How Outlander fans helped Diana Gabaldon change the TV portrayal of Jamie Fraser’s sexual assault

Season two might have looked very different if the author's dedicated fans hadn't intervened

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Jamie Fraser’s (Sam Heughan) sexual assault at the hand of Black Jack Randall (Tobias Menzies) in Outlander season one was probably one of the book and TV series’ most harrowing sequences, so it was very important for the showrunners to get it right. 

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And dealing with the consequences the brutal act would have for the show’s leading man was equally as important for author Diana Gabaldon. That’s why she argued with show boss Ronald D Moore to make sure the aftermath of the rape was depicted in the way she had always intended it to be. 

“When it came towards the beginning of season two when they were thinking about the scripts and what to do about it and so forth, owing to the constraints of time and logistics Ron wasn’t able to end the series the way that the book ends,” Gabaldon told RadioTimes.com.

The novel sees Claire and Jamie struggling to come to terms with what has happened to him for some time before they set sail for France, while the TV show increased the pace of his ‘recovery’ so the duo could head off on the boat in time for the season one finale. 

It was a narrative that Gabaldon – who emphasises that she has a deep respect for Moore – says she “wasn’t all that satisfied with”. 

“Ron was convinced that ‘she’s going to tell him she’s pregnant, they’re going to sail off to France, it’ll all be fine,’” the author explains. “I said ‘no it’s not’. This is a serious and ongoing condition. People don’t just recover from it like that because someone is pregnant or whatever. I said it’s not that quick.”

In the meantime, while discussions about season two were ongoing, a fan and sexual assault survivor posted a deeply personal piece about how important the story of Jamie’s recovery had been for her on a Facebook page.  “[She] said what the books and that story had meant to her as a survivor of sexual assault. It was very moving and very deep and I said ‘that’s lovely, would you mind if I put it on my site?’” Gabaldon says.

She had absolutely no idea that the post would prompt 200 Outlander fans to write in, sharing their own stories about how the events of the book had given them “hope, catharsis and a sense that healing was possible”. 

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“I sent all of those to Ron and I said ‘look, we can’t sell these people out, you’ve got to take account of what this really is’,” she continues, “which he very honourably did. I think they did a very good job with that.”