Sunday, 8 April 2018

Why Coronation Street is right to air male rape storyline

(This post was originally posted by Flaming Nora on the Coronation Street Blog December 2017, reposted to this blog with permission.)

Guest blog post by Stephen M Hornby You can follow Stephen on Twitter @StephenMHornby and on Instagram @stephenmhornby.

Stephen M. Hornby considers the reaction to one of Corrie’s first big stories of 2018: male rape.

A recent BBC3 documentary, Male Rape: Breaking the Silence, offered a disturbing insight into the levels of sexual offences men suffer.  1 in 6 men in the UK are a victim of rape or sexual assault at some point in their lives.  8 men are sexually assaulted every hour. 90% of men who are raped know the perpetrator.  And, perhaps most shockingly of all, it takes an average of 26 years for a man whose been raped to find the courage to speak out.  

We have a serious problem with male rape, not just with the levels of the offence itself, but with our collective attitude to it.  Stigma, ignorance and shame are the three words that kept on being repeated by the victims brave enough to speak in the programme. 

And perhaps that’s where a soap opera, of all things, can help a little.  

Coronation Street is about to feature a male rape storyline with David Platt as the victim/survivor.  Just the intention to cover such a topic produced newspaper headlines and a wave of responses on social media.  The Mirror talked about a “harrowing storyline” deemed too controversial for Eastenders five years ago (although Hollyoaks dealt with it in 2000).  The Radio Times reported it as a “controversial”, and the Manchester Evening News called it “shocking.”  

With an estimated 12,000 men being raped and 70,000 being sexually assaulted each year, perhaps the shocking thing really ought to be that Corrie hasn’t done it before.  (Just apply the 1 in 6 statistic to the number of male characters the show has featured in 57 years.)

Now, I’m the first to fight for quality comedy moments, to justify scenes just on the basis that they’re nice character piece, and to argue against the constant use of the emergency services to pep up every plot.  But, I also think Corrie has always tackled complex social issues and often tackled them well, sometimes helping to remove some of the stigma around tough topics.  The show is reported to be working with Survivors Manchester, one of the few specialist services dealing with male rape, and is committed to making the portrayal accurate and respectful to the huge number of men who have gone through this ordeal, many of whom will be watching.

Ultimately, Coronation Street is a soap opera seeking viewers to support advertising revenue, but it can seek them in an educational and responsible way.  The recent grooming and rape storyline of Bethany Platt has proved what the Street can do when it allows stories to simmer and build and when it shows the immediate and on-going implications of sexual abuse.

David Platt can be a bit of bore, a monotone moaner with a nasty edge to him.  Jack P Shepherd plays what he’s given well.  And when he was given the death of Kylie in his arms following a knife attack, he gave a sensational, gut-wrenching performance that made you feel each moment of David’s rage and pain.  If he gets material of that quality in this storyline, I have every faith in his ability to deliver and to make this one of the most memorable stories of 2018.

Stephen is a playwright and theatre reviewer. 
You find him on Twitter @StephenMHornby and on Instagram @stephenmhornby.

Tvor @tvordlj on Twitter

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