EastEnders have worked with SurvivorsUK, a national charity which supports men, boys, and non-binary survivors of sexual violence, on a new storyline in which Mick Carter, played by Danny Dyer, realises that he was sexually abused as a child, by a woman.
Earlier in the year, Frankie arrived on the Square and has since turned Mick’s world upside down. In Monday’s episode, Mick confronts Frankie about her interest in his family but is devastated when he is told that he is her father. Mick is sure Frankie must be wrong until she mentions her mum’s name, Katy Lewis, taking Mick back to his childhood. Katy was Tina (Mick’s wife) and Mick’s care worker.
Over the coming months, Mick will experience what many survivors of sexual violence experience: breakdowns in his relationships, mental health issues, symptoms of PTSD, flashbacks, panic attacks, and the journey of recovery.
An estimated 12,000 men are raped every year and 76,000 are sexually abused or assaulted. Yet, just 4% of men will ever tell someone and even fewer seek support. Of those who do, according to research it takes on average 26 years to do so.
SurvivorsUK provides specialist support to cis and trans men, boys, and non-binary people who have been raped, sexually assaulted or abused, at any time in their life.
Our aim is to help any man, boy, or non-binary person to have the confidence to tell someone what’s happened to them, and to know that it’s OK to seek help. When they do, we want to ensure that they have access to the right support so they can deal with the impact of their experiences of harm.
We provide one-to-one counselling, group counselling, independent sexual violence advice (ISVA) through the justice system, and emotional support, information, and signposting through a website and national, text-based helpline services, 12pm to 8pm, 7 days a week.
SurvivorsUK hopes that by incorporating a story of sexual violence into the storyline of one of EastEnders’ more prominent characters, more men across the UK will feel empowered to seek out help.
SurvivorsUK CEO Alex Feis-Bryce said: “We’re proud to have worked with EastEnders on this storyline which will really resonate with many men who have experienced sexual violence. They have approached the subject with sensitivity and taken into account the voices and experiences of survivors throughout.
Research suggests that it takes male survivors an average of 26 years to speak out and seek support and the impact of sexual violence can be devastating. When I was raped as a teenager I felt so alone partly because I’d been socialised to believe that this was something which doesn’t happen to men and it took me years to speak about it properly to anyone. I know many of the people we support at SurvivorsUK experience similar feelings.
Whenever sexual violence features in the media, and particularly in soaps like EastEnders, it can empower people to come forward to speak out about their experiences and seek support. The fact that the perpetrator in this storyline is a female also challenges the myth that sexual violence is something perpetrated by men against women. The reality is that anyone can experience sexual violence and it is perpetrated by people from all backgrounds and identities.”
EastEnders Executive Producer Jon Sen said: ““Viewers have always been aware that Mick spent many years in care, which has been the cause of his fractured relationship with Shirley but now the audience will discover just why Mick’s childhood has been so traumatic. This storyline will see Mick having to confront the demons of his past, something he has desperately tried to avoid for many years and face up to the realisation that he experienced abuse whilst he was in care. Our work with SurvivorsUK and NSPCC has been vital in informing and grounding Mick’s story very much in reality. We hope this storyline will help to challenge the perceptions, the stigma and the shame – particularly experienced by male survivors.”
Simon was silent for 50 years before he told anyone about the sexual abuse that he endured. After finally building up the courage to talk, he sought out help from SurvivorsUK.
“The impact of abuse is lifelong and life-threatening – there is no magic wand to change what happened. SurvivorsUK provides trauma-informed expert support and facilitation of groups of men like me, who have suffered sexual abuse. At long last, we are not alone. It changed both my and my family’s lives for the better.
“For the first time in my life, since my abuse as a very young child, I feel I fully professionally understood – not just an ‘acceptable’ part of me, but all of me – even the sexually abused part that I was ashamed of talking about for over 50 years. I feel whole. I feel freer of shame. Shame and guilt don’t magically disappear, but now it is managed, understood and accepted as a normal response to a terrifying experience, I do not blame myself and I know the neurological reasons why I feel the way I do. My mental health continues to steadily improve – sustainable growth – I am getting better at loving myself and others.
“When Saville was finally exposed, I felt a conspiracy of silence lifted. That began the thought that I might be able to speak the truth as to why I have suffered so many breakdowns in my life. Now much stronger, I was delighted to feedback on the authenticity of a soap story, the impact of which I believe will empower male viewers to break the taboo and speak out about sexual abuse. It is the road to recovery via the many charities that are trauma-informed with respect to male victims.
“The importance of trauma-informed support is paramount. It can save lives and prevent unnecessary suffering. It can save the NHS millions, since trauma-informed support (whether 1:1 or groupwork) can help avoid the suppression of undiagnosed trauma which leads to serious depression and illness if not understood.
“Survivors UK has gradually transformed me into a less depressed and more vibrant human being.
“My wife and son have also benefitted from this and now totally support my continued involvement with Survivors UK despite having been reticent at first.
“The proof of the pudding is in the eating and my continued healthy growth is something that my family appreciates as I am able to love them more than before – we cannot thank Survivors UK enough.”
Florian, who accesses support from SurvivorsUK, learned in his thirties that he was sexually abused as a child.
“My childhood was always shrouded in darkness and lost memories, but learning in my thirties that I was sexually abused as a child hit me like a thousand trucks. It turned my life upside down and I lost my balance in all aspects of life. My quirky way of looking at things, overthinking stuff, having an “adorable sense of OCD” and getting inexplicably moody turned into anxiety, panic attacks, and depression. Some days, it is easy to let the darkness take over my day entirely, the emotions run wild. The things that have helped me through this tough time are talking about it with my therapist, friends, and some family members, a lot more self-reflection and self-care, creative and therapeutic writing, and getting help from SurvivorsUK where I met incredibly strong fellow survivors. I underestimated how comforting it is that you are not alone. The sad truth is thousands of men experience this, but by reaching out we can see, hear, and support each other. I will never be able to make sense of it, I will never be able to retrieve all my memories, or may never get over the difficulties that I have in relationships. But I know I will be able to help others by being a voice, sharing the reality of what I had to go through and hopefully help someone else going through, or maybe even save another boy from getting hurt.”
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The SurvivorsUK National Online Helpline for Male Survivors can be reached from 12pm – 8pm every day via our website (http://survivorsuk.org), by text (020 3322 1860) and by email ([email protected]).