‘EastEnders’ has been lauded by fans for breaking new ground in the way it covered the issue of consent in a special episode on Thursday.
The latest instalment of the BBC soap saw Ruby Allen’s rape ordeal continue as the Walford residents held a debate about rape and consent in scenes set entirely in the Queen Vic pub.
It saw the show break from its usual format, including the use of slow-motion scenes and incidental music, as Ruby dealt with having to overhear people doubt her version of events.
The character, who recently returned to the soap after a 13-year break, was sexually assaulted by a friend of Martin Fowler’s last month. However, he has maintained their encounter was consensual, leaving those closest to the pair divided in who they believed.
Things came to a head in Thursday’s episode when a newspaper article detailing the incident was published. While the wider residents of Albert Square were unaware of Ruby’s identity in the story, it became a topic of conversation in the pub, where she was drinking with pal Stacey Fowler.
She was distressed to see Martin in the company of her rapist while people also unwittingly debated her ordeal around her, with many different viewpoints explored.
Characters such as Linda Carter, Kat Slater, Bex Fowler and Denise Fox remained clear that rape is rape, while the likes of Kush Kazemi took a different viewpoint, as he claimed: “If you are going to get that drunk, sometimes there are consequences you have to take.”
There were even those who had surprising takes, like Sonia Fowler and Sharon Mitchell, who questioned the woman’s version of events in the story.
This came before Ruby then confronted one of her attacker’s friends in front of the pub, when he questioned why she hadn’t stopped him during their encounter.
“It’s not on me to stop them. It’s on them not to do it in the first place,” she said.
The exploration of the perceived “grey areas” in regards to consent sought to challenge some of the different viewpoints in society, and the powerful debate was praised widely on social media.
‘EastEnders’ bosses worked closely with charity Rape Crisis in the creation of Ruby’s storyline, who were keen to raise awareness of the complex issues surrounding sexual violence.
When the plot was announced, a spokesperson for the charity said: “It is so vital to the safety of men, women and children to understand sexual violence and not to make assumptions or believe the myths and stereotypes that are often portrayed.
″EastEnders have taken this responsibility very seriously and ensured that their portrayal of sexual violence has been thoroughly researched and is based on realism which is, sadly, so prevalent in our country today.”
It is not the first time this year ‘EastEnders’ has broken away from its usual format to tackle important social issues.
The soap was previously praised when it included the families of real knife crime victims during funeral scenes for Shakil Kazemi, who was stabbed to death in a knife attack.
Useful helplines and websites:
- Victim Support - Visit victimsupport.org.uk or call 0808 168 9111 Sexual Abuse Referral Centres - Find a SARC
- Rape Crisis - Visit rapecrisis.org.uk or call 0808 802 9999 The Rape and Abuse Line - Visit rapeandabuseline.co.uk or call 0808 800 0123 (answered by women) or 0808 800 0122 (answered by men).