Warning: This article has discussion of rape which some readers might find upsetting.
In the coming weeks, Emmerdale will portray a disturbing rape storyline involving Lydia Dingle (played by Karen Blick).
The beloved character will be sexually assaulted by her re-acquainted childhood friend, Craig Reed (Ben Addis).
She previously had a relationship with Craig, and the pair lost a stillborn child together. Over the coming weeks, they will grow closer over their shared experience.
In episodes set to air in early September, Craig's behaviour will turn sinister towards Lydia, which culminates in her rape.
Lydia will then have to decide whether or not to report the attack to the police while still in shock from the devastating moment.
Emmerdale will explore the aftermath of the rape, with Lydia battling with what happened as she attempts to internalise her ordeal while her friends and family become worried about her behaviour.
The ITV soap worked closely with Rape Crisis England and Wales, who say 1 in 2 rapes against women are carried out by their partner or an ex partner.
Speaking of portraying the harrowing scenes, Blick said: “Lydia’s rape is one of the most important and sensitive stories I have been part of during my time in Emmerdale. The research, preparation and aftermath of this story has been challenging and eye opening for me. One in four women have been raped or sexually assaulted as an adult, and after reading this statistic I found myself standing in the canteen at ITV looking around as that figure really shocked me.
“I have spoken to and met with women impacted by this crime, but this is very much Lydia’s story. Emmerdale tackles these socially important stories so well and I hope anyone impacted by this storyline can seek help and support, because no one should have to face this alone.”
Emmerdale producer Laura Shaw added: “Emmerdale have never shied away from telling difficult but important stories and with Lydia's rape we do just that. With five out of six women who are raped not reporting it to the police, we really wanted to raise awareness of this issue and hopefully encourage any women who have been in a similar position to Lydia to speak out.
"We've been working really closely with Rape Crisis, who have held our hand every step of the way and given us invaluable support to be able to tell the story as authentically and responsibly as possible. We’re also mindful of when Emmerdale airs on ITV, so the drama will be implicit rather than explicit.
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“Karen Blick's harrowing, but courageous and brave performance, is truly outstanding as this story rips through the whole Dingle family and into the wider village community. As we head towards Christmas, we will see Sam and Lydia's marriage really tested as secrets are exposed and lives irrevocably changed forever.”
Jayne Butler, Chief Executive at Rape Crisis said: “Lydia's story will resonate with the thousands of victims and survivors who are raped or sexually assaulted in England and Wales every year. Although it can be difficult to see these experiences reflected on screen, when they are represented realistically and sensitively it can be a really powerful way to raise awareness.
For support and advice on matters raised in this article, please visit www.rapecrisis.org.uk, call the 24/7 Rape and Sexual Abuse Support Line on 0808 500 2222 or chat to Rape Crisis online 247sexualabusesupport.org.uk.