For the past week and a half, Bachelor in Paradise has been in trouble. The reality show—a looser, more freewheeling counterpart to The Bachelor—halted production on June 10 after a producer alleged misconduct on set, claiming that alcohol-fueled revelry on the evening of June 4 had led to the sexual assault of one of the contestants. Four days later, contestant Corinne Olympios released a statement, telling the public that “I am a victim and have spent the last week trying to make sense of what happened… As a woman, this is my worst nightmare and it has now become my reality.”
As Warner Bros. conducted an internal investigation of the incident, details began to surface on the internet. Amy Kaufman, a reporter for The LA Times, tweeted items that had been shared by an unnamed source, who’d told her that the event took place in the pool and “turned into ‘soft core porn.’” Commentators began to discuss the existence of a video—after all, this did take place on the set of a reality show—that might confirm or deny various conflicting accounts. Some reported that the entire production had been shut down, and all contestants had been sent home.
And then, after ten days of investigation, Warner Bros. announced that it had determined that no misconduct had occurred, and production resumed on June 21.
OVER AND OVER, OUR JUSTICE SYSTEM, OUR UNIVERSITIES, AND YES, EVEN OUR TV PRODUCTION COMPANIES, MAKE IT CLEAR THAT SEXUAL ASSAULT SURVIVORS ARE OUR MOST EXPENDABLE CITIZENS.
I would like to say that this news came as a shock to me, but—mere days after twelve jurors were unable to agree that Bill Cosby, a man who’s been accused of rape by scores of women, was, indeed, a rapist—it honestly just felt like business as usual. We keep expecting our institutions to protect us, to exact justice for us, but over and over our justice system, our universities, and yes, even our TV production companies, make it clear that sexual assault survivors are our most expendable citizens.
In its announcement this week, Warner Bros. noted that the videotape of the evening had been reviewed, and that “the tape does not support any charge of misconduct by a cast member. Nor does the tape show, contrary to many press reports, that the safety of any cast member was ever in jeopardy.” It’s an odd sort of statement, one that generates more questions than it answers. Aside from confirming that someone was not completely passed out through the course of a sexual encounter, how, exactly, does a videotape prove that a person was sober enough to consent to sex? How, pray tell, is consent visually depicted on film—and why should we trust a recording over the statement of someone who’s come forward as a survivor of sexual assault?
A few days before Bachelor in Paradise returned to production, another videotape made its way into the news; this one the dash cam that had recorded the death of Philando Castile at the hands of Officer Jeronimo Yanez. What you see in the video—whether you see an innocent man killed by a racist, reckless cop; or a vigilant, if overzealous, police officer reasonably responding to a perceived threat—depends, so much, on your perspective. Most of the people I know would fall into the former category. The jury that acquitted Officer Yanez, however, clearly fell into the latter.
Though the Bachelor in Paradise tape will not be released to the public, it seems safe to say that what it shows you depends on your perspective as well. Warner Bros.—a massive corporate entity with millions of dollars and a reputation on the line—doesn’t have much incentive to take a nuanced, thoughtful approach to the issue of sexual assault. Warner Bros. doesn’t have much incentive to recognize that rape does not look like one thing, that it can be a quiet, internal trauma as well as a loud, violent, and vocal one. Short of a video depicting a hogtied woman loudly screaming no, it’s hard to imagine what “proof” could have convinced Warner Bros. to agree that, yes, contestant DeMario Jackson had committed sexual assault.
And while it may be tempting to write this off as corporate greed throwing a sexual assault survivor under the bus, it is worth remembering that Warner Bros. is hardly the only one to look at a potential rapist and see nothing but a clean cut, fine upstanding fellow. Multiple jurors refused to convict Bill Cosby, in spite of overwhelming evidence against him. Despite being found guilty of rape, Brock Turner was given a minimal sentence, largely due to his privileged background and promising future. Casey Affleck, Julian Assange, Chris Brown, Jian Ghomeshi, Roman Polanski—the list of men who’ve been accused of abuse and sexual misconduct, who we continually refuse to hold accountable for any crime, goes on and on. And names will continue to be added until we finally accept that a rapist isn’t just the monstrous serial predator or the loutish, stereotypical frat boy. He’s the nice, friendly boy next door; the charismatic pop star; the charming TV dad.
Rapists, like rape survivors, are everywhere. We just have to be willing to see them.