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Date Published
April 17, 2024

Today (17th April 2024) Eastenders will air an hour-long special focusing on a storyline about sexual assault.

The soap’s Yolande Trueman will be subjected to a sexual assault at the hands of her church pastor, following a period of sexual harassment and inappropriate touching.

The hour-long special episode will also include flashback scenes featuring accounts from other women Pastor Clayton has previously assaulted.

Popular culture is a powerful force for change

Storylines like this play a vital role in raising awareness about violence against women, how our communities, the police and courts respond to it, and how it affects survivors.

TV programmes reach millions of viewers each night in their homes, with storylines often reflecting the social issues they witness or experience in their everyday lives. These storylines can therefore have a big impact on our collective understanding and attitudes towards these issues. This is particularly true of sexual violence, which is so often hidden and kept secret.

When done well, storylines like Yolande’s can help encourage survivors to seek support and shift the cultural attitudes that tolerate and normalise this abuse.

We’re pleased to have worked with Eastenders on Yolande’s story to ensure it is sensitive and truthful, and avoids reinforcing harmful myths and stereotypes about sexual violence. Eastenders have also worked with Hourglass on this story – a UK charity providing support to older victims of sexual violence and domestic abuse.

‘Who would believe me?’

In exploring Yolande’s struggles after being sexually assaulted, we see her battle with fears about being disbelieved as an older woman. With the media and popular culture often depicting a ‘perfect blameless victim’ – young, white, middle class – it’s important that society sees the reality of sexual violence, which happens to anyone regardless of age, race, ethnicity, class or background.

This is particularly critical given how common misconceptions about what a victim looks like often impacts whether or not they can access justice and support. Black women are among those who face the greatest barriers in this regard due to the racism and misogyny baked into our culture and justice institutions. And the stories of Black women, older women and others who are marginalised rarely receive the attention they deserve.

Andrea Simon, Director of the End Violence Against Women Coalition, said:

“We’re proud to have worked with Eastenders on this important storyline. Sexual assault happens to women of all ages and backgrounds, but many find they aren’t believed or taken seriously. Older women, Black women and others who are marginalised are at the sharp end of this, with huge consequences for their access to justice and support.

TV shows can play a huge role in shifting attitudes across society. We hope this storyline helps dispel myths and stereotypes about what victims and survivors look like and how perpetrators behave, and ultimately increases understanding of sexual assault.”

Where to find help

If something sexual happened to you without your consent – or you’re not sure – you can talk to Rape Crisis England & Wales – no matter when it happened.

The 24/7 Rape & Sexual Abuse Support Line is open 24 hours a day, every day of the year:

Call free on 0808 500 2222

Visit the website to start a free online chat

You can also visit our website to find a specialist service in your local area.

Media contact

Sinead Geoghegan, Head of Communications,

Date Published
April 17, 2024
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