Whether you watch Coronation Street or not, I’m sure you have heard about its latest harrowing storyline – the rape and sexual abuse of teenage Bethany Platt by a sex ring.
Last week’s episode in which three men waited for her in a bedroom before the door closed, sparked a flurry of complaints from outraged viewers who thought the soap had gone too far.
It was the same for Emmerdale a few months ago when Pierce Harris raped his wife Rhona Goskirk in an extremely aggressive scene, which focused not on what you could see on screen but on the victim’s screams.
Sixty-two people complained to Ofcom, saying the scenes were too violent for the pre-watershed timeslot of 7pm.
But then there were others who praised the show for not shying away from reality, and those who thought Bethany’s sex grooming storyline was important because it raised awareness that situations like this are happening in the world today, and it could even help victims going through a similar experience by encouraging them to speak out.
Two years ago on this page I featured the story of a woman who had been raped and contacted me because she felt it was vital that anyone who found themselves in a similar position to hers, should know exactly what to do to get support.
When it happened to her, she did not report it to the police for two months. Helpless about what to do, she rang a friend who worked for a sexual abuse charity and advised her to get in touch with the North West Rape and Sexual Abuse Support Centre (RASASC)who provide vital support for victims of sexual assualt.
Sensitivity and compassion
They, along with St Mary’s Sexual Assault Referral Centre in Manchester, gave her sensitivity and compassion and the huge support she desperately needed. But she had never even known these places existed, and that’s why she thinks it is so important there is more awareness of rape – which both Coronation Street and Emmerdale have recently tried to do.
“I commend the soaps for their recent storylines tackling the difficult and emotive subject of rape,” she said. “Programmes such as Coronation Street, Emmerdale and Hollyoaks can help to challenge the myths which surround sexual violence and can help to reduce the shame and stigma felt by survivors.
“These programmes have shown that rape can happen to anyone, from the vulnerable teenager to the successful career woman. They have shown that rapists are usually known to the victim and that rape often occurs within relationships.
“Raising awareness of sexual violence is so important, before I was assaulted I had never heard of a SARC and was not aware of organisations such as St Mary’s or RASASC which provide invaluable support to victims of sexual violence, whether they choose to report or not,” she added.
Has the Coronation Street storyline involving Bethany Platt educated you more about sexual exploitation in the UK? Yes, the scenes are shocking and are uncomfortable to watch, imagining what a young girl is being subjected to.
But if it helps just one youngster who is going through this in real life,to recognise the warning signs and abusive behaviour outlined by characters like Nathan, and ultimately leads to them speaking up and getting help to get out of their situation, then surely it is worth it?