Lauren already knew that Uzoma “Eazy” Nwachukwu would be on “The Bachelorette” when it premiered in October. His name was on the cast list that had been released earlier in 2020. They had attended the same high school and had overlapping friend groups, so it didn’t take long for the news to reach her that he would be featured on a popular reality show. On the morning of the premiere, Lauren, who asked HuffPost to withhold her last name out of concerns for her privacy, caught a glimpse of a “Bachelorette” promo on a mutual friend’s Instagram story.
Suddenly, the reality of the situation hit home. The fact that Nwachukwu would soon be on TV, portrayed as a desirable partner to women across the country, triggered a panic attack so intense that she had to pull her car over to the side of the road.
Lauren had good reason to be rattled. In multiple interviews, she told HuffPost that Nwachukwu sexually assaulted her at a party 10 years ago when she was an 18-year-old high school student and he was a sophomore in college.
Nwachukwu did not respond to multiple requests for comment.
Lauren never wanted to go to the press. The only reason she is sharing her story now is that after going through formal channels and speaking multiple times with a lawyer hired by “Bachelorette” production, Lauren was told that her allegations had been deemed “inconclusive” and that no further action would be taken.
“I don’t want money; I don’t want fame,” she told HuffPost. “I just want him to be taken [out] of the public realm where he has access to a plethora of vulnerable women.”
HuffPost has interviewed multiple people who confirmed that Lauren had spoken to them about the assault over the last eight years. HuffPost also spoke to two other women who had violating sexual relationships with Nwachukwu. After Lauren and a friend of hers tweeted about her experience with him, these two women reached out via Twitter direct message. Both told HuffPost that no one from the show contacted them to speak about Nwachukwu.
Because these allegations became public on Twitter after the show had wrapped, and because the contestant in question had not been charged or convicted of any crime, “Bachelorette” production had few incentives to take concrete action to remove Nwachukwu from the show as it was airing, or to publicly distance themselves from him. This raises the question: Did “Bachelorette” production really set out to diligently investigate Lauren’s claims? Or did they simply want enough cover to be able to ignore the allegations?
Warner Bros. and ABC, which respectively produce and air “The Bachelorette,” did not return HuffPost’s request for comment.
“The Bachelorette” first released the list of men who would be competing for Clare Crawley and Tayshia Adams’ hearts on July 15 on Facebook. On July 16, a friend of Lauren’s attempted to reach out to ABC about the allegations against Nwachukwu through a general audience feedback contact form. She never heard back. By July 20, filming was underway.
On Oct. 13, the night of the premiere, Lauren and the same friend tweeted about the alleged assault. Lauren then contacted Steve Carbone, also known as Reality Steve, the unofficial official spoiler of “The Bachelor” franchise, who frequently reports on Bachelor Nation figures.
“It’s that ~eazy~ for him to take advantage of women without their consent, too,” Lauren said in tweets she has since deleted to maintain her privacy. “All I want is to not relive my trauma over and over again by letting this man exist on a public sphere.”
Her friend was more explicit: “Not watching @BacheloretteABC this season bc they have an actual rapist on.” Lauren’s friend tagged “Bachelor” creator Mike Fleiss, host Chris Harrison, ABC’s Senior Vice President of Alternative Programming Rob Mills, Bachelorette Clare Crawley and Nwachukwu in her tweets.
On Oct. 21, Lauren received a text from lawyer Ann Calfas, a partner at Los Angeles law firm MSK, who said that she had been hired by the producer of “The Bachelorette” to “discuss the issue” she had raised. (Calfas did not return HuffPost’s request for comment.) They made plans to FaceTime. Lauren said that on Oct. 23, she had a 90-minute video call with Calfas, during which she disclosed graphic details of her assault. Lauren also sent Calfas screenshots of two direct messages from women who said they had previously been involved with Nwachukwu, as well as photos from the New Year’s Eve party where Lauren was allegedly assaulted, and a screenshot of the generic response email that her friend had received from ABC in July.
HuffPost has reviewed screenshots of Lauren’s texts with Calfas, as well as a screenshot of her phone log that shows a 1 hour and 29-minute FaceTime call that took place between Lauren’s cell phone and Calfas’ number.
On Nov. 12, Calfas sent Lauren a text assuring her that “the information you provided was taken seriously and communicated to the producers.” By then, Carbone had also spoken to Lauren, and had posted about the allegations on his website.
Just a few days later, in a 15-minute phone conversation, Lauren said that Calfas informed her that the investigation had concluded. According to Lauren, Calfas said she had spoken to Nwachukwu and two mutual friends who were present at the party where the alleged assault occurred and told Lauren that the investigation had been ruled “inconclusive.” (Heavy.com first reported that this investigation had taken place.)
Nwachukwu is not the first “Bachelorette” contestant to face allegations of this nature. In recent years, with a social media landscape that enables viewers to more easily share information about cast members, the franchise has struggled with handling the fallout of claims that emerge after casting, especially in the wake of the Me Too movement. While Becca Kufrin’s 2018 season was airing, news broke that one contestant, Lincoln Adim, had been convicted of indecent assault earlier that year. Though he was not edited out of the show, the production team and Harrison, the show’s host, vocally distanced themselves from Adim. In 2019, a contestant left the mansion early in the filming of Hannah Brown’s season, reportedly because credible abuse allegations against him had surfaced, though the franchise never confirmed this was the reason for his departure.
In 2018, a contestant named Michael Friday was set to appear on another ABC/Warner Bros. dating show called “The Proposal” when a woman came forward saying that he had facilitated her sexual assault. The woman later told HuffPost that four other women had contacted her to describe similar experiences with Friday. ABC and Warner Bros. quickly released a joint statement announcing that they were pulling the episode in which he was featured.
“The reason an employer conducts an investigation is so that they can say, 'We conducted an investigation and it was inconclusive.'”
With Nwachukwu’s full arc on “The Bachelorette” already taped and no criminal conviction to contend with, the path forward for production may have looked far murkier in this case.
Jessica Westerman, a sexual harassment attorney who helped represent Kellee Kim, the woman who was sexually harassed by a fellow contestant on the set of “Survivor,” told HuffPost that, in her experience working on behalf of employees within an employment context, big companies often conduct cursory investigations into sexual harassment and assault claims as a “cover-your-ass technique.”
“The reason an employer conducts an investigation is so that they can say, ‘We conducted an investigation and it was inconclusive,’” Westerman said. “In my experience, this is what happens every time.”
And ultimately, Warner Bros. and ABC had few incentives to take any drastic actions.
“To the extent that this comes out now, all they’re going to suffer is bad PR,” said Westerman. Because the alleged assault did not occur within an employment context, “they don’t incur any additional risk by saying nothing.” On the other hand, she pointed out, if the show had publicly disavowed Nwachukwu, it could have opened itself up to legal action in the form of a defamation or racial discrimination suit.
After the investigation was closed, Nwachukwu continued to be an audience favorite on “The Bachelorette.” He was beloved by some fans for his sunny personality and humorous commentary on show drama, and he developed strong relationships with Crawley and, subsequently, with Adams. In the episode that aired on Dec. 1, the former NFL player was eliminated from the show by Adams on a romantic one-on-one date. “You’ve been so good,” she told Nwachukwu shortly after he confessed that he was falling in love with her. “You’re a good, solid man. I feel like you deserve so much. And, unfortunately, I can’t give you this rose because I’m not where you are.”
After Nwachukwu’s positive exit, some viewers have eagerly advocated for him to appear on the franchise’s summer spinoff, “Bachelor in Paradise,” and his Instagram following has grown to over 100,000.
This is what Lauren had feared all along: that Nwachukwu’s appearance on “The Bachelorette” would give him a “springboard to take advantage of women,” as she put it. “Bachelorette” contestants are billed as desirable romantic prospects to a national audience that is disproportionately female. Men who appear on the show, particularly those who become popular among fans, are often deluged with romantic and sexual attention. Thinking about other women who might have been impacted negatively by him over the last 10 years terrified her, and is what pushed Lauren to go on the record for the first time about her own experiences with Nwachukwu.
In 2010, Lauren threw a New Year’s Eve party at her family’s lakeside property. Lauren didn’t explicitly invite Nwachukwu, but she also wasn’t surprised to see him show up. He was home on winter break from college and though he was two years ahead of her in high school, they had many mutual friends and acquaintances. (HuffPost has reviewed photos of this party.)
Everyone was drinking, and by the time midnight came and went, Lauren was very drunk, as were many of her friends, including Nwachukwu. At one point, Lauren says that he got rowdy and threw a beer bottle into a glass door, yelling “Seven’s back!,” a reference to his high school jersey number. The door broke. Eventually Lauren went into one of the bedrooms and fell asleep on the floor. (When she was hosting, Lauren often left the beds for her guests.) A couple was also asleep in the room.
The next thing Lauren remembers was waking up to the back of her shirt being pulled on by Nwachukwu, who was penetrating her. She recalls him suggesting that she perform oral sex on him. She told him no and asked him to get off of her. He ignored her request. Lauren then remembers the other girl in the room waking up and yelling at Nwachukwu to “get the fuck off of her.” (HuffPost reached out to this person for comment, but did not hear back.) At that point, he stopped. Lauren said that she then got up and ran out of the house and spent the rest of the night in another house on the property.
The next morning, Lauren was in a lot of pain. She told HuffPost that she bled for three to four days after the incident. She had nightmares and flashbacks, and began taking Xanax regularly to numb herself. About a year later, she went to rehab.
HuffPost spoke to one of Lauren’s sober sponsors who recalled hearing in 2012 about the details of the alleged assault, including that it was perpetrated by someone named Eazy. Another close friend of Lauren’s confirmed that Lauren told her about it around 2017. Neither woman ever heard from Calfas, and Lauren said the lawyer never asked for names or contact information for individuals, like her friend and sponsor, who had heard her story in the past and could provide corroboration.
For a long time, Lauren convinced herself that she “deserved” to be assaulted. She didn’t have the best reputation in high school and told HuffPost that she “slept around” a bit. It took going to therapy to come to the realization that choosing to have sex with multiple people is very different from being raped.
“I made those choices,” she said of her consensual sex experiences. “But I did not make the choice of Eazy.”
She never officially reported the assault, mostly because she didn’t think she would be believed. The statute of limitations ends this New Year’s Eve.
Even after years of therapy and recovery, Lauren still has flashbacks and panic attacks, often triggered by physical touch. Her current boyfriend told HuffPost that he has witnessed that behavior.
The first time it happened, they were on a night hike with his sister in Arizona over this past summer. They had just gotten to a lookout point, and he walked over to Lauren and put his hand on her shoulder. Lauren “literally froze” as soon as he touched her. They were just 15 steps from their car, but Lauren was unable to move and soon began having difficulty breathing. Her boyfriend had never witnessed anything like that before.
“There was so much anxiety and so much stress and so much fear pouring out of her that it physically made me feel that,” he told HuffPost.
Over Thanksgiving week, something similar happened. Lauren was walking down the stairs outside and almost tripped. Her boyfriend reached out to grab her shoulder to prevent her from falling but ended up grabbing a bit of her shirt and pulling it back. He told HuffPost that Lauren “fell to the ground” on the stairs and began shaking and crying. She ended up having to sit outside for nearly two hours, despite the cold.
“I made those choices. But I did not make the choice of Eazy.”
Not Just Lauren
In the days after Lauren and her friend tweeted about the alleged rape, two women who had previously been involved with Nwachukwu reached out over Twitter direct message. One woman wrote to Lauren that she “knew Eazy kind of in the same way,” explicitly saying that he has “consent issues.” The other wrote to Lauren’s friend that she had previously dated Nwachukwu, and that reading the tweets about the alleged assault “make so much sense.” (HuffPost has reviewed these DMs.)
Lauren told HuffPost that she also sent screenshots of these messages to Calfas, and forwarded HuffPost the email she sent with the images attached.
HuffPost spoke with both of these women. Neither of them allege that Nwachukwu raped them, but both reported a pattern of smaller violations and the perpetual pushing of sexual boundaries that had been previously explicitly established. One of the women told HuffPost that when she would ask him to stop doing something in the middle of a sexual encounter, he would refuse to, or would only stop after a few minutes and would then “get pissy.”
The two other women also both said that Nwachukwu had repeatedly pressured them to send him nude photographs. Both women expressed fear about what he might do with those photos, even years later.
Neither woman could find any indication that the “Bachelorette” investigator had tried to reach them over the course of the examination of Lauren’s allegations. Westerman told HuffPost that it’s completely plausible that this simply wasn’t considered by the attorney to be within the scope of relevance to the investigation. In a court of law, the testimony of these two women would typically be excluded. However, Westerman also said that she has “gone to much greater lengths” in her work to reach people who may or may not have information relevant to a case.
Regardless of legal liability, the reality remains that this is not the first time “The Bachelor” franchise has been forced to grapple with allegations like Lauren’s, and it likely will not be the last. Sexual assaults are notoriously underreported, and very few alleged perpetrators are convicted even when the incidents are reported to the police. In turn, allegations of sexual abuse, assault and rape are unlikely to be flagged by traditional background checks.
So what are Warner Brothers and ABC supposed to do?
As Mills pointed out to Variety last year, the production team releases the potential cast’s names and photos on Facebook before filming begins. This allows it to become “common knowledge” that a person is going to be on the show and creates an opportunity for information to be shared before the show makes its final cuts. However, there isn’t a formal process in place for the public to report their issues with casting decisions. A simple solution, Westerman suggested, would be setting up a dedicated tip line or email address for such concerns.
As for Lauren, she just wants some form of accountability. “There is no such thing as justice when it comes to sexual assault,” Lauren said, “because the last nine years have been me fighting demons. No amount of money, fame, recognition or punishment will take that back.”