EastEnders has confirmed that an important new storyline will explore the sexual abuse that Mick Carter experienced as a child.
Monday's episode of the BBC soap (October 12) revealed that Mick was abused by a care worker called Katy Lewis when he was 12 years old.
EastEnders' executive producer Jon Sen commented: "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."
EastEnders' new storyline began on screen earlier this month, as newcomer Frankie Lewis revealed that she is Mick's daughter.
In Monday's episode, Frankie confided in Mick's aunt Tina about her mother, Katy Lewis. Tina immediately recognised the name and was excited over the apparent coincidence, explaining that Katy was their care worker when they were children.
Understanding the truth of the situation for the first time, Frankie was privately horrified to realise that her mother had abused Mick when he was 12 years old. However, Mick was clearly confused about his past and told Frankie that the situation wasn't what she thought.
An EastEnders statement explained: "The storyline will look at the impact the revelation has on Mick and his ongoing struggle with abandonment and understanding that what he experienced was abuse.
"Having repressed what happened to him, the story will portray Mick suffering with some of the long-term effects of abuse, with his emotional difficulties, panic attacks and mental health problems worsening as a result and how this impacts his family."
The work of the NSPCC and SurvivorsUK on the storyline has included consulting on scripts and storylines. The charities also helped to set up meetings with real-life survivors of child sexual abuse, to ensure that Mick's story would be as accurate as possible.
Kamaljit Thandi, Head of NSPCC Helpline, commented: "We know that abuse can have a devastating and often lasting impact. This storyline reinforces how difficult it can be for those who are victims of non-recent abuse to process and come to terms with what has happened to them. It can also be hard for men to speak openly about these experiences, particularly when the perpetrator is female.
"That's one of the reasons we are really pleased that EastEnders is raising awareness of such an important issue and we hope that this storyline will help to give those who find themselves in a similar position to Mick, and any other victims of abuse, the courage to speak up."
Alex Feis-Bryce, CEO of SurvivorsUK, added: "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 reality is that anyone can experience sexual violence and it is perpetrated by people from all backgrounds and identities."
EastEnders airs on Mondays, Tuesdays, Thursdays and Fridays on BBC One.
Readers who are affected by the issues raised by this storyline can contact the NSPCC Helpline on 0808 800 5000 or by email via firstname.lastname@example.org.
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