EastEnders has confirmed plans to air a hard-hitting storyline in which popular character Ben Mitchell will be raped by a barman.
Actor Max Bowden, who has played the character since 2019, told The Sun that he is "honoured" to be able to tell a story which can raise awareness of an issue which is seldom depicted on primetime television.
The show's producers have been working with numerous survivors' charities in order to ensure that the storyline is handled sensitively.
Viewers will see Ben become close to barman Lewis (Aidan O’Callaghan) as he continues to deal with his trauma over the homophobic attack on his husband Callum earlier this year.
BBC head of continuing drama Kate Oates said: "Ben finds Lewis attractive, and thinks of him as a someone who can understand him in a way Callum does not; but that trust is abused when Lewis crosses a line and rapes Ben.
"Through this story, we hope to explore issues of consent, sexual identity, masculinity, and sexual assault, focusing on how this fateful night impacts Ben and those who love him over the coming months.”
Bowden took over the role of Ben in 2019, becoming the sixth actor to play the character since he was born to Phil Mitchell and Kathy Beale in 1996.
The star described the upcoming storyline as an "important" one that he was excited to be able to bring to the screen.
He added: "Alongside some wonderful charities, and some very inspirational survivors of male sexual assault in the UK, I think we’ve been able to really strive to tell the most truthful account we can, and I hope we can raise awareness and understanding on a topic that is rarely covered."
One of the charities helping EastEnders with the storyline is SurvivorsUK, which provides support for men and non-binary people who have fallen victim to sexual violence.
Marta Almeida, services manager for the charity, said: "Almost all of us will know a man who has been sexually assaulted at some point, but a huge number of male survivors still don't feel there's a space for them to come forward.
"Storylines like this one are an amazing opportunity to explore the reality for so many men, families and communities up and down the UK.”
Ben Mitchell has been involved in a number of hard-hitting storylines since the character's first appearance, including suffering child abuse, accidentally killing Heather Trott and losing his hearing in a boat accident.
Watch: Take a look at what's ahead for EastEnders