Today’s Star columnist: Sian Hodkin

Sian Hodkin is a journalism student at Sheffield Hallam University
Sian Hodkin is a journalism student at Sheffield Hallam University
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“You led me on” Lachlan White cries shortly after sexually assaulting Alicia Metcalfe, two characters from ITV’s Yorkshire-based soap Emmerdale.

Earlier this month Alicia, played by Natalie Anderson and Lachlan, 16-year-old Thomas Atkinson play out the grim realities of sexual assault.

Alicia is a confident, very pretty, happy-go-lucky barmaid, known for her bubbly personality and welcoming anyone in with open arms.

Lachlan, a 14- year-old boy plagued with an all-too- dangerous crush who steps over the line when he assaults Metcalfe.

The scene received around 47 complaints to Ofcom and outraged a selection of viewers, claiming it was ‘inappropriate’ for a daily soap.

It’s a tale of two sides – viewers empathise with Alicia, who is let down by the authorities, labelled a ‘paedophile’ and is regularly haunted by the memories.

Fans are also given Lachlan’s take on things, having been previously charged on a similar matter.

His ‘crush’ on Alicia is obsessive and fanatical. Mother Chrissie (Louise Marwood) consistently defends her son and ultimately Alicia is a target of ‘victim blaming’.

Maybe the scene was ‘inappropriate’ to some, but the topic of sexual assault and victim blaming on soaps is justified.

Over 400,000 women are sexually assaulted each year (RapeCrisis) and three in 20 men are affected by sexual violence (MankindCounselling) and still the topic is seemingly taboo.

This topic needs exposure, not just in documentaries and case studies, but in everyday soaps where assault is dealt with first hand, seeing how all lives are affected and what happens in the aftermath to our much-loved characters.

In the age of social media, victim blaming is all too common.

‘Trolls’ have a direct link to assault victims and too much access to their private lives, viciously tweeting and relentlessly threatening. So while soaps have a platform to spread a message, let’s educate the nation on sexual assault. Let’s wonder why people victim blame as opposed to simply retaliating.

Let’s end this constant cyber battle by informing people of the devastating consequences of sexual assault. It’s a hard subject to teach to children and young adults, but even harder for those affected.

If we ignore the issue, it can only get worse for victims.