Katie Thurston wanted to share her story to help others. On Monday’s episode of The Bachelorette, the 30-year-old bank marketing manager told some of her suitors that, on New Year’s Eve 10 years ago, she “was involved in a situation where there wasn’t consent.”
Following the episode, Katie appeared on Talking It Out with Mike & Bryan, a Bachelor Nation podcast hosted by franchise alums Mike Johnson and Bryan Abasolo, and revealed why she decided to share her story while on a group date led by Nick Viall, during which Katie’s men were encouraged to share details of their past.
“Going into it, I didn’t think I was ever going to share something like that,” she said. “But just hearing these men open up and cry and share things that they probably thought… they’d never share, I just felt so comforted and supported in this safe circle, and I just had to let them know my side, my story.”
Though she didn’t initially intend to share her past experience during the date, Katie is now glad she did, and she hopes it can be a jumping off point for more conversations.
“We’re in a world where no matter what you do… everything’s being judged constantly. People do struggle with opening up and sharing their truth. I think it’s just hard for people to start the conversation,” she said. “I think that’s what being vulnerable does, and that’s kind of what that circle did.”
“One person started to open, and then another person’s like, ‘Well, if they’re going to share I’m going to share,’ and it kind of just continued this domino effect,” Katie continued. “That’s really all I hope with me sharing my story tonight, that men and women who have gone through similar experiences can start talking about something they’ve gone through, or parents can talk to their kids about what consent is.”
Katie added, “In some ways it’s so liberating to take this negative moment and make it such a positive, and start these conversations and educate people on their resources and [help them] know they’re not alone.”
“This has happened to so many men and women, but people don’t talk about it because they feel ashamed and embarrassed,” she noted.
While consent is a frequent topic of conversation now, at the time of Katie’s experience neither the #MeToo movement nor “the whole thing about consent” were “really a thing.”
“We were taught that it was our fault,” Katie said. “It wasn’t until later that you realize it’s not your fault and consent is so important.”
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Katie didn’t tell anyone in the immediate aftermath of the experience, as she felt “ashamed” and “dirty” and “like it’s your fault.” She eventually told two friends, but did not open up to her mom until just weeks before the episode aired.
“That was probably the hardest part… either I had to tell [my mom] before the episode aired, or she was going to find out,” Katie said. “… It was hard. Even talking about it now, it’s very hard. She feels bad that she wasn’t there for me in that moment, and didn’t recognize signs. She felt bad that she wasn’t a safe space for me to go to.”
“We both got emotional over it,” she continued. “But then she opens up about her story. And that’s the thing, so many women and men have gone through something very similar, more than we even realize. It’s really unfortunate. I hope it becomes better… It took me 10 years to tell my mom. That’s unfortunate.”
Following the experience, Katie said she struggled for a long time, and “did not enjoy having sex” until “at least five years” later.
“I had this really negative relationship with it. But, of course, when you’re in a relationship it’s important to have that chemistry. It kind of creates a domino effect of, ‘Well, he has his needs, I want to give him that.’ But then you’re forcing it. Or when you’re not having sex, he’s angry,” she said. “It’s this really unhealthy thing that you’re just trying to get out of, but you’re digging this hole deeper and deeper by forcing it or fighting about it.”
Over time, and after “a lot of failed relationships,” Katie learned the importance of communication with her partner.
“The older you get and the more failed relationships you have, you really have to start digging deeper and deeper. In your early 20s, you’re like, ‘Eh, it’s whatever.’ And then you hit 25 and you’re like, ‘OK, what’s happening?’ And then all of the sudden you’re like 27, 28, 29, you’re like, ‘I need to figure my s**t out. I need to figure out what’s wrong,'” she explained. “There’s not a book I read or documentary I watched, it’s just self-reflection… It took 10 years of self-reflection and growth to figure out how to have a healthy relationship with myself, with sex, with my future partner.”
It’s in the last three years, Katie said, that she’s been able to be “very firm” in her decisions about sex.
“I was never going to force myself to do anything for a man that I didn’t want to do. I think that was probably the first step to building this healthy relationship,” she said. “Because if you start forcing yourself to have sex when you don’t want to, then your body, your mind, you start to create this negative association with sex in general, and you’re just setting yourself up for failure. For me, the first step that I had to do was to not try to please my man if it was something I didn’t want to do mentally or physically in that moment.”
Now that she’s shared her story, Katie is encouraging other survivors to openly communicate with partners and loved ones when they’re able.
“If you are a victim of sexual assault and you’re getting into a relationship, I think before you start to engage in a sexual relationship with that new partner, it’s important to figure out the right time to explain what you’ve been through,” she advised. “If you’re keeping that in, like I was early on, then your partner’s not going to understand what’s happening, and you’re just never going to really sync up.”
“In short, it’s all just about communication,” Katie continued. “… If talking about it in front of someone is not your style or you’re just not at that place, write it out, journal, share that with your partner later. If texting is easier, because you can read it, delete what you need, and get your words organized, do whatever you need to do to communicate… but you have to, at some point, communicate.”
If you or someone you know has experienced sexual violence, there is free, confidential help 24/7 available by calling 800.656.HOPE (4673) or visiting online.rainn.org.
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