15 August 2019 | Comment | Article by Alan Collins

HJ Talks About Abuse: Sexual abuse in the soaps

In recent months we have two very powerful sexual abuse storylines in the Soaps and we are now set for a third.

In this week's episode, we discuss the implications of the cases and the important role these stories can play.

Hot on the tail of Maya and Jacob in Emmerdale we have the ongoing story of Jim in the BBC’s The Archers. Jim is a “regular” and the father of veterinary surgeon Alistair, and they live with Jazzer.

Following Jim’s unexpected departure from his “surprise” birthday tribute night, Ambridge residents speculated as to what could have caused Jim’s sudden attitude change. They saw him become withdrawn, hostile and unpredictable. On arrival at his party, he was confronted by the sight of his childhood abuser, who had been unwittingly invited.

With his long-kept secret finally revealed, Jim now faces the painful challenge of coming to terms with his past, and it would seem that this is going to become increasingly difficult because unknown to him, Jazzer has reported matters to the police of his own volition.

Victims (or survivors) are often effectively forced to disclose because the police have learnt of allegations from another source, maybe another victim, or a relative.

Coronation Street has confirmed what is described as a harrowing historic sex abuse storyline for Gemma Winter's twin brother Paul, who viewers will discover has been abused by his stepdad Kel.

Apparently, over the next few weeks, Kel will be reunited with Bernie and is brought back into their lives. While Gemma and Bernie are happy to have him back, Paul is clearly unnerved and struggles with him being around again.

What Gemma and their mum don't know is that Paul was sexually abused by Kel when he was a young teenager and groomed into believing that they were in a consensual relationship

But Paul's boyfriend Billy Mayhew later discovers what has happened to him and tries his best to help him see that he was being sexually abused.

Viewers will watch as Paul struggles to come to terms with what has happened to him and later fight for justice.

Whilst we take issue with the term “historic” this is another powerful storyline which explores the issue of disclosure and the coming to terms of sexual abuse. We see how family relationships influence the decisions that victims have to make when having to address the past.

The stories also show how the wishes and attitudes of others can be very powerful and can conflict with the wishes of the victim. For example, in the case of Jim, he finds that his own wish to get on with life is not respected by Jazzer who reports matters to the police. Was and is Jazzer right to do this? He thinks he is, but the likelihood is that for better or worse Jim loses control of his future.

It is very easy for others to impose, often with the best of motives, their own opinions as to what should happen following disclosure. In our experience, the victim should be placed in a situation where their opinion is the one that counts, and this is what should be respected. These cases albeit fictitious demonstrate how a holistic approach needs to be taken so that victims can be empowered to make decisions following disclosure of the sexual abuse. 

Disclaimer: The information on the Hugh James website is for general information only and reflects the position at the date of publication. It does not constitute legal advice and should not be treated as such. If you would like to ensure the commentary reflects current legislation, case law or best practice, please contact the blog author.

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