Importance of being Brave: How putting Male rape stories on TV has fueled a surge in reporting
**Trigger Warning: Descriptions of Rape**
According to a new Government strategy to support male victims of abuse, TV dramas with story lines centred around male rape have contributed to a 57% rise in men and boys aged over 13 reporting sexual assaults.
The report, a statement paper separate to the Ending Violence Against Women Strategy published by the Home Office, specially addresses male victims and the impact of those coming forward is having on services.
Since 2015/16, the number of sexual assaults of men and boys over 13 rose from 3,446 to 5,399 in 2017/18, fueled in part by greater awareness from high profile court cases and TV dramas.
More victims and survivors have the confidence to come forward and report the crime to police, with increasingly more individuals also seeking support from service providers. High profile court cases and TV dramas have also contributed to the raised awareness of the support available to male victims and survivors of rape and sexual abuse.
The report cited a Coronation Street male rape story about a hairdresser being sexually assaulted which saw a 1,700% increase in calls to the national male survivor helpline.
David, played by actor Jack P Shepherd, was left devastated after he was drugged and assaulted by newcomer Josh.
The story is partly based on the real experiences of 23-year-old Sam Thompson. When he was 22, Sam was raped by two men after getting split up from his mates and girlfriend during a night out in Manchester.
Drunk, he got chatting with a group of blokes at 4am and ended up back at a hotel for "one more drink". Sam doesn't know if he was drugged but remembers that everything went hazy and he then "froze" as "two men took it in turns to rape me".
It was the first time in Coronation Street's 57-year-history that a male rape has been covered on screen.
When the story line was aired in March last year I appeared on Victoria Derbyshire to talk about his story and how seeing TV dramas having these stories would have made him come forward to seek help sooner.
This year, Hollyoaks set the bar higher than ever in the opening weeks of January with the abuse trial of football coach Buster Smith, who had previously groomed and attacked Ollie, Brody, Imran and, as it turned out, many others in the past.
This was a brave story line for the time slot and one which really delved into the impacts faced by the victims of Buster and those around them.
Justice was served in highly charged scenes and presented with a message of empowerment as those who Buster had tried to destroy stood up together to bring him down.
It was a powerful story line and once again, further proof that Hollyoaks continues to change the world from its humble early evening slot.
Hollyoaks was even the first soap to tackle the issue of male rape back in 2000 and in a late night episode, they didn’t cover up the brutal reality of Luke Morgan’s horrific attack – nor did they shy away from the impact it had on him.
One thing that Hollyoaks always does successfully is it ensures that these experiences shape the character and Luke’s alcoholism and his explosive and not always helpful behaviour around his son Ollie’s ordeal are all part of that.
Hollyoaks revisited the story line almost two decades later when Luke came face to face with his attacker Mark Gibbs in highly charged scenes which proved his trauma had never really left him.
The are people who believe that stories like these shouldn't be on soaps and should be shown after the watershed, others say it shouldn't be on the TV at all.
However, I think if we look at all the people who have come forward after these stories were aired it shows that it was one of the best things we could do to help survivors - letting them know they're not alone.
Numerous charities, Survivors UK and Survivors Manchester to name a couple, have seen a notable increase in people contacting them. All because of the stories they saw or heard about on TV being similar to theirs - and seeing that there's help available if people reach out.
These shows have started conversations and started to erode barriers for thousands of survivors across the country. It's something I admire, celebrate and look forward to seeing more of.
This article was written by Alexander Morgan, CEO of Stay Brave. Alex is a survivor of abuse and exploitation and campaigns against gender stigma that prevent access to abuse services. You can hear more from Alex by following him on Twitter or reading his articles on HuffPost.