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'Bachelor' Star Colton Underwood's Sexual Assault Was a Turning Point in His Mental Health

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Editor's Note

If you’ve experienced sexual abuse or assault, the following post could be potentially triggering. You can contact The National Sexual Assault Telephone Hotline at 1-800-656-4673.

What happened: In an interview on Reality Steve’s podcast, “The Bachelor” star and former football player Colton Underwood opened up about how his mental health worsened after he was allegedly groped by a female fan in February 2019 at a charity event. Underwood shared that the incident made him feel powerless, and he was in a dark place following the assault. Prior to being assaulted, Underwood was already managing his anxiety and depression through medication and described himself as being “pretty heavily medicated” for his mental health while appearing on “The Bachelor.”

I just remember feeling so powerless and like such a piece of meat. That for me was a big turning point in my mental health, of like, ‘Wow, I have no clue what I’m in for right now.’ And it got pretty bad. It got dark. — Colton Underwood, Reality Steve

The Frontlines: People who survive sexual assault, including those who are groped, are at an increased risk for developing depression, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), substance use disorders, eating disorders, and anxiety, according to  Mental Health America. Social stigma around male survivors may also lead men to not share their experience.

  • 25% of men have been the targets of street harassment, according to a 2014 national survey commissioned by Stop Street Harassment.
  • 9% of men who were the targets of street harassment said they were sexually assaulted.
  • The website 1in6, which has online chats and online sessions, was created to support the one in six men who are survivors of sexual assault.

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A Mighty Voice: Survivor Taylor Benes shared that she did not speak up about being sexually assaulted in the hallways at her school out of fear of being victim-blamed. “Five years ago, I was sexually assaulted in a hallway of my grade school. Five years ago, I never would have thought I would tell anyone. Five years ago, I suppressed my pain and tried not to think about it.” You can submit your first person story, too.

From our community:

Where is the line between sexual assault and harassment?

Add your voice: 

A banner promoting The Mighty's new Distract Me group on The Mighty mobile app. The banner reads, Need someone or something to take your mind off what you're going through? Join Distract Me for fun activities, lighthearted conversation, animal photos and more. Click to join.

Other things to know: Many people who take or took medication to manage mental health issues also may face stigma from people who do not understand their medical decision to do so. You can read some first-person stories about people’s decisions to take medication to manage their mental health here:

How to take action: You can advocate for more research on the long-term effects of street harassment and other incidents of public sexual harassment of men, which is fairly limited.  You can support Underwood’s advocacy by checking out the Colton Underwood Legacy Foundation, which supports and provides “resources for people living with cystic fibrosis.” You can also listen to the Reality Steve podcast interview below.

Image courtesy ABC

Originally published: August 13, 2020
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