This article includes discussion around rape and sexual consent that some readers may find upsetting.

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A new Coronation Street storyline is set to tackle the issue of non-consensual sex next month, with Amy Barlow (Elle Mulvaney) and Aaron Sandford (James Craven) at the centre.

In the episode airing on Friday 3rd March, Amy and Aaron will share a drunken kiss at the flat they share, shortly after Aaron has an argument with his girlfriend Summer Spellman (Harriet Bibby). The pair then move to the bedroom, where Amy begins to undress - but everything changes when she admits she's feeling sick.

Amy rolls away from Aaron, but he continues to kiss her, and she will be unaware of what happens next as Aaron makes the decision for them to have sex. Amy won't discover how far things went until the next day, and will be left horrified.

As the teen struggles to come to terms with the fact that she was unable to consent, and therefore has been raped, Aaron tries to convince Amy that they both wanted to have sex, and that he did nothing wrong. Family, friends and the police soon become involved, at which point we will see the different reactions to non-consensual sex.

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The hope is for the storyline to open up conversations about the issues surrounding sexual activity between young people, including consent, awareness, respect and education.

Researchers have worked with a charity called The Schools Consent Project, set up in 2015. The project sends legally trained volunteers into schools to run workshops on the legal definition of sexual consent and key sexual offences.

Monica Bhogal, director of The Schools Consent Project, said of working with Coronation Street: "The Schools Consent Project firmly believes that learning about sexual consent laws allows young people to understand their rights and responsibilities and empowers young people by providing them with the skills, confidence and knowledge they need to make safe, respectful, healthy choices around sexual consent.

"We are delighted to have been consulted on this storyline which conveys important messages around the topic of sexual consent with care and sensitivity. Its inclusion in such a wide-reaching show emphasises the crucial need for consent conversations and the power of consent education."

The show's executive producer, Iain MacLeod, added: "Since we started discussing this storyline, I have been struck by the number of people who have put their hands up to say they’ve had a similar experience to Amy. This story will be hugely relatable and we hope it will prompt important discussions among our audience about issues around consent.

"The narrative will also be an engrossing, long-running examination of how Amy and Aaron deal with what happened that night and will give actors Elle Mulvaney and James Craven the chance to showcase their considerable skills."

Amy Barlow speaks with Summer Spellman and Aaron in Coronation Street
Amy Barlow (Elle Mulvaney) speaks with Summer Spellman (Harriet Bibby) and Aaron Sandford (James Craven) in Coronation Street. ITV

Elle Mulvaney has played Amy since 2010. Talking about the responsibility of taking on this story, she said: "Initially when I was given the storyline I was quite anxious to take it on as it’s such an important issue and we wanted to get it right. There are so many different viewpoints from the characters but for us it was important that when we portray that night it’s clear that while Amy doesn’t say the words she definitely doesn't consent.

"That meant that we had to highlight her usual behaviour in the run-up to the episode so that she didn’t act uncharacteristically, the characters were getting closer before the event but even though they were friends that doesn’t mean it’s OK for him to do what he wants, this shouldn’t be a grey area.

"It’s huge to be a young actress on the show and to be given a storyline like this because it shows how much faith the team has in us, which in turn gives us the confidence to tackle the story. It won’t end here either, it will be interesting to see the character develop in a different way because this will stay with Amy for a long time. It’s important to note the way it will affect her mental health and wellbeing going forward which is something else we want to highlight with this story."

You can find help and support for the topics raised by visiting The Schools Consent Project and Rape Crisis.

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