BBC One soap EastEnders is beginning an important new storyline for Mick Carter, which reveals he was the victim of sexual abuse as a child.
The hard-hitting thread follows a confession from Frankie (Rose Ayling-Ellis), who recently told Mick that she is his daughter, a revelation that sent him into a panic attack.
In tonight’s episode, viewers learned that Frankie’s mother was a care worker named Katy Lewis, who preyed upon Mick when he was only 12 years old.
In the time since, Mick has repressed these traumatic memories but will now have to face them head on in a story exploring the long-term effects of abuse such as emotional difficulties, panic attacks and mental health problems.
To carry out this story respectfully, the team behind EastEnders has worked extensively with both the NSPCC and SurvivorsUK, a charity that helps male, trans and non-binary survivors of sexual violation.
Kamaljit Thandi, Head of NSPCC Helpine said: “We know that abuse can have a devastating and often lasting impact. This storyline reinforces how difficult it can be for those who are victims of non-recent abuse to process and come to terms with what has happened to them. It can also be hard for men to speak openly about these experiences, particularly when the perpetrator is female.
“That’s one of the reasons we are really pleased that EastEnders is raising awareness of such an important issue and we hope that this storyline will help to give those who find themselves in a similar position to Mick, and any other victims of abuse, the courage to speak up.”
The charities consulted on scripts and story elements and allowed the team to speak with real survivors of child sexual abuse to ensure that Mick’s story is as accurate as possible.
Alex Feis-Bryce, CEO SurvivorsUK, added: “We’re proud to have worked with EastEnders on this storyline which will really resonate with many men who have experienced sexual violence. They have approached the subject with sensitivity and taken into account the voices and experiences of survivors throughout.
“Research suggests that it takes male survivors an average of 26 years to speak out and seek support and the impact of sexual violence can be devastating. When I was raped as a teenager I felt so alone partly because I’d been socialised to believe that this was something which doesn’t happen to men and it took me years to speak about it properly to anyone. I know many of the people we support at SurvivorsUK experience similar feelings.
“Whenever sexual violence features in the media, and particularly in soaps like EastEnders, it can empower people to come forward to speak out about their experiences and seek support.
“The fact that the perpetrator in this storyline is a female also challenges the myth that sexual violence is something perpetrated by men against women. The reality is that anyone can experience sexual violence and it is perpetrated by people from all backgrounds and identities.”
For Mick, this character arc will tackle his ongoing struggle with abandonment and see him gain stronger understanding over an event he has long tried to forget.
EastEnders executive producer Jon Sen added: “This storyline will see Mick having to confront the demons of his past, something he has desperately tried to avoid for many years and face up to the realisation that he experienced abuse whilst he was in care.
“Our work with SurvivorsUK and NSPCC has been vital in informing and grounding Mick’s story very much in reality. We hope this storyline will help to challenge the perceptions, the stigma and the shame – particularly experienced by male survivors.”
The NSPCC Helpline is there for any adults who have concerns and want to get advice – they can call the Helpline on 0808 800 5000 or email firstname.lastname@example.org. Young people can contact Childline on 0800 1111 or via 1-2-1 chat on www.childline.org.uk.
The SurvivorsUK National Online Helpline for Male Survivors can be reached from 12pm – 8pm every day via the website (http://survivorsuk.org), by text (020 3322 1860) and by email (email@example.com).