Eastenders: Linda Carter’s rape is a story that needs to be told

On Monday night a storyline that has long been coming played out on our TV screens as much loved EastEnders matriarch Linda Carter (Kellie Bright) was raped by her nephew Dean Wicks (Matt Di Angelo).
Discussions aplenty have arisen surrounding this particular topic and whether or not it was ‘too much’ for pre-watershed viewing. The plotline has been building over the last few months in which Dean has kissed Linda, groped her at a family photo shoot and now progressed onto rape. The media has been talking about the impending rape for the past few weeks and any fan of the show knew clearly what would happen in Monday’s episode.

On the Channel 5 programme The Wright Stuff a section of the panel chat show was dedicated to the discussion of the rape storyline. It was pretty disappointing as none of the panellists or audience callers seemed to understand the importance of such a storyline.

Unnecessary concern

One caller complained stating that his four year old daughter had seen the episode and it had caused unnecessary concern for his family as he struggled to explain to her what she had just seen. In this instance the storyline is not the issue but parental guidance. Children watching pre-watershed programmes is at the discretion of parents but if a programme offends or emotionally upsets you or your child there is nothing stopping you from turning over. A string of tweets directed to The Wright Stuff all seemed to indicate the same: children so young should not be watching the show and the off switch is always available.

One of the panellists was author Joanne Harris who suggested that it would be nice to see a rape storyline that involved the female reporting to the police station directly after the event. If only we did live in a world where this was always a possibility. Harris seemed to completely ignore the fact that in real life the majority of rape victims feel very ashamed of what has happened to them. And in the event of such a traumatic incident the last thing a victim would be thinking of would be to keep evidence and report straight to the police station.

Host Matthew Wright even alluded to rape stories appearing too often on television. He claimed that since 1988 there had been a total of four rape plotlines in EastEnders and that perhaps this was too much. Statistics from charity Rape Crisis show that 85,000 women are raped each year in England and Wales. That’s over 200 per day and around 9 per hour. Put into perspective four rape plotlines in just under 30 years doesn’t seem so over the top. EastEnders have of course worked closely with Rape Crisis whilst developing this storyline.

What is most troubling is the amount of discussion surrounding the rape storyline in comparison to other plotlines in EastEnders at the present time. Only last week long standing character Phil Mitchell was shot for the second time. The audience weren’t actually privy to the violent scene itself but we did witness the aftermath as he lay in his own blood, quite clearly on the verge of death.

Rape is a reality

It seems shocking that in today’s society it is completely acceptable to show murder and violence on television before the watershed but the discussion of rape is still unacceptable. Unfortunately rape is a reality and both women and men can fall victim at any time whether to a stranger or somebody that they know. Our culture seems to avoid any discussion of sex whatsoever and as such rape has become something that leaves victims feeling ashamed and unable to speak out.

The actual rape of Linda was not fully shown on television and isn’t a matter of the watershed at all. Dean progressed from kissing Linda’s neck, to which she definitively responded for him to stop, onto him grabbing her and forcefully pushing her over the table. There was no chance for Linda to try to stop Dean and any screams would have been drowned out by the music her children were loudly playing downstairs. Instead Linda silently shed a tear and let it happen, huge bravery in itself.

There was nothing gratuitous or graphic about the scene, the camera positioned onto Linda’s face throughout. The Wright Stuff even showed that exact clip, a programme that airs between 9.15am and 11.15am daily, then had the audacity to claim that it was inappropriate viewing pre-watershed. Rape doesn’t occur after the watershed in real life. Linda is an example of a ‘normal’ woman in a happy marriage. She is a likeable character who cares for her family and is loving towards others. She represents any number of women who this could happen to.

Perhaps the BBC should have aired a warning about the content that was to follow, an alleged amount of 278 complaints have been made since the episode was aired. But why should rape be any different to general violence, murder and abuse that are main storylines in the soap as well as other dramas? Quite rightly the BBC have stuck to their guns and released a statement regarding the story: ‘the attack on Linda was implied and not explicit. We have been extremely mindful of the content within the episode and the timeslot in which it was shown.’

It’s about time we started talking about rape and making more steps to help victims and educate youngsters as to what is not acceptable. Rape is never acceptable and ensuring that younger people, and adults, are aware that no means no will be a step in the right direction. This is what the BBC and EastEnders have been aiming to do and they should be applauded for this, not criticised.

What do you think of the EastEnders rape plot? Leave your comments in the section below