Although the BBC’s spokesperson called it “a consensual act in a drama”, the scene has raised indignation from organisations for abused women, accusing the show of “blurring the line between consent and non-consent”.
Now Debbie Horsfield, who has adapted the TV show from Winston Graham’s novels, has spoken out, saying it’s clear that the original spirit of the text indicated it to be a consensual act, born of long-suppressed desire between the two.
“Although he is hot-headed and reckless – in the books and as depicted on screen – Ross is fundamentally a man of honour, a rebel who stands up for the underdog,” she told Radio Times.
“How likely is it that he would commit a crime against a woman, a woman he has loved for ten years? It would fly in the face of everything we know about him.”
The book, written in 1953, depicts Elizabeth accusing Ross of treating her “like a slut” after he receives news of her forthcoming marriage to George Warleggan. Their following dialogue has him saying: “It is time you were so treated.” She protests: “Ross, you can’t intend…Stop! Stop, I tell you”.
Debbie tells Radio Times: “It’s interesting that people are getting outraged about the ‘dot…dot...dot’ moment, because what happens next isn’t actually described.
“It’s up to the individual reader to decide what the dots mean in that moment. There is a degree of ambiguity if you just read that chapter, though it is clear, subsequently, that when Elizabeth remembers the incident, she thinks of Ross’s ‘caresses’ and talks about not wanting to go from one man’s caresses to another’s.”
Winston Graham died in 2003, but his son - who’d previously discussed the novels with his father - has added his voice to Debbie Horsfield’s.
He says: “It becomes clear from earlier scenes, as well as from Elizabeth’s immediate reactions and later mixed emotions, that what finally happened was consensual sex, borne of long-term love and longing.”
The scene divided viewers on Sunday evening, with some going so far as to vow to boycott the rest of the series in protest.