'Bachelorette' Katie Thurston opens up about experience with sexual assault

The 30-year-old hopes her story sparks a conversation about a difficult topic.

“The Bachelorette’s” Katie Thurston is putting a spotlight on sexual assault after revealing a deeply personal story from her own past.

On Monday night’s episode of “The Bachelorette,” Thurston opened up to the men she went on a group date with about a traumatic experience that she said even her mother didn’t know about prior to filming.

“I was involved in a situation where there wasn’t consent,” Thurston said during the episode. “And that is not something I wish upon anybody and I was in denial about what happened. So much so that I tried to form a relationship with him, because I didn’t want to believe what actually had happened.”

The incident she talks about happened 10 years ago on New Year’s Eve. The 30-year-old, who became known for her confidence and sex-positive attitude during Matt James’ season of “The Bachelor,” told the men that the assault contributed to an unhealthy relationship with sex.

“I didn’t like talking about sex,” she said during the episode. “It’s taken me a long time to get to where I am now.”

While she said the road to healing after the experience wasn’t easy, Thurston told “Good Morning America” that she feels relieved to share it with others.

“You see it in that episode this like emotional relief of just like, it’s not my fault, you know, and that was a burden I felt for a very long time as if it was my fault,” said Thurston. “And I do hope, you know, men and women who’ve gone through something similar know that it’s not their fault as well, because that kind of relief from that pain is just -- it’s so great.”

Thurston said she hopes that her story helps spark a conversation about a difficult topic.

“Consent is a simple yes or no,” she said. “It doesn’t happen when you’re under the influence of drugs or alcohol, and I think that’s the important thing that people need to realize. So it’s just important to have those conversations and if you aren’t comfortable asking about consent, then you’re probably not ready to be having sex to begin with.”

If you or someone you know experienced sexual assault and is seeking resources, call the National Sexual Assault Hotline at 1-800-656-HOPE (4673). If you are in immediate danger, call 911.