Stop being so prissy, Downton viewers; that rape scene was no downturn

How will Anna Bates, one of the most popular characters in Downton Abbey, cope after her rape ordeal?
How will Anna Bates, one of the most popular characters in Downton Abbey, cope after her rape ordeal?
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Disgusted. Distressed. Dismayed. Can you believe, they’re talking about Downton Abbey, by jove?

That cosy, comforting, carpet slippers and dressing gown of a series has got viewers’ bloomers in a twist.

They had their genteel Sunday evening quite rudely interrupted. A stranger, name of Harsh Reality, strode into their living rooms, unannounced. Without so much as a tap on the door, let alone waiting to be ushered in by the maid. It was enough to make you choke on your pikelets; popular character housemaid Anna Bates, wife of Mr Bates, his Lordship’s valet, was beaten and brutally raped by a house guest’s manservant whose previously flirtacious manner she had naively put down to “just being nice”.

Nearly 100 outraged viewers complained to TV watchdog Ofcom. Some accused the show of using rape as entertainment, a ‘morally reprehensible’ way of spicing up the show. The words ‘gratuitous’ and ‘obscene’ are being bandied about.

Are these shocked viewers relatives of Mary Whitehouse? Or are their lives so sheltered they are oblivious to the vicious attacks women are just as likely to suffer today as last century, when they were second-class citizens?

The outraged were either watching a completely different programme to me, or their sensibilities are 1920s-delicate; only the build up to the rape, and Anna’s distress post attack, were shown.

Even rape support services are joining in. They say the warning ‘violent scenes viewers may find upsetting’ before the show aired wasn’t enough to warn real-life rape victims. I’d have thought they’d have seen the wider picture - one of the UK’s most popular series tackling the issue.

I thought it a sensitively-done reminder that, away from one’s chintz-curtained life, women are still victims of male violence and expect future episodes will focus on how keeping it a shameful secret is the worst thing Anna can do - a vital message to modern-day victims.