Note: The following article contains discussion of sexual assault that some readers may find upsetting.
EastEnders spoilers follow.
The BBC has issued a statement in response to the complaints it has received over Ben Mitchell’s sexual assault storyline.
The story began earlier this month and saw Ben raped by newcomer Lewis in harrowing scenes that were aired pre-watershed.
The BBC statement not only defended the plot but also highlighted that this is far from the first time that EastEnders has pushed boundaries with issue-based storytelling.
“EastEnders has been a pre-watershed BBC One staple for over 37 years and has a rich history of dealing with challenging and difficult issues and Ben’s story is one of these.
“We have worked closely with organisations and experts in the field to tell this story which we hope will raise awareness of sexual assaults and the issues surrounding them.
“We are always mindful of the timeslot in which EastEnders is shown and we took great care to signpost this storyline prior to transmission, through on-air continuity and publicity as well as providing a BBC Action Line at the end of the episode which offers advice and support to those affected by the issue.”
It is worth noting that while some have found the story difficult to watch, many have also praised the importance of raising awareness of male consent and rape, in particular supporting Max Bowden’s emotional portrayal of the plot.
SurvivorsUK, Survivors Manchester and the Male Survivors Partnership were all consulted ahead of the story, and the BBC has said that they worked closely with them throughout so that they could portray it in a sensitive and realistic way.
Viewers have seen that Ben has been trying to keep what happened to himself, but upcoming scenes will see Kathy learn the truth and attempt to convince him to report Lewis to the police.
EastEnders airs on Mondays, Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays at 7.30pm on BBC One and streams on BBC iPlayer.