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Barnardo’s experts advise Emmerdale on child abuse storyline

Release Date: 03 Dec 2018

After viewers saw Emmerdale teacher Maya kiss Jacob (Monday 3 December), Barnardo’s reveals it has been advising the ITV soap on the abuse storyline.

Young survivors of sexual abuse have advised Emmerdale actors and producers on the female teacher/pupil abuse storyline between characters Maya and Jacob.

The makers of Emmerdale have praised Barnardo’s for its insightful and valuable work after meeting the charity’s experts and young people supported by the UK’s leading children’s charity.

In the soap, teacher Maya, (Louisa Clein) who is currently in a relationship with David Metcalfe (Matthew Wolfenden), but has been spending a lot of time with young Jacob (Joe-Warren Plant), David’s adopted son.

Viewers have seen Maya and Jacob, who is under 16, getting closer and there has been speculation amongst fans on social media that Maya is grooming Jacob. In Monday’s (Dec 3) show the pair kissed.

Viewers will have to watch the soap to see how the plot unfolds, but producers have said it is a storyline that needs to be told.

Laura Shaw, Emmerdale producer said:

It was important for us to tell this storyline authentically, so we approached Barnardo’s for advice on scripts and character behaviour. Our researchers, story team- along with actors Louisa, Matthew and Joe-Warren - met with Barnardo’s experts and young men who have been supported by the charity. We met some incredible individuals and were moved by their courage and willingness to help us tell this story sensitively. Hopefully it will make young people and their parents more aware of these issues and their impact.

Barnardo’s Chief Executive Javed Khan said:

We were really pleased to be approached by Emmerdale to advise on the serious subject of adult women grooming and abusing boys. Too often this is seen as ‘taboo’ and not talked about.

Our specialist UK-wide services support thousands of children who have been sexually exploited by both men and women, to rebuild their lives; and we work with children at risk to help them stay safe. We know from research that outdated views still exist about boys who are groomed by adult women, but in reality it causes lasting harm, and problems with trust, affection, love and sex.

To help Emmerdale tell the story authentically, Barnardo’s arranged for them to meet experts, and young men who have been supported by a project called Better Futures Cymru. The workshops were focussed on enabling Emmerdale to understand how the characters would be feeling or behaving.

Better Futures Cymru provides therapeutic services for children and young people from across Wales with sexualised histories, including young people who have been the victims of sexual abuse or child sexual exploitation.

The service recently published research funded by the Home Office into the experience of boys who experience sexual abuse, called ‘Boys 2’. The research found that:

•Sexually exploited boys and young men often miss out on the support they would receive if they were girls because professionals don’t always recognise them as victims

•Behaviour that might trigger concerns that girls are at risk is sometimes put down to ‘boys being boys’, leaving many victims without the specialist support they need.

•Boys involved in the research project said the failure to see them as possible victims of abuse had created barriers and stopped boys talking about abuse suffered

•Many had endured difficulties including chaotic home environments, domestic violence and unstable living arrangements, often moving between care and extended family

•They also reported poor relationship and sex education in schools, a lack of pastoral support, with many having low self-esteem and feeling lonely and isolated, or excluded from support networks.

•A lack of healthy attachment to others and a need to find a place in their peer group had made them vulnerable to developing unsuitable social networks, which had brought them into contact with sexual and criminal exploitation.

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