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Reality TV Needs New Rules for Sexual Consent, Says Attorney Lisa Bloom

Prominent attorney Lisa Bloom is calling on TV-dating shows to change the rules of consent for casts engaging in sexual behavior on camera in the wake of the “Bachelor in Paradise” controversy.

“I think it would be very helpful on these shows to have a course of conduct like a lot of these colleges have, which is there has to be an explicit verbal ‘yes’ to each sexual act,” said Bloom, who is currently working with other stars in the midst of high-profile cases, including Kathy Griffin.

Production was recently shut down on ABC’s “Bachelor in Paradise,” with Warner Bros. Television launching a formal investigation into “allegations of misconduct” on the set. Three days after news of the scandal broke, two contestants at the center of the situation — Corinne Olympios and DeMario Jackson — came forward, saying they are contemplating legal action.

Bloom, who doesn’t work with either Jackson or Olympios, believes the reality-TV world would benefit from making sure cast members clearly express consent before any on-screen romance heats up.

“That sounds very lawyer-y and unsexy, but I would disagree — I think consent is very sexy,” said Bloom, who represented multiple women against former Fox News anchor Bill O’Reilly during his sexual harassment scandal. “I think that would be a good rule for reality shows to adopt — reality shows that profit mightily off of attractive young people getting drunk and hooking up on their shows.”

As for whether or not there is a case, Bloom says, “I need to know more facts before I can come to that conclusion, but the video is going to be everything. The video is going to be hugely significant. What does that video show?”

The video is footage of the incident between Olympios and Jackson, given that “Bachelor in Paradise” cameras were rolling the entire time the incident occurred. While neither the network nor the production company has commented on the contents of the video, tabloid reports have alleged the duo was under the influence of alcohol and engaged in sexual activity in a swimming pool, which reportedly caused a producer to speak up, leading to the internal investigation and production shutdown.

“This is a complicated situation,” Bloom says. “On these reality shows, there is a lot of alcohol available and my understanding is that contestants are encouraged to drink a lot. Nobody should ever be encouraging someone to drink past the point of inebriation so that’s on the producers. But somebody who is legally an adult also has some responsibility for the choices they make about drinking. So that’s one issue.” (Both contestants are of legal drinking age; Olympios is 25 and Jackson is 30.)

But Bloom points out that alcohol isn’t the only factor to consider. “The second issue is if she’s sexually assaulted, that’s only the responsibility of the perpetrator — that is not her responsibility in any way, if she is the victim of sexual assault,” she says. “Anybody who is aware of that happening has a moral responsibility to turn off the cameras and get her help. These cases are very difficult.”

While Olympios has not detailed who she may be suing, Bloom says she would advise one of her clients in a similar situation to include both the perpetrator and production company — in this instance, Jackson and Warner Bros. TV. “He’s the one primarily responsible,” Bloom explains of any perpetrator. “The show may have encouraged him, so they’re responsible, too, but if the allegation is that he sexually assaulted her, he should be included.”

According to Olympios’ statement, the reality star appears to be claiming she was in a state of blackout during the alleged incident. Bloom says that state of mind could be very tricky to prove. “If on the video, she seems coherent and she’s speaking and seems to be consenting, that makes the whole thing murky,” the attorney says.

Reality dating shows are famous for encouraging drinking and hookups. So could there be more former “Bachelor” franchise contestants who step up with other claims, now that Olympios has set the stage? Bloom says that could be difficult — but possible.

“I’ve reviewed these reality show contracts and they are ridiculous — they are hundreds of hundreds of pages, and people sign away their right to claim, ‘I was drunk and I hooked up and now I’m embarrassed that’s on TV.’ They sign away their right to make that claim. [But] they don’t sign away their right to not be sexually assaulted. So that’s where I draw the line,” Bloom explains. “If they’re engaging in consensual behavior, the show gets to film that because that’s what they signed up for. But if they’re sexually assaulted, then they should come forward and they should come forward immediately because the time frames are short.”

Bloom says the “Bachelor in Paradise” situation should spark a change in protocol for all reality dating series going forward. “I hope that she wasn’t sexually assaulted, but if she was, I’m glad that she’s speaking out for her rights and standing up. And I hope that she does change their practices,” she says.

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