Every Bachelorette needs a narrative. Becca Kufrin’s was “doing the damn thing” after an unforgettably brutal televised breakup with Arie Luyendyk Jr. Hannah Brown was shedding her pageant girl past (with heavy promo of eventually “fucking in a windmill"). 2020’s Bachelorette lead, Clare Crawley, has been pegged as “the mature Bachelorette” — someone ready to find love after 39 years of life and multiple messy Bachelor Nation appearances.
But, last night’s Bachelorette episode, “Week 2,” confirmed The Bachelorette season 16 is totally missing the point. The important story here isn’t that a woman in her late 30s is daring to find love. It’s that Clare, a domestic abuse survivor, is still saying yes to romance — after doing the work to heal her trauma and find the self-love she denied herself for years.
During the season 16 premiere last week, Clare opened up on camera about being a domestic abuse survivor for the first time on any Bachelor franchise. She explained that she initially joined Juan Pablo Galavis’ season because she had gotten out of an abusive relationship mere weeks prior to filming. “[That] was my reason to get away from him,” she admitted to host Chris Harrison about her abusive ex. “That woman compared to the woman I am today is a complete 180.” This is a truth that makes Clare’s now-famous finale rebuke of Juan Pablo after a season of slut shaming all the more powerful.
In “Week 2,” Clare digs into that growth — and the long road it took to get to where she is — through a few veiled references to the violence of her past. Both moments come from her therapy-esque date with former football player Jason Foster. While talking about her time on Juan Pablo Galavis’ season of The Bachelor, Clare says, “It was something I held inside for so long. Because I was ashamed and I was embarrassed [that] I had allowed myself to be treated that way. And I held onto it for so long. Up until just recently I started sharing things and opening up. And I found so much healing.”
This quote makes more sense when you realize Clare isn’t speaking solely about dating JP, but her entire history as a domestic abuse survivor. After all, this is exactly how she described working through the full extent of her trauma on Rachel Lindsay and Becca Kufrin’s Bachelor Happy Hour podcast in June. It was Clare’s first time opening up about the delicate subject, which she explains she has only begun discussing in-depth with loved ones over the last year.
“There was a lot that I had gone through that just really tore me down emotionally inside,” she admitted, again reiterating the end of a “really, really abusive relationship” just before filming her Bachelor season in 2014. “The reason why I never shared it was a lot of shame, a lot of embarrassment. I didn’t want to be a victim. I didn’t want ... to not be likable because of the things that have happened in my life.”
During that same conversation, Clare admitted she lived in her car for three months while dealing with her abusive relationship and the death of her beloved father, James Crawley.
Another too-short “Week 2” moment nods towards Clare’s evolution from that point in her life — which she called “the lowest of lows” during Bachelor Happy Hour — and the woman she is today, who has “processed” her pain. During the letter reading portion of the Jason date, Clare says her younger self has “found so many battles that no one even knows about” but will eventually “share her truths” in a manner that heals her “shame, embarrassment, and unworthiness.” It’s an uplifting outlook that doesn’t lean on romance to solve all of Clare’s problems — a classic problem with the Bachelor machine — but suggests years of therapy is the key to working through severe mental health issues. It is solely now, when Clare has gone through that self-love process, that she can cultivate external and permanent romantic love.
It is this outlook that colors Clare’s road to love on The Bachelorette — not her much-publicized age. As she said on Bachelor Happy Hour — which was recorded just before Clare began production on season 16 — she is “forever” a work in progress and is looking for a man who “wants to do the work” right alongside her.
“[I want a man] to see it’s not always easy and confident and strong and empowered [Clare]. There’s a lot that I went through,” she said. "I want them to know the hard, ugly, embarrassing struggles of my life. To appreciate the woman that I am today. I want a man to love me for that and not just for the easy [stuff], the makeup and hair … I want somebody to love me for all the hard stuff that I’ve been through. And it’s been something that I’ve hidden for so many years.”
Clare isn’t hiding any more. Now one of her Bachelorette men simply has to prove he's worthy of joining her for the rest of her journey.
If you are experiencing domestic violence, please call the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1-800-799-7233 or TTY 1-800-787-3224 for confidential support.