WARNING: This article may be triggering to those who have experienced sexual assault
On January 28, 2019, "The Bachelor" contestants took a trip to Singapore. There were plenty of fun moments, including a skydiving trip and some sort of leech spa treatment. On Tayshia's one-on-one date, she dropped the bomb that she is divorced. This revelation was a first for this version of the show—while some "Bachelorette" contestants have opened up about previous marriages in the past, Tayshia is the first female contestant to open up about the same thing.
While this moment was great and important, the true breakthrough of the episode came through in the second hour at the end of Caelynn's one-on-one date. Because she felt she was getting closer with Colton, she chose to reveal that she had been drugged and sexually assaulted in college. Sitting in the lounge in my dorm, watching the show with my friends, this hit home. The silence in the room that's normally full of laughs, proved we could all envision ourselves in her situation—sexual assault is a very real thing in today's society for women of our age.
The fact that Caelynn opened up about her experience on national television shows that we are making progress. The #MeToo and Time's Up movements have drawn attention to the widespread sexual assault problem in the United States, and these campaigns have almost completed their job in terms of increasing awareness. With the increased awareness, this moment with Caelynn demonstrates that change is finally happening. I can't imagine that a contestant on a dating reality show would share her story with the nation before October 2017—many viewers likely would have shamed her for such a thing, saying she shouldn't have drunk the wine containing the drugs or that what she was wearing was the cause of her assault. But now in 2019, we have moved to have serious conversations about sexual assault, so women like Caelynn are free to share their trauma and can expect nothing but support in response.
Colton's response to Caelynn's revelation though is the true meter of progress. He was completely accepting of Caelynn's past and was very gentle with her. Colton allowed Caelynn to open up at her own pace with no judgment at all. Of course, Caelynn received a rose after this conversation, but that is minor in comparison to Colton's body language and comforting words at the moment.
Suddenly, I found myself watching "The Bachelor" and taking it seriously because of the work this scene has started to do—I have a newfound appreciation for this show that might otherwise seem a little ridiculous. Caelynn chose to show America that she's a real woman with real, scary experiences that she's willing to share with the world in hopes of making a difference and living life as her true self.
If you or someone you know is struggling with sexual assault, visit rainn.org or call 1-800-656-4673 to get help.