Well, they promised us a huge storyline for John Paul McQueen in Hollyoaks, but we weren’t expecting this – John Paul McQueen is to be raped by one of his own students!
Fans of the award-winning Channel 4 soap will know how John Paul (James Sutton) has been slowly being victimised by some of his class who have cottoned on to the fact that he is gay.
But things are set to take a very dark and sinister turn when Finn O’Connor (Keith Rice) takes his homophobic bullying about a million stages too far and launches a brutal sexual attack on his English teacher!
Of course due to Hollyoaks strict pre-watershed time slot the attack itself will take place off-screen, with the body of the storyline exploring the consequences of it for both Finn and JP, with bosses at the show working closely with expert consultants including Stonewall, St Mary’s Sexual Assault Referral, Survivors Manchester and Survivors UK to make sure the subject is handled with the upmost care and sensitivity.
The situation arises when the taunting that Finn and his classmate Robbie Roscoe (Charlie Wernham) turns into a full blown hate campaign against the teacher, with JP being subjected to pranks and name calling daily.
However when, in January, John Paul gets the upper hand back after unveiling evidence which could affect his main tormentors future, Robbie instructs Finn to confront the teacher but, after an explosive row between the two erupts Finn carries out the furious and aggressive attack in a bid to take the power back from him.
Stonewall’s media manager Richard Lane commented to Digital Spy: “Hollyoaks has long led the way with incidental and realistic coverage of lesbian, gay and bisexual people and producers have actively worked with us to ensure that a number of their storylines are realistic and sensitive. It is in recognition of this that, in its 18th year, Hollyoaks is nominated for a Stonewall Award as Broadcast of the Year.”
Meanwhile Duncan Craig, founder of Survivors Manchester, added: “I never thought that we would have become as involved in this story as we have been. As a service provider and survivor myself, I have been absolutely blown away by the commitment the writers, directors and cast involved in this have shown. This isn’t just another story, this is a culturally important milestone. Nothing has been done like this before.
“When I’m leading seminars for police officers, therapists, forensic medical examiners, social workers and health care professionals, there is so little in the form of cultural references to include in a discussion with regards to male victims of sexual violence and rape.
“There are a few stories that involve stranger rape, but rarely does film, TV or theatre reference the rape of male by someone he knows. I am so proud of the team at Lime Pictures that they have the courage to address this very real issue at primetime with the respect that they have shown. This sort of crime does happen and Hollyoaks are helping those few of us that are providing services to males to break the silence.
“Sexual assault and rape of boys and men is one of our last taboos and we have to talk about this. If we have learned anything in the past year following the high profile sexual abuse cases, it’s that shame creates silence and silence creates pain. For those of you out there that watch this story and are directly affected by it, come to get some support.”
Research into this storyline is said to have begun over a year ago, with James Sutton who plays John Paul commenting to Digital Spy:
“I visited Survivors Manchester with a view to how to handle the upcoming storyline with the realism and sensitivity that it demands. I was very moved by the bravery of the survivors that I met.
“It is not just one event – it will follow the consequences of what happens to the character after going through an extremely traumatic attack and how it changes him as a person. Hollyoaks has a history of examining important issues and I am really looking forward to telling the story.”
Finally Hollyoaks’ executive producer Bryan Kirkwood added: “We have an important story to tell that has not been told before, which is what our audience expects from us. Hollyoaks is known for not patronising its audience but for finding ways to talk about difficult issues like Hannah’s anorexia, Esther’s bullying and Ste’s domestic violence in a gay relationship within the constraints of a tea-time soap.”
“The storyline will follow the journey of what happens to John Paul after he becomes a victim of rape, but also will examine the far-reaching consequences for all of those around him and also for the perpetrator. Keith and James are both extremely skilled young actors who I am confident will tell this story with skill and empathy.”
Hollyoaks can be seen weeknights at 6.30pm on Channel 4 / Channel 4 HD.