Coronation Street producer Phil Collinson defended the show’s heavily criticised rape storyline this week when speaking to the St Mary’s Sexual Assault Referral Centre in Manchester. Following criticisms of the depiction of sexual assault court cases in the ITV soap, Collinson admitted that there were ‘some procedural things in the court that we did get wrong’. However, he confirmed that the producers still stand by the decision to portray the rape and subsequent victimisation of Carla Connor (played by Alison King) at the hands of her fiancé and business partner Frank Foster (Andrew Lancel). Collinson told the Manchester Evening News:
“Rape Crisis did see an increase in calls after the episode was aired. I think we did provoke debate and raise awareness of the issues.”
The Rape Crisis helpline saw an increase of 800% in calls following the airing of the assault scenes last September. Collinson adds:
“We were pleased that we put this issue to the fore and showed that when the characters did report a rape, it was taken seriously.”
What I find interesting about this news story, which has been reported across various publications and websites, is that critics have focused on the negatives of running such a controversial storyline for an extensive period on Coronation Street. They seem to forget that the show’s producers and cast did not treat the issue lightly. Alison King, who plays Carla, thoroughly researched rape cases and worked closely with sexual assault victims. She told TV Times back in August that she ‘feels a responsibility to get it right’. Indeed, all of the concern for a few erroneous presentations of courtroom procedure detracts from the overall, majority of positive outcomes that portraying Carla’s sexual assault has achieved. Rape Crisis Helpline Coordinator Rosa Knight told Metro:
“It is so important for mainstream shows to tackle these important issues in a well-researched way and it appears the program makers worked hard to do just that.”
Mistakes are bound to be made in portraying such a sensitive issue but we cannot simply label sexual assault as a taboo subject or brush it under the rug. As shown by the 800% increase in calls to the Rape Crisis Helpline, popular soaps and dramas can provide a route to reassuring victims of sexual assault that they are not alone and that they can receive help in achieving justice.