EASTENDERS will feature its first male rape storyline next month.
Viewers will see Albert Square's Ben Mitchell, played by Max Bowden, 27, become the victim of a shocking sexual assault by new barman Lewis, played by 33-year-old Irish actor Aidan O’Callaghan.
It comes 10 years after BBC bosses turned down the issue saying it was too difficult to cover in a pre-watershed soap.
Producers have been working closely with several charities, including SurvivorsUK, Survivors Manchester and the Male Survivors Partnership, to ensure it is covered sensitively.
A TV insider said: “It’s the first time EastEnders has covered this issue but they’ve always been at the forefront of telling these important stories.
"As always, the show is working closely with different charities as they want to make sure it’s all handled as sensitively as possible. The attack won’t be shown on-screen but viewers will be aware of it happening.”
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Max said: “Alongside some wonderful charities, and some very inspirational survivors of male sexual assault in the UK, I think we’ve been able to really strive to tell the most truthful account we can, and I hope we can raise awareness and understanding on a topic that is rarely covered.
“I’m honoured to be given this opportunity to tell such an important story.”
BBC head of continuing drama Kate Oates said: “Ben has endured a traumatic time after witnessing a homophobic attack on Callum that brought back painful memories of losing Paul.
"As a result, Ben lost his way in life…which is when he found Lewis. Ben finds Lewis attractive, and thinks of him as a someone who can understand him in a way Callum does not; but that trust is abused when Lewis crosses a line and rapes Ben.
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"Through this story, we hope to explore issues of consent, sexual identity, masculinity, and sexual assault, focusing on how this fateful night impacts Ben and those who love him over the coming months.”
Rape charity SurvivorsUK spokeswoman Marta Almeida, Services Manager for said: “Almost all of us will know a man who has been sexually assaulted at some point, but a huge number of male survivors still don't feel there's a space for them to come forward.
"Storylines like this one are an amazing opportunity to explore the reality for so many men, families and communities up and down the UK.”
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Former Eastenders executive producer Bryan Kirkwood previously revealed he was told to avoid the subject matter "in no uncertain terms."
Last week it was revealed that Max would become a father for the first time with his ex girlfriend insurance exec Roisin Buckle.
Contact the Samaritans
If you have been affected by any of the issues raised in this article, contact The Samaritans on 116 123.
They are available for free at anytime.
Or email https://www.samaritans.org/
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