The “Perfect Victim” Mentality Has Shut Down Coverage Of Lindsay Lohan’s Assault

The formerly beloved and now largely forsaken Lindsay Lohan was assaulted on camera by her then-fiancé, Egor Tarabasoc, and yet the same media that loves to lambast her has remained alarmingly silent about the incident. The video that circulated Sunday showed Tarabasoc chasing her on the beach, where he grabbed and restrained her arms behind her back before pulling down her swimsuit and exposing her to bystanders mid-conflict. It appears the fight was sparked by something Lohan pulled up on a phone, as the violent scene ended with Tarabasoc procuring the phone and urgently scrolling through it while Lohan returned to their Jeep parked on the beach.

After the video emerged, Lohan reportedly called off the engagement and even sat down with The Daily Mail to open up about the toxic cycle of abuse in their relationship and how that reflects a larger, pervasive problem of domestic violence. Given Lohan’s celebrity status and the widespread relevance of this issue, why aren’t we hearing more about it?

Sadly, in the rare cases where domestic violence is publicly exposed and people actually respond with the proper level of gravity and understanding, there’s an unspoken “perfect victim” mentality that requires the victim to fulfill an impossible standard of “goodness” before the public grants them empathy. While there’s been mild coverage (at best) of the public assault and engagement falling out, the fact that Lohan has a known history of drug abuse and run-ins with the law may affect how protective the public is of her safety.

Considering the fact that Lohan has already been reduced to tears on The Late Show with David Letterman when she was mocked for her struggles with addiction and rehab, it’s sadly predictable that the public hasn’t treated her abuse with the severity and compassion it deserves. After all, whether it’s Lohan or not, one of the most common and toxic questions that comes about when abuse is made public is: did she provoke him?

Our cultural desire to turn a blind-eye often causes outsiders to erase or justify abuse so they don’t have to take action or accept an ugly reality. This pattern of forcing victims to validate their realities is one of the many reasons victims stay silent, aside from the fact that 75 percent of partner homicides occur when victims try to leave. Add this to the dangerously ignorant victim-blaming sentiments of “why doesn’t (s)he just leave?!” and a heaping dose of respectability politics, and it’s no wonder this issue remains largely locked behind closed doors.

Lindsay Lohan At 'Weisses Fest 2014'
CREDIT: Monika Fellner/Getty Images

For Lohan, who’s already been made into a media target for her personal struggles, the stakes of respectability are even higher. There is no justifying the lack of empathy in this situation. If anything, the silence around Lohan only further confirms the fact that public discourse around abuse desperately needs to escape the binary of “evil person hurts perfect person,” so we can deal with the painful realities and not put victims on trial.

During her interview with The Daily Mail, Lohan shared that this wasn’t the first instance of abuse and said she decided that her concern for her safety ultimately trumped the love she still has for him:

“I genuinely fell in love with him, but he broke my trust and made me feel unsafe. I know I’m not an angel, but I’ve tried to fix things. It’s down to him now. I had suggested we go for couples’ counseling, but there comes a time when I have to put myself first, my family, and also think about my career, which I’ve worked so hard for. I also don’t want to let my fans down by not being the strong woman I have become.”

In her interview she also alleged that he attempted to strangle her after a night of heavy drinking last week and that she knew she had to find a way out.

The fact that Lohan felt the need to clarify that “she’s not an angel” during an interview about documented violence at the hands of a loved one proves just how pervasive the issue of victim blaming is. Her statement also references to her attempts to “fix things” (because that is an emotional burden often outsourced to abused women and women in general), as if that’s a requirement before leaving a potentially fatal relationship. Even the tail-end of her statement makes reference to not wanting to disappoint her fans by “not being a strong woman,” which again speaks to the culture of victim-blaming and how the dialogue around abuse posits that only “weak” women have abusive partners. (The concept of “weak” women and abusive relationships is too complex and heavy to even approach peripherally in this article.)

The point here isn’t to be critical of her statement on the issue, but rather to point out how society has conditioned all of us to talk about domestic abuse. When all is said and done, I hope she remains safe and we collectively strive to do better in bringing light to domestic abuse, as continued silence and erasure is just permitting continued violence.