Producers Completely Mishandled Zac J. Date

When Zac J. leaves Clare Crawley feeling scared and uncomfortable on a one-on-one, the producers completely failed to protect her.

The Bachelorette is a show fans have a very love-hate relationship with. From Trista Sutter to Clare Crawley, each and every one of the sixteen Bachelorettes has met with her fair share of support and criticism. At the end of the day, though, whether fans like the women or not, the fact remains that they are human women putting their hearts on the line in hopes of finding love. It takes courage, guts, and a great deal of trust that their producers will protect them. But in the last episode, Bachelorette producers failed to put Clare’s safety and humanity first when Zach Jackson put her in a traumatizing, triggering, and potentially dangerous situation during their one-on-one date.

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Clare is famous for telling Juan Pablo that she would “never want [her] children having a father like [him].” On that season, she staked her ground as a strong woman who speaks her mind. When she got asked to be “the oldest Bachelorette in history” (at 39, which is, for the record, not old), she jumped at the opportunity to put her past in the past and find the love she’s been dreaming about all her life. Unfortunately, her shot at love got off to a bumpy start. The coronavirus shut the show down before they even started filming. But after months of waiting, the show got up and running, and Clare finally met the men. There was one man who stood out head-and-shoulders above the flock. It was Dale. Dale and Clare had an instant connection. As he walked away after their first meeting at the limo, Clare whispered to herself, “I feel like I just met my husband.” Later that night, she pinned him with the first impression rose.

Related: Bachelorette: Meet Clare’s Dogs, Elbie & Honey, The Show’s Real Stars

But since Clare’s been through enough relationships and life experiences to know exactly what she wants and exactly what she doesn’t want, she was open to giving the rest of the men a shot at distracting her from the Dale-shaped butterflies in her tummy. Things fell apart this week when Yosef asked to talk to her privately. He proceeded to belittle and berate her for hosting a naked dodgeball date. He told her he thought the date displayed completely “classless” behavior from “the oldest bachelorette.” The confrontation was intense. Shocking. Yosef flung cruel double standards as he seemingly tried to intimidate her into some kind of submission. But Clare wasn’t having it. Enraged by the whole ordeal, she whipped out her trademark line and told this loser she would never want her children to have a father like him. Then she told him to get lost. When the storm settled, Chris Harrison sat down with Clare to talk things over and see how she wanted to proceed. It was a dramatic scene, but ultimately, it felt like Clare had support. And that is what makes the date with Zac J. all the more devastating.

After the horrific dustup with the monster misogynist, Yosef, Clare went on a one-on-one spa date with Zach J. During the treatments that should have been relaxing, Clare confessed that Zach’s nervous energy really stressed her out. Later, they lounged by the pool and Clare tried to forge a connection despite their misaligned energies. But soon they were joined by Clare’s golden retriever, Honey signaling it was time to get cleaned up for dinner. As she got out of the pool, she leaned in to give Zach a kiss, placing her hand on his head. Zach didn’t move. Clare was embarrassed and felt rejected. She’s been very open about her fears of rejection (perceived or actual) throughout the season, so when she pulled back, laughed awkwardly, and tried to walk away from the failed kiss, it was absolutely shocking to see Zach reach up and grab Clare by the neck, physically stopping her. She pushed him off, but he persisted. He grabbed her stomach and asked her why she was stopping now, as if the failed kiss were her fault. She moved away quickly with a terrified smile on her face, encouraging them to just go get ready for dinner, but Zach grabbed her neck again. She pulled away again, this time putting distance between them. The next we saw Clare, who’s been in an abusive relationship before, she was alone on the floor of her hotel room, crying and holding her dogs tight. In her confessional she explained, “If I want to walk away because I’m uncomfortable, let me walk away.” Zach wouldn’t let her walk away. And at no point did anyone from the show intervene.

Later, Chris Harrison sat down with Zach J. at the dinner table and informed him that Clare wouldn’t be joining him for dinner. He didn’t talk to him about how his actions affected Clare. He didn’t even tell him his actions were inexcusable. He simply told him he would be going home. No one talked to Clare. No one checked on Clare. The message that drama is more important than a woman’s mental and physical health rang loud and clear. And that is the most inexcusable part of this entire story. Because no matter what, these Bachelorettes are women who deserve protection and respect.

Next: The Bachelorette: Clare ‘Swears On Dad’s Grave’ She & Dale Never Talked Pre-Season

The Bachelorette airs Tuesdays at 8pm EST on ABC.

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.

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