"I think it's just hard for people to start the conversation, and I think that's what being vulnerable does," she said


Katie Thurston is opening up about her decision to publicly address her past sexual trauma.

During a Bachelorette group date on Monday's episode, Thurston, 30, shared with the men that she was involved in a "situation where there wasn't consent" 10 years ago. She also appeared on this week's episode of Talking It Out, where she told co-hosts Mike Johnson and Bryan Abasolo that it took "a lot of time and a lot of failed relationships" to get to where she is today.

"It was probably within the last three years that I finally was very firm in my decisions in terms of like, if I did not want to have sex, I said no and I meant it," she said on the podcast. "I was never going to force myself to do anything for a man that I didn't want to do, and I think that was probably the first step to building this healthy relationship [with myself]."

"If you start forcing yourself to have sex when you don't want to, then your body [and] your mind — you start to create this negative association with sex in general. You're just setting yourself up for failure," she continued. "So, for me, the first step that I had to do was not try to please my man if it was something that I didn't want to do, mentally or physically, in that moment."

Thurston said one has "to start digging deeper and deeper" to learn how to move forward.

"There's not a book that I read or some documentary I watched. It's just, like, self-reflection," she said. "Especially last year [with] the pandemic, people are reflecting a lot on their lives and where they're at and what they need to do to make it better. So for me, it took 10 years of self-reflection and growth to figure out how to have a healthy relationship with myself, with sex, with my future partner."

Katie Thurston
Credit: Craig Sjodin/ABC via Getty

Will you accept this rose? Sign up for PEOPLE's free weekly Bachelor Nation newsletter to get the latest news on The Bachelor, The Bachelorette and everything in between.

Thurston also stressed the importance of opening up about her experience publicly. "I think it's just hard for people to start the conversation, and I think that's what being vulnerable does," she said. "You know, that's kind of what that circle did [on the group date] — one person started to open up and then the other person's like, 'Well, they're going to share, I'm going to share,' and [it was] just kind of this domino effect."

"That's really all I hope with, you know, me sharing my story," she added. "That men and women who have gone through similar experiences can start talking about something they've gone through. Or, you know, parents can talk to their kids about what consent is."

During a Tuesday appearance on Good Morning America, Thurston said opening up about her traumatic experience with her contestants helped her to heal further.

"You see in that episode this emotional relief of just like, 'It's not my fault.' That was a burden I felt for a very long time, as if it was my fault," she said on GMA. "And I do hope, you know, men and women who have gone through something similar know that it's not their fault as well, because that kind of relief from that pain is so great."

"Consent is a simple yes or no," she continued. "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."

The Bachelorette airs Mondays (8 p.m. ET) on ABC.

If you or someone you know has been sexually assaulted, please contact the National Sexual Assault Hotline at 1-800-656-HOPE (4673) or go to rainn.org.