EastEnders star Matt Di Angelo has predicted that viewers will be left “shocked and upset” by an upcoming storyline that sees his character Dean Wicks rape family member Linda Carter (Kellie Bright).
“It’s a scary thing to have your face associated with that heinous crime, but I’m here to tell meaningful stories,” the actor told RadioTimes.com at tonight’s TV Choice awards. “It’s an important storyline and the statistics about rape are shocking. Eighty percent of rapes aren’t reported. That needs to be spoken about. There are going to be a lot of complaints. People are going to be shocked and upset by the story. But it brings attention to a very important subject. So that’s why we’re doing it.”
EastEnders viewers have already seen Dean pursue Linda over the past couple of months, with his infatuation so far remaining a secret from the rest of the Carter clan. Linda has rejected Dean’s advances and made it plain that she isn’t interested in him, but events will take a sinister turn later this year.
Of the pivotal scenes, which are set to be screened this autumn, Di Angelo said: “It was disturbing to film. We had a closed set, Kellie was amazing and we had five or six hours of rehearsal time, which is unheard of on EastEnders. They threw the rulebook out of the window for this one and gave us everything we needed. The important thing is to bring attention to the actual crime of rape. Real people are being raped every day and we need to give those people a voice.”
The BBC1 soap has been working with Rape Crisis on the upcoming plotline which will also see Linda having to come to terms with what has happened to her following the attack. The Rape Crisis website (rapecrisis.org.uk) estimates that only 15 per cent of the 85,000 women who are raped and over 400,000 who are sexually assaulted in England and Wales every year report what has happened to them: ‘one significant reason many women and girls tell us they don’t go to the police is because of their fear of not being believed,’ says the charity.
The statement echoes comments made last December by Metropolitan Police Deputy Assistant Commissioner Martin Hewitt, who told BBC Radio 5 Live that only 20 to 25 per cent of victims reported their attacks to the police. “A lot of people feel that they will be questioned or they will be seen as being culpable,” he said, before assuring victims that they would be listened to should they come forward.
As to whether Dean will face prosecution for his crime, Di Angelo admitted that he doesn’t yet know whether his character will eventually face a prison sentence, but said that EastEnders had an obligation to accurately portray real life. “That’s the scary part of the story we’re trying to tell. The injustice is the interesting bit. And we’re showing that not all rapists are these big, ugly, smelly, sweaty men with masks. A lot of rapists are young normal-looking men.”
Speaking recently about the storyline, Fiona Elvines, Operations Co-ordinator of Rape Crisis, South London, said: “It is important that these stories are told within dramas to start to change the public narrative around rape which heavily blames survivors. Equally, given the fact that each year 85,000 women and girls and almost 10,000 men are raped in this country, the subject needs to be approached factually and empathically, with a motivation not to entertain but to inform.
“The team at EastEnders, from producers and researchers, to writers and actors, have demonstrated a commitment to getting the balance right, working closely with us to create a story that tells some of the truths of sexual violence. We hope this commitment shows through and that anyone watching the show who feels they want to talk about their own experiences feels able to call the National Rape Crisis Helpline.”