Linda Carter is to face a horrifying ordeal next week when she’s raped by family member Dean Wicks. In scenes to be shown on Monday 6 October, Dean will be seen assaulting the Queen Vic landlady – an attack that leaves Linda struggling to tell her family the truth about what has happened.
Here, actress Kellie Bright discusses her challenging plotline and why she hopes it will encourage more women to speak out after being raped…
So, how do Dean and Linda end up being left alone together? Well, there’s a pretty big incident at the wedding and Mick has to dash off. But because of what’s happened, he asks Linda to make sure that Dean is OK. It’s something that Linda is quite reluctant to do, but obviously she would do anything for Mick.
Can you tell us how the attack happens? An awful lot has happened during the day and Linda tries to get Dean to talk about how he’s feeling, which really gets under Dean’s skin. Ultimately, Linda’s a mother and she looks at him like she would look at one of her own children. She knows that he’s had a very difficult time with Shirley, so she’s trying to get him to open up. She’s being very maternal. There’s a lot of talking, they’re drinking some wine – he’s drinking more heavily than she is. It gets to a point where Linda starts to backtrack a little when she feels that Dean is misconstruing her concern.
She ends up making an excuse and leaving the room to prepare a hot chocolate for them because she’s aware he’s drinking quite a lot. He comes into the kitchen and before she has time to even acknowledge what’s happening – it’s happening.
Why doesn’t Linda speak up after the attack? Immediately after the attack, she’s in a state of shock. She’s almost detached from the experience. When Mick does come home, the reality of seeing her husband makes her feel guilty – even though it’s not her fault. Her automatic feeling is guilt. She’s asking herself all sorts of questions: “Did I bring this on myself?”, “Was I too affectionate with him?”, “Did I give him signals that I didn’t mean to give him?”, “I must have instigated this because it can’t have just come out of nowhere.” So, there is a lot of guilt associated with it. She’s also terrified of telling Mick because of what he could do to Dean.
Is she worried about losing Mick? Although she’s now terrified of Dean and sees him as a very dangerous young man, she doesn’t want to lose her husband. In her head, she plays out this whole scenario that if she tells Mick, Mick will kill him and then Mick will go to prison. She’d have lost Mick and what’s that going to do to the children? She’s also started to question what it would it would do to Mick as a human being. This has broken her as a woman, there’s a part of her that will never be the same again. Something has been spoiled for her in terms of her ability to be affectionate and open in a physical way. She doesn’t want to tell Mick because she doesn’t want to break something for him. What they had was so special and unique – they’d only ever been with each other. She thinks that it would destroy Mick and she doesn’t want to do that to him.
How does she cope around her family the next day? She doesn’t really cope around her family. They think that she has a hangover and she allows them to think that. It’s a very strange thing. She wants to be around them because they make her feel safe, but at the same time she needs to not be around them because she can’t cope with any questions. If anyone even looks at her in the eye for too long she feels like she’s got “I’ve been raped” written across her forehead. It’s wanting to hide herself away but at the same time, she doesn’t want to be alone.
How do you see this trauma affecting Linda and her family? I don’t know how it’s going to affect them when or if they find out. In the short term, it’s going to cause real difficulties. She doesn’t tell Mick, but he knows that’s something is wrong. What it forces her into doing is tell lie upon lie…and this is a man that she has never lied to. She hates herself for it and feels guilty for it. It’s made her into a person that she doesn’t want to be.
When did you find out about the storyline? I knew that they would have something big in store for Linda that was going to affect her relationship with Mick. I didn’t think it would be an affair, but I thought it would be something that would shake their marriage. I thought it could be this type of storyline very early on, but I didn’t actually know it would be this until around February or March.
What were your initial thoughts? After our executive producer Dominic [Treadwell-Collins] told me, I felt a great responsibility to do the storyline justice. It’s a complicated storyline to play out and gives me the opportunity to play some really challenging stuff. I was really impressed right from the beginning at how much help we were given and how sensitive everyone who worked on the episodes were, including in the aftermath. It didn’t faze me and I didn’t think, “I don’t want to do it” at all. I knew it was going to be full on and it has been full on, but that’s good.
Did you do any research for it? I spoke to a lady from Rape Crisis called Fiona and I was given written material on rapists and their own psyche, which was interesting. It also helped me make sense of how Linda reacts to this ordeal – not just during it but also after it. I’ve never had any problems believing what’s happened to her and why it’s happened to her as well as what happens in the aftermath. Most women who have experienced this don’t tell – 90 per cent of woman do not report rape, so for us to do a story where a woman tells straight away would not be reflective of the truth. There is a real assumption that rape is a very violent act, you come away from it battered and bruised and if you don’t – then why not?
Women seem to be expected to fight back when actually what your body does physically is so extraordinary. It’s very unsettling because women feel like they’ve been betrayed by their bodies because they literally freeze. Your body tries to protect you and you go very still and just let it happen. The first thing I would think is: “why didn’t I fight?”, “why didn’t I shout?”, “why didn’t I push him off of me?”, “He’s not a big man, I’m a strong woman” – all of those things would be going on. It’s so complicated and as much as rape is a physical thing, it’s also what it does psychologically. In fact the psychological issues for victims are just as massive as the physical.
Do you think this is an issue that EastEnders should be tackling pre-watershed? Yes. EastEnders is a programme that is supposed to be reflective of real life and this issue is part of our society. Why shouldn’t it be tackled? I think it’s been done in a really sensitive way. It’s out there so it’s not going to be a shock to viewers and they have the option to make a decision not to watch it. It’s a way to educate people.
Did you find it hard to leave the storyline behind when you went home? Not really. I just felt exhausted by it all in an emotional way. I’d go home and see my little boy and that would be fine.
What’s it been like working on the story with Matt Di Angelo on this storyline? Really good. I’ve enjoyed working with him more and more and he’s been fantastic with this storyline. I do think he’s had the harder job actually. He’s got to get himself to a place of justifying his character’s actions – that’s really dark. He’s been great all through the filming and very respectful. It’s the best stuff I’ve seen him do. He’s a lovely guy.
What do you hope the storyline will do for tackling the issue of rape? As well as raising awareness of the issue in general – I hope that it’s going to make women report it more. Even when rapes are reported, the percentage of people that actually get prosecuted successfully is so minimal. If it’s not reported immediately, it’s so hard to prove because there’s no physical evidence and this is so paramount to the prosecution. When this happens to someone, it’s so important to go straight to the police or tell someone straight away. It doesn’t matter if the survivor was wearing a short dress or if they’d had a few drinks – it’s not their fault. It doesn’t give permission for someone to be raped.
All of that thinking needs to be washed away so we’re not blaming a woman or looking at a woman thinking “she was stupid to be doing that”. Women should be able to do what they want and not feel threatened including in their own homes. I hope the storyline helps to raise awareness around this and changes attitudes.