Hollyoaks have never shied away from exploring hard hitting issues, and the current ongoing story-line of grooming and childhood sexual abuse is no different.
We see rape and sexual abuse story-lines frequently on the TV, and welcome the ongoing conversations. But the thing that we’re pleased to see over on Hollyoaks is the portrayal of the effects of sexual violence into adulthood.
The current story-line focuses on Buster, a football coach who abuses his power to groom one of his teenage players. Ollie Morgan was introduced to the show recently as Luke Morgan’s teenage son. Long term viewers may remember Luke’s male rape story line many years ago. It later comes out that Buster also abused Brody, his son’s best friend, many years ago.
Often, rape and sexual abuse story-lines focus on the immediate event. Hollyoaks have incorporated this very well but we’re pleased to see a focus on the impact into adulthood as well as the subtleties.
Hollyoaks have picked up Luke’s story line of being raped as a teenager himself and explore the devastating effect this had had on his life. Luke gave up on his own dreams of being a professional football player and is struggling with an alcohol addiction.
Through Brody, Hollyoaks are exploring the result of keeping his abuse secret for years and the impact this has on his relationships. Though there is a lot more to show with Brody’s own ways of coping, it’s becoming clear that he struggles to commit to a relationship and uses casual sex as a way to try and cope with the thoughts he has about himself.
Showing the immediate aftermath is essential. Those who have had similar experiences can feel understood and less alone. And those who are supporting a friend or loved one can get more of an understanding. But the long term results are not always shown.
Hollyoaks have already committed to playing the long game with these story lines, picking up Luke’s story 18 years on and are writing the consequences and ripple effects for everyone involved into the future.
And it’s this realism that we’re pleased to see. Often it can feel like rape stories are tied neatly in a bow and everyone moves on, but the reality can often be very different.
The impact of sexual violence can go on for years. It truly is life changing. It doesn’t just disappear after a couple of weeks, or once a hard fought for court case ends (if that happens at all). The experience can seep into every aspect of someone’s life.
So to see this realism; the reality of the people who come to our centre for support and for those that keep a secret for years is heartening. To know that the conversations are getting more frequent and are carving a deeper path into the complexities.
Hollyoaks worked with Survivors Manchester and the Offside Trust to ensure that they were delivering a realistic portrayal and we’re pleased to see an ongoing commitment to being an accurate voice.