On Monday night’s episode of The Bachelorette, Katie Thurston opened up more about her sexual assault. During a one-on-one date with Blake Moynes, she explained that she experienced a lot of guilt after the assault and even tried to pursue a relationship with the man who violated her consent. “I was in denial about what happened so much so that I pursued him aggressively to make it so that we were in a relationship so that it wasn’t what it really was,” she said.
Staying in touch with or trying to form a connection with an assaulter is not an uncommon reaction among survivors, even though it’s often used to victim-blame. Sometimes, it’s a way for survivors to cope with the lack of control they felt over their bodies. “If [survivors] can now conceptualize this as a relationship, they can feel they have control, whereas [during the assault] they didn’t feel they had control,” Elizabeth Jeglic, Ph.D., a psychology professor at New York’s John Jay College, told ABC News in 2020.
Other times, as with Katie, it’s borne out of a desire from survivors to downplay or deny what happened to them. “Acknowledging that it is rape, that can be something that is really painful,” Jeglic said.
This isn’t the first time during season 17 that Thurston has been candid about surviving sexual assault. During a previous group date, she got vulnerable with contestants sharing the impact the experience had on her, “I didn’t want to have sex…. I didn’t like talking about sex, and it’s taken me a long time to get to where I am now…. loving myself and accepting things I can no longer control.”
Katie has continued to use her platform to take away the stigma around talking about healthy sex and consent, even offering advice to other survivors. “What people need to remember is that if you’re uncomfortable having that conversation, then you’re probably not ready to be having sex with that person, to begin with,” she told Glamour. “If you have a good relationship with this person where, even if it’s casual, romantic, whatever, you should be comfortable to say, ‘Are you okay having sex? Do you want to have sex? Should we have sex?’”