Channel 4 have announced a new topical storyline for teen soap Hollyoaks with the character of teacher John Paul McQueen suffering homophobic bullying in the workplace.The storyline will see John Paul suffer a sexual assault by a pupil, following a sustained campaign of humiliation by pupils Robbie and Finn.
Hollyoaks is known for not patronising its audience, but for finding ways to talk about difficult issues like Hannah’s anorexia, Esther’s bullying and Ste’s domestic violence in a gay relationship within the constraints of a tea-time soap.
The storyline will follow the journey of what happens to John Paul after he becomes a victim of rape but also will examine the far reaching consequences for all of those around him and also for the perpetrator. – Executive producer of Hollyoaks, Bryan Kirkwood
John Paul will later confide in an authoritative figure that he was raped. The attack in January will be off-screen but will explore the consequences for both the victim and the perpetrator in a long-running storyline early next year.
As part of the preparation for the storyline Keith Rice (Finn) met with offender groups, and James Sutton (John Paul) went through a role play of the process of reporting a rape to St Mary’s SARC and met with Survivors groups.
I visited Survivors Manchester with a view to how to handle the upcoming storyline with the realism and sensitivity that it demands. I was very moved by the bravery of the survivors that I met.
It is not just one event; it will follow the consequences of what happens to the character after going through an extremely traumatic attack and how it changes him as a person. Hollyoaks has a history of examining important issues and I am really looking forward to telling the story. – James Sutton
The storyline was a culmination in two hard-hitting under-reported issues that Hollyoaks wanted to explore, homophobic bulling in schools and male rape, and was over a year in planning and research before reaching script development. Hollyoaks worked with expert advisors including Stonewall, St Mary’s Sexual Assault Referral and Survivors Manchester and UK on how to bring the story to the audience. The attack will happen off-screen.
Hollyoaks will air the episodes in January.