Coronation Street star Jack P Shepherd has spoken publicly for the first time about David Platt’s male rape storyline, which begins next week.
In scenes showing on Friday 16 March, David and new pal Josh Tucker enjoy a night on the town together, having bonded in recent weeks as the cobbles newcomer trained the hair stylist for a charity boxing match.
But the evening takes a sinister turn when Josh drugs David’s drink and sexually assaults him back at his flat. David wakes up in Josh’s bed the morning after, in the episode showing Monday 19 March, and is horrified as he realises he has been raped. Disgusted and ashamed, David returns home harbouring his awful secret from his family who become worried about his unusual behaviour.
Over the coming weeks, the storyline explores David’s struggle and torment, and whether or not he is too ashamed to report the crime to the police.
It’s the first time Coronation Street has tackled the taboo subject of male rape, and Jack P Shepherd is only too aware of the importance of his character’s ordeal. “When I was told about the story our producer Kate Oates and I met with Duncan Craig from (male sexual abuse support group) Survivors Manchester, and that was when I realised the gravity and significance of the storyline.
“David’s reaction and decision to remain quiet because he feels ashamed about what has happened is not uncommon,” continues the actor. “Hopefully people will start talking about the storyline and it could help someone who has gone through something similar to realise the need to open up and speak to somebody.”
Josh was introduced as a seemingly charming cheeky chappy who has made a mostly positive impression on the locals, making what happens even more shocking. “David has no reason to think Josh is anything other than a mate,” notes Shepherd. “He hasn’t really ever had a male friend and no male role models, because his dad is not around and his brother has moved away.”
The show has faced criticism for addressing such dark subject matter, but Oates stands by the decision to tell the story and put a difficult topic on the national agenda. “We decided to cover the subject to help try and highlight the culture of silence surrounding male sexual assault, and issues surrounding male mental health in general,” she says. “Survivors Manchester have been so generous with their time and knowledge, working with Jack, Ryan (Clayton, who plays Josh) and the team.
“Over the next few weeks of Corrie, our message is to talk: it’s hard to speak out, but if you’re suffering in silence, there are people out there willing to listen and support you.”
Craig himself vouches for the soap’s commitment to addressing the story responsibly: “Their commitment to ensuring every script and idea is discussed with us shows just how important this story is to Coronation Street and shows they are listening to survivors.
“The day the news broke male rape was being tackled as a subject on the show, there was a flurry of activity on social media. Within 24 hours Survivors Manchester had a number of enquiries directly linked to the story. A number of men, and a few girlfriends of men, were contacting us asking how they access our service – that fills me with hope for this whole story.”