I will accept this rose, but not sexual assault

Courtesy of Alice Feng

While most Monday nights for The Bachelor Nation (The Bachelor franchise’s fan club) are filled with laughter and romantic lust, one episode exposed the reality behind reality TV. Last week, Caelynn Miller-Keyes, a contestant on this season of The Bachelor, opened up about her sexual assault experience in college. While on her one-on-one date with Bachelor Colton Underwood, the former Miss Carolina became the first contestant on the hit reality TV show to share her experience publicly.

Although she’s most likely not the first contestant to have suffered through this situation –– because 1 in 5 women experience sexual assault in their lifetime –– her bravery in speaking up and breaking the stigma is nothing short of admirable. With only 25 percent of sexual assault victims reporting their cases, it’s vital for those who have endured this trauma to use their voice, speak up and share their story. Those who have a platform have the ability to help other sexual assault victims feel less alone, which in some cases can be enough to make them speak up themselves. Sharing personal stories and experiences can be the best way to end the stigma around this topic.

After the airing of her date, Miller-Keyes took to Instagram to express gratitude for the outpouring of love she received. She shared one post with her followers that included details and statistics about sexual assault. She then followed it with a photo of herself during her date with Underwood, which received over 130,000 likes and nearly 2,000 comments, most of which expressed gratitude for her bravery. This overwhelming support could encourage more people like Miller-Keyes to come out and speak against sexual assault.

Her story also has the ability to spark conversation among college students. Since the episode aired, I’ve had multiple conversations with friends about this very topic, all of which were inspired by the episode. In the past, I’ve had people I care about deal with the anguish that comes from sexual assault, I’ve watched the news as other brave women and men like Aly Raisman, Lady Gaga, Terry Crews and Christine Blasey Ford came out with their struggles and I’ve had intimate conversations with close, trusted friends about the horror surrounding the subject. This, however, was the first time the topic had openly come up in casual conversations. I sat with groups of peers, men and women, talking about the frequency and danger of sexual assault on college campuses across the country as well as Oxy specifically. The show’s ability to be respectful, direct and honest about a sensitive topic made it easy for others to voice their opinions on the subject.

While the show has been mocked for its cheesy plots and overly-staged dates, it has managed to bring important discussions and topics to light over the past few years. In 2017, Rachel Lindsay was The Bachelorette’s first black lead. Throughout her season, the topic of race came up multiple times and sparked conversation outside the show. This season, Underwood opened up about his virginity and how he chose not to have sex while pursuing his football career. Parallel to these previous discussions, sexual assault is another example of how The Bachelor continues to break down those walls time and time again.

Since the show is popular among college students, it’s important for them to keep bringing up difficult and contemporary subjects in order to continue moving the conversations forward. People like Caelynn Miller-Keyes have the ability to ignite discussion and change by using their voice and fame honestly and bravely. Sexual assault is not something that should go unseen and not something that should go unreported.

Aime Fukada is an undeclared sophomore. She can be reached at afukada@oxy.edu.