Coronation Street will tackle the effect of historic child sexual abuse within a family when Gemma Winter (Dolly-Rose Campbell) learns her twin brother Paul Foreman (Peter Ash) was abused by their stepfather Kel when they were younger.
The storyline starts on screen in the coming weeks when Kel (to be played by Joseph Alessi, familiar to EastEnders fans as Mick Carter’s fellow prison inmate Fraser Mason) comes back into the siblings’ lives, following their recent fractious reunion with estranged mum Bernie Winter (Jane Hazlegrove), and Paul confides in partner Billy Mayhew (Daniel Brocklebank) he had a sexual relationship with his mum’s old flame as a young teenager.
Billy makes him understand that he was manipulated at the time into believing it was consensual and Paul must face his painful past as he struggles to come to terms with his ordeal and seeks justice, while Bernie and Gemma are stunned to realise something so devastating was happening right under their noses.
Corrie producer Iain MacLeod says: “This story sensitively explores something that is tragically all too common in families in the real world and highlights how these painful events still reverberate many years later.
“I hope it will allow people who have survived similar abuse and perhaps suffered in silence to find their voice and speak up. It will also showcase the brilliants talents of our cast in some incredibly challenging, powerful scenes. I am incredibly proud of this story.”
How do the cast feel about the hard-hitting storyline?
The soap is working closely with Survivors Manchester on the portrayal of the plot. Duncan Craig, founder of the organisation, previously worked with the ITV show on David Platt’s acclaimed rape storyline. “I am delighted Coronation Street has asked us once again to help them with this sensitive storyline,” he says. “We learned so much together before and the effort made last time is allowing us to tackle the finer and complex details of Paul’s feelings and behaviour. This story will resonate with so many male survivors.
“Coronation Street’s commitment to being authentic to real life issues is inspiring – I know first-hand the actual impact of these stories being told, as our last piece of work together resulted in a 1700% increase in calls to the male survivor helpline.”
Ash reveals he has known he would be embarking on the storyline for a while and has immersed himself in research. “Duncan’s experience was similar to my characters’s so it was invaluable for me to be able to talk about the conflicting emotions and not accepting or realising it was abuse until later on in life. It’s an important storyline and I want to get it right.”