When Hannah Brown first laid eyes on Luke Parker during Monday night’s Bachelorette rose ceremony, her baffled response no doubt reflected the feelings of millions of confused viewers.
"Why are you here?" Hannah asked, as she cringed and pulled away from Parker.
Luke stammered out an explanation about "closure and clarity" while Brown strongly encouraged him to leave in a tone that vacillated between pleading and demanding.
It was a scene familiar to any woman who’s been subjected to the unwanted advances of a strange man — as well as to any woman who’s been stuck in an abusive relationship with a partner who just won’t leave.
If Hannah’s words didn’t send the message powerfully enough, then her body language certainly did.
And her most important unspoken question was likely directed as much to the show’s producers as it was to Luke — namely, why is this being allowed to happen?
After all, Luke had already been kicked off the show at that point.
In fact, it was the second time that Parker was dismissed by Hannah and permitted to return.
This is not typical — and these are not the rules of the game.
Clearly, the show’s producers made the decision to allow Luke back on set, which indicates that they were more concerned with ratings than with Hannah’s safety and emotional well-being.
(We’re sure there was security personnel on set, but abuse can take many forms, and we’re not just talking about Hannah’s physical safety.)
Three suitors stood by as Luke confronted Hannah, and they’ve taken some flak online for waiting so long to intervene, but in all likelihood, they were restrained by orders from the same producers who allowed Luke back on set.
Many viewers were made uncomfortable by the scene, and they made their opinions abundantly clear on social media:
"Watching Luke P. has triggered my daughter’s PTSD," one viewer wrote on Facebook.
"His mind games and control issues are exactly the same as her ex-fiance who eventually abused her and put her in the hospital before she could get away from him.
"We’ve been talking about him all season and how we hoped Hannah would see through him before she got hurt."
No doubt Luke’s behavior stirred up similar memories and emotions for many, many viewers.
He apologized for some of his actions during last night’s Men Tell All interview, but in typical abuser fashion, he also justified many of his lies, manipulations, and acts of intimidation.
And now, the question on the minds of many viewers is — to what extent are the show’s producers responsible for allowing all of this to go on for so long?
It’s worth noting that a controversy of this nature could not come at a worse time for the series.
Just last week, Bachelor franchise creator Mike Fleiss was accused of assaulting his pregnant wife.
This comes on the heels of a previous controversy in which Fleiss feuded with Kelly Ripa and made what many believe to be misogynistic comments toward the daytime host.
Police in Kuai, Hawaii and an independent ABC legal team are investigating the allegations made by Fleiss’ wife.
Depending on the evidence they discover, Fleiss could be imprisoned, or simply fired from the show that made him famous.
Of course, it’s also possible that he’ll remain a free man at the helm of one of the longest-running reality show’s on TV.
Whatever the case, Bachelor Nation may soon find itself with a major image problem — and the powers that be would do well to address these issues sooner rather than later.