‘The Bachelor’ Contestant on Revealing Sexual Assault: ‘I Thought It Was Going to Be Hell’

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SPOILER ALERT: Do not read if you have not yet watched “The Bachelor: Women Tell All” that aired Tuesday, Mar. 5.

After sharing that she had been sexually assaulted in college, “The Bachelor” contestant Caelynn Miller-Keyes says she suffered from anxiety up until the episode aired and didn’t expect so much support from fans.

I was like, ‘People are going to rip me apart on Twitter.’ I thought it was going to be hell, people wouldn’t believe me, and I’d have to relive that same PTSD I had in college of not being believed,” Miller-Keyes told Variety at the taping of “The Bachelor: The Women Tell All” reunion in Los Angeles, Calif. 

Instead, she says the reaction was the opposite. “People are becoming more understanding and compassionate toward survivors,” she said.

Miller-Keyes shared her story with titular Bachelor Colton Underwood during a one-on-one date in Singapore during Week 4. The Miss North Carolina titleholder previously spoke about her sexual assault at the 2018 Miss America competition, where she went on to place as the first runner-up. In this season of “The Bachelor,” she was eliminated after the hometown visits during Week 8, coming in fourth place on the dating show.

“It was one of those conversations and moments that was bigger than the show itself,” Underwood told Variety. “She’s extremely brave and an incredible person and for her to have the safety in our relationship to be able to be open and discuss that, was very powerful.”

Nearly two years after the spinoff show “Bachelor in Paradise” halted production after sexual misconduct allegations on set, the flagship series was able to give a platform for Miller-Keyes’ story during the #MeToo era. It was the first time a contestant on any “Bachelor” show shared a story of previous sexual abuse on-screen.

“We just wanted to care for everybody. We took great lengths as a production, and I give a lot of credit to our producers for making that moment and that environment as safe, comfortable and personal as possible,” host Chris Harrison told Variety. “Caelynn was brave and courageous, and I think the impact was felt by our viewers. Not to take away from celebrities when they are victims, but there’s something about just a normal, everyday girl — the face of all of our daughters — in Caelynn saying her truth. I think that’s what hit home for everybody. I’m glad it had the impact it did because that’s a conversation we need to have.”

“The Women Tell All” brought back 19 of the contestants from Underwood’s season to discuss their time on the show and rehash old fights. The peak of all the arguing occurred when Courtney Curtis confronted Demi Burnett, the season’s biggest and most boisterous villain, and put a pacifier in her mouth. Another yelling match pitted Nicole Lopez-Alvar against Onyeka Ehie, whom Lopez-Alvar claimed bullied her on the show.

“There was a lot of drama, that’s nothing new, but usually we come to resolutions more often than not,” Harrison said. “This show had a lot of unresolved issues when we moved on. Everyone was pretty heated.”

Coming in fourth place on Season 14 of “The Bachelorette,” Underwood surprised love interest Becca Kufrin and viewers by sharing that he was still a virgin, waiting to find the right woman with whom to fall in love. His virginity became a hot topic on his season, as ABC promotions played up that facet of his life.

“I think the virginity was definitely overplayed,” Underwood said. “Thank god there was the fence to distract people.”

On the hometown visits episode just ahead of the “Women Tell All” special, Cassie Randolph’s dad refused to give his blessing to Underwood, who had previously confessed he was falling in love with Randolph even though she was not ready to reciprocate the feelings. A week later, Randolph was surprised to see her dad show up on set in Portugal and cast further doubt on her relationship with the Bachelor. Randolph then tearfully confronted Underwood, and elected to leave on her own. After she left, an annoyed Underwood pushed a camera out of his face as he walked away from the show’s producers. The Bachelor then lifted himself over a 6-foot tall fence in a single fluid motion and disappeared, much to the disbelief of the camera crew. 

“You watch a very emotional, tough conversation take place and then me try to figure out where exactly I was at. In that moment, I needed to be by myself and make the best decision for me as a human being. That was just to get away,” Underwood said. “It was a great feeling, and it was something that I needed.”

Harrison also alluded to the fact that the moment has a great impact on Underwood’s proposal to the eventual winner of the season. “What happens after is what people will remember about how this thing ends,” he said. “People will see it’s not just hyperbole; it actually is this pivotal moment that sets up everything from then on out.”

Also during the taping, Burnett addressed her multiple disagreements with several other women, but told Variety that she “wouldn’t change anything.” Over the course of the show, she stirred up drama by making comments about contestants’ older ages, whisking Underwood away to give him a massage wearing a bathrobe and her calling another woman the “cancer of the house.”

I think I killed it. I made the season. I will forever be remembered,” she said. “What I hope people take away is to be undeniably yourself, and to own it in everything you do. Sometimes I probably took it too far, but either way at least I stood out.”

Some think Burnett’s over-the-top personality and notoriety on the season would make her a perfect contestant for “Bachelor in Paradise,” but she claimed to not know anything about casting for the spinoff.

Typically drawn from the cast of “The Bachelor,” the next star of “The Bachelorette” has yet to be announced, but writer-producer Mike Fleiss raised fans’ interest by tweeting that Khloe Kardashian was in consideration for the leading role after her recent breakup. Despite her swift rejection of that idea, the cast shared their thoughts on the possibility.

“She needs to do what’s best for her as a human being and take her time and grieve,” Underwood said. But, he added, “A Kardashian as a Bachelorette would be great TV.”

“The Bachelor” airs Mondays at 8 p.m. on ABC.