The Disturbing Problem With Bachelor in Paradise’s Sexual Assault Discussion

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The fourth season of Bachelor in Paradise premiered last week after an onslaught of controversy surrounding its production. Unfortunately, the way it addressed this controversy was problematic and even repulsive in its victim-blaming.

The show, which is a spinoff of the popular Bachelor franchise, temporarily halted production earlier this summer when Warner Bros. announced it was investigating “allegations of misconduct” on set. Soon after this announcement, allegations of a sexual encounter between contestants Corinne Olympios and DeMario Jackson emerged; what’s more, it was reported that Olympios may have been too intoxicated to consent to the alleged encounter. Filming, however, eventually resumed after the Warner Bros. investigation concludedthere was no evidence of misconduct.

In the days following the initial report, Olympios and Jackson issued their own statements about the allegations. In a conversation with People, Jackson claimed his “character” and “family name” had been “assassinated…with false claims and malicious allegations.” Olympios, meanwhile, said she had little memory of what had taken place at the time of the incident in question. “I am a victim and have spent the last week trying to make sense of what happened on June 4,” she said. “Although I have little memory of that night, something bad obviously took place, which I understand is why production on the show has now been suspended and a producer on the show has filed a complaint against the production… As a woman, this is my worst nightmare and it has now become my reality.”

While anticipating the season four premiere, viewers, myself included, wondered how the show would handle the controversy. The answer, unfortunately, is pretty disappointing.

First, teasers for the show presented the pause in filming as some kind of ~dramatic~ plot twist rather than a necessary response to some very serious allegations. Then, during the premiere itself, Chris Harrison addressed the scandal in the first few minutes, promising viewers they’d learn what really went down. Sure enough, the first episode contained footage of Olympios and Jackson conversing by the bar and even went so far as to show the two of them jumping in the pool, where the alleged sexual encounter between them supposedly occurred. Despite the fact that no assault or even misconduct has been proven, producers’ choice to include these scenes felt icky, gross, and exploitative of those featured. I felt like I was watching something I shouldn’t be seeing, just knowing what might have taken place a few moments later.

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