Everything We Know About The Murky Sexual Assault Controversy From ‘Bachelor In Paradise’
This has been a huge and concerning week for reality TV.
This post discusses sexual assault.
By now you may have heard that filming of Bachelor In Paradise, the deliciously trashy Bachelor spin-off, has halted after allegations of “misconduct” on the set during filming in Mexico on June 4. Slowly but surely, details have leaked from the Paradise camp, clarifying that the “misconduct” refers to an allegation of sexual assault made by two producers about a drunken incident between contestant Corinne Olympios and fellow contestant DeMario Jackson.
Not only has filming on the current season of Paradise shut down, the whole show’s future is now in jeopardy. The whole incident, which is extremely serious, has been exposed over just one week, proving that things move with terrifying speed in the 24-hour news cycle.
The murky situation has escalated as various members of the production team, as well as Olympios and Jackson themselves, have made statements about what they believe happened. While we’re dealing with allegations of assault, it’s clear that something untoward has indeed gone down on the Paradise set. Not only that, but the recent allegations are bringing to light broader questions about how sex and consent are handled (and very often mishandled) on the set of reality TV programs.
One thing’s for sure, this is not a situation that will simply dissipate and settle. This week is just the beginning.
Start of the Week: The First Reports Of “Misconduct”
At this stage, it’s still unclear what exactly has gone down, which is often the case with assault allegations. But here’s what we do know, and full disclosure: the claims are often graphic and extremely disturbing.
On Monday this week, E! reported that production had “abruptly halted”. “We have become aware of allegations of misconduct on the set of Bachelor in Paradise in Mexico,” Warner Bros. explained. “We have suspended production and we are conducting a thorough investigation of these allegations. Once the investigation is complete, we will take appropriate responsive action.”
E! reported that contestants on set had already started packing up and returning home. Another source claimed that production had been halted “indefinitely”, that the allegations were quite serious, and that the show was “totally done for this season and possibly forever”.
The next day, it came out that production had halted after a producer claimed two contestants, Jackson and Olympios, had been “getting extremely sexual in a pool“. TMZ reported that Jackson had claimed to a few people that he and Olympios had engaged in “rubbing, touching, fingering”, as well as oral sex while the cameras rolled, but that he was too drunk to engage in penetrative intercourse. He claimed that Olympios had “put her genitals in his face” and he “began licking”, but others on the scene were quick to rebuke this particular claim, which later became the first major point of contention.
Reportedly Jackson claimed that the next day he and Olympios were “fine”, and “getting on well”, until a producer pulled them into their office and claimed to have watched the footage, and to have been made “uncomfortable” about what was shot. At the time TMZ was reporting this, there were already alternate allegations circulating, though Olympios and Jackson had not yet officially spoken out.
But People was already reporting that Jackson was under fire for engaging in sexual misconduct with a female contestant “who may have been too intoxicated to consent” (In cases of alleged sexual assault, People always declines to name the victim without their consent, but other outlets had named Olympios as the other contestant involved in the allegations.)
As People reported, a source on the set of Paradise claimed that two fellow contestants had raised concerns after watching the incident, which took place after Jackson and the contestant had been drinking all day. “The show absolutely values the primacy of consent,” the unnamed source told People. “This instance, it appears as though conduct allegedly occurred without the proper consent having been given.”
Reports alleged Olympios was in a “blackout” state when the incident occurred, and was not able to consent to — or remember — the encounter. The source on-set told People, “They could have seen that she was drinking too much and that he was taking advantage. They could have stopped this before it got this far.”
Mid-Week: The Allegations Escalate And Things Get Murkier
Die-hard fans of the Bachelor franchise will recognise Corinne Olympios as a charming runner-up on the last season of the US Bachelor. Olympios — open, sweet and funny — resisted the show’s “villain edit” and made it all the way to the final four. She was one of the high-profile contestants engaged for this season of Bachelor in Paradise, along with Jackson, who was booted off early in the current season of US The Bachelorette (helmed by Rachel Lindsay, the show’s first black Bachelorette).
Initially Olympios, who returned home once production was shut down, simply responded to questions from reporters with “no comment”. Meanwhile, competing allegations increased and the story became murkier.
Midway through the week it came out that the producer who reported the incident had not witnessed it, in person or on camera, and only heard about it second- or third-hand. It was confirmed that the producer in question, Shelby Adams, was a friend of Olympios’s from her season of The Bachelor, and was concerned about her welfare after hearing reports of assault from others on the scene. She filed the complaint along with another producer, Jessica “JB” Brown.
Eventually the show’s host, Chris Harrison, released a statement. “There are a lot of competing details in the various press accounts of the incident,” he wrote. “And there’s a lot of misinformation out there too. We urge everyone to be patient until the investigation is complete.
“I know in this day and age we want — and even expect — immediate answers, but in this case, it’s just not possible. So again, I urge you to please be patient and respect the privacy of the parties involved. I will keep you as informed and up to date as I possibly can. We’re sorry for any inconvenience and disappointment this may have caused the cast, the crew and our loyal fans. It is my sincere hope that we can come to a quick resolution on this and get back to work very soon.”
A Crew Member Speaks Out With A “Horrifying Account”
A Bachelor In Paradise crew member eventually spoke to Daily Mail, who published the “horrifying account” of what went down during filming. (Again, this is gnarly stuff, so be aware as you read on.)
The crew member told Daily Mail, “Corinne and DeMario found out when they arrived in Mexico that the storyline would involve the two of them hooking up so they decided to hang out and get better acquainted over drinks. Soon they decided to go swimming and when they climbed into the Jacuzzi, they were both loaded.”
Daily Mail reported that Olympios removed her bathing suit and things got “increasingly sexual” as they began touching and kissing each other. Here’s where things get disturbing. The crew member said Olympios “seemed to go limp and was sliding under water. DeMario kept trying to hold her up and at the same time he appeared to be having intercourse with her. After he finished – which only lasted a few seconds – he lifted her out of the water and laid her on the cement, where he proceeded to have oral sex with her.”
“She appeared to be unconscious,” the crew member told Daily Mail. “At that point some of the crew came out and carried her off to her room. She was limp and seemed unable to walk on her own.” Another source told Daily Mail that Olympios was seen by various contestants and crew members “stumbling drunk, eyes closed, slurring badly and wearing her clothes inside out” two hours after the alleged incident took place. So… not good stuff, basically.
fter Daily Mail published their crew-member expose, the New York Post published text messages between Jackson and a friend, where Jackson implied that the footage captured by the show would exonerate him if released.
TMZ also reported, though the claims were unsubstantiated at that point; that Olympios claimed she had not consented to sexual contact, and had hired a lawyer. But at this stage, neither Jackson or Olympios had spoken out publicly about the incident or clarified their positions.
End of the Week: Olympios and Jackson Both Speak Out
Finally, as we close out the week, both Olympios and Jackson are beginning to speak out about the slew of circulating allegations. First we heard from Olympios, who released an official statement that began, “I am a victim and have spent the last week trying to make sense of what happened on June 4.”
The heartbreaking statement confirms that Olympios has no memory of the incident, which she calls “her worst nightmare”.
“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.
“As I pursue the details and facts surrounding that night and the immediate days after, I have retained a group of professionals to ensure that what happened on June 4 comes to light and I can continue my life, including hiring an attorney to obtain justice and seeking therapy to begin dealing with the physical and emotional trauma stemming from that evening.”
A source close to Olympios told Vulture that she is “not in great shape” and that she has not yet been allowed to see footage of the incident. Olympios’s statement also confirms (thankfully) that she is seeking professional psychological help to assist in working through the trauma. Additionally, news officially breaks that she has hired a top Hollywood attorney, Marty Singer, to represent her, but has not filed a suit against Warner Bros. or Jackson.
Following the release of Olympios’s statement, Jackson spoke to E! News about the incident, denying all allegations that something untoward had occurred between him and Olympios. “It’s unfortunate that my character and family name has been assassinated this past week with false claims and malicious allegations,” he told E!.
“I will be taking swift and appropriate legal action until my name is cleared and, per the advice of legal counsel, will be seeking all available remedies entitled to me under the laws.”
Following the release of his statement, it was confirmed by a source inside Warner Bros. that neither of the contestants had seen the footage. Later, Jackson spoke to Inside Edition, reiterating the assertion that his character had been “assassinated” and his family name “has been drug through the mud”. He also told Edition that his job as a recruiter had been terminated, as a direct result of the sexual assault allegations.
As we hurtle toward the weekend, Jackson continues to claim that the footage, which is still being sequestered by Warner Bros., will exonerate him, while Olympios has refused to comment further, especially regarding and legal action she will take against Jackson or the studio.
Ok, So, What Now?
So far no more information about the incident has come to light, although it appears that both Olympios and Jackson are preparing for a legal battle. It also appears that Warner Bros. and Bachelor In Paradise‘s producers are still conducting their “internal investigation”; however, it seems unlikely that the show will return this season, if at all.
At this point, it’s worth remembering that all these allegations are just that — allegations. Nothing is confirmed, and no charges have been laid (nor have any suits been filed). However, the situation certainly brings a new, harsh light to the conduct of producers, crew and contestants on the set of these reality TV shows. Questions such as: who is in control? How much is everyone drinking? And, of course, who will step in if something goes too far, and when?
Of course, sex happens, regardless of whether or not there are cameras around. But sex without consent is never okay — absolutely, unequivocally never ok. It is illegal, and it’s assault. Regardless of what exactly happened and who knew what, it’s incredibly irresponsible for a television program to film contestants engaging in ANY activity, particularly activity of a sexual nature, without first ascertaining that all parties involved are aware and are sober enough to consent.
So, at the very least, perhaps this incident will force productions like The Bachelor and its offshoots to re-examine the efficacy and professionalism of their on-set practices.
If you or someone you know is impacted by sexual assault call 1800RESPECT on 1800 737 732 or visit 1800RESPECT.org.au. In an emergency, call 000.
Men can access anonymous confidential telephone counselling to help to stop using violent and controlling behaviour through the Men’s Referral Service on 1300 766 491.
Matilda Dixon-Smith is Junkee’s Staff Writer. She tweets from @mdixonsmith.