Emmerdale has been seeking advice from young survivors of sexual abuse for its current storyline featuring Maya Stepney and Jacob Gallagher. In recent weeks, viewers have seen 15-year-old Jacob get closer to teacher Maya, who is involved in a relationship with his adoptive father David. And in Monday 3 December’s episode, Maya was seen kissing Jacob, a move that will inevitably fuel speculation that the teen boy is being groomed.
Now, the makers of Emmerdale have praised Barnardo’s after cast and crew met with experts and young people supported by the children’s charity. Said Emmerdale producer Laura Shaw: “It was important for us to tell this storyline authentically, so we approached Barnardo’s for advice on scripts and character behaviour. Our researchers, story team – along with actors Louisa [Clein], Matthew [Wolfenden] and Joe-Warren [Plant] – met with Barnardo’s experts and young men who have been supported by the charity.
“We met some incredible individuals and were moved by their courage and willingness to help us tell this story sensitively. Hopefully, it will make young people and their parents more aware of these issues and their impact.”
Barnardo’s chief executive Javed Khan added: “We were really pleased to be approached by Emmerdale to advise on the serious subject of adult women grooming and abusing boys. Too often this is seen as ‘taboo’ and not talked about.
“Our specialist UK-wide services support thousands of children who have been sexually exploited by both men and women, to rebuild their lives; and we work with children at risk to help them stay safe. We know from research that outdated views still exist about boys who are groomed by adult women, but in reality it causes lasting harm, and problems with trust, affection, love and sex.”
In order to help tell the story, Barnardo’s arranged for the Emmerdale team to meet young men who have been supported by a project called Better Futures Cymru, which provides therapeutic services for children and young people across Wales with sexualised histories, including young people who have been the victims of sexual abuse or child sexual exploitation.
Viewers will now have to keep watching Emmerdale to see what the already inappropriate relationship between Jacob and Maya becomes, but producers have said it’s “a storyline that needs to be told”.
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