EastEnders has been praised by a charity for its approach to the difficult subject of rape with Linda Carter and Dean Wick’s storyline.
The BBC received 278 complaints about the rape scene which screened on Monday, showing Linda (Kellie Bright) sexually attacked by her brother-in-law Dean (Matt Di Angelo).
But Rape Crisis said the storyline was a necessary and extremely important one to show and that the way in which the victim and the perpetrator were portrayed ‘in many ways mirrors the reality of rape in the UK today’.
Katie Russell from Rape Crisis England and Wales praised EastEnders for their ‘sensitive’ and ‘realistic’ depiction of the subject.
“As far as TV dramas go, it didn’t pander to unhelpful and harmful stereotypes surrounding rape,” she said. “In my opinion it wasn’t overly gratuitous or graphic. It was very carefully handled.”
While EastEnders often shows murders, violence and devastating fires, sexual violence seems to provoke more outrage from viewers.
“Of course the response people have to the scene is because it’s repulsive, distressing and traumatic to watch, and a terrible thing to experience with a lifelong impact… [but] the level of outrage just shows how reluctant people are to talk about [rape and sexual violence],” Ms Russell said.
The charity pointed out that the stereotypes surrounding rape are often that attacks happens down dark alleyways, by total strangers, that victims are weak, wearing the wrong clothes or drunk, and that often the reality is very different, as EastEnders demonstrated.
“Linda is a strong woman,” Ms Russell said. “Linda and Dean were known to each other before the attack, which is like the vast majority of rape cases. It’s often a partner, ex-partner, someone they trust, in Linda’s case a family member.”
Viewers saw Linda freeze as she was attacked by Dean.
“If it’s never happened to you it’s difficult to understand, but most people imagine that if someone started to attack them they wouldn’t let it happen, they would fight. But actually, that freezing reaction is something many victims experience,” she explained.
“It’s partly down to the utter shock but it’s also a physical response, a protection mechanism, the body’s way of protecting itself from further harm. A lot of women and men say they feel betrayed by their own bodies afterwards because they were unable to physically fight back.
“And again, similar to many cases, Linda doesn’t immediately tell anyone about the rape. She also washes herself with bleach, which may have been difficult to watch but it raises awareness of the reactions victims have after rape.”