotline for support: 1-800-656-4673.