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September 9, 2019

EastEnders: Busting myths around sexual consent

Image caption

Louisa Lytton plays Ruby Allen in the BBC One soap

It wasn’t the usual pub chat in the Queen Vic last night.

Instead, EastEnders had a special episode dedicated to sexual consent – with characters discussing and arguing over the issue.

It came from the latest storyline where Ruby Allen says she was raped after a night out – but the men accused say she’d given her consent.

Radio 1 Newsbeat’s picked out five examples that came up – and asked Kate Russell from the charity Rape Crisis to explain why there shouldn’t be any confusion.

In the soap, Ruby tells her friend Stacey that she’d gone home with Ross and slept with him – but then woke to find another man, Matt, on top of her.

1: ‘She didn’t say no’

Ruby is criticised by a friend of the men charged for failing to say no.

Katie says: “A lot of people don’t fight or shout or say no in circumstances of extreme trauma or fear.

“That is a common physiological response to that experience.

“Sometimes our bodies freeze or go limp and we find we can’t speak – that doesn’t mean it was your fault or you consented.”

2: ‘It’s those short skirts they wear’

Katie says the way someone is dressed has nothing to do with whether they want to have sex.

“You can’t assume anything.”

3: ‘People get drunk and make mistakes’

In the EastEnders storyline, Ruby wakes up to find someone on top of her.

“Consent is agreeing by choice and you need to be in the capacity to make that choice,” says Katie.

“If someone is drunk or asleep then they can’t make that choice.”

Image caption

Stacey has been supporting Ruby after she was raped

4: ‘She came back to mine’

Again, don’t assume anything.

Katie says: “Someone might happily consent to having sex with you at one point and then later change their mind.

“Or might agree to one sexual act and not another.

“We have to be able to communicate with each other in order to make sure we’re respecting each others wishes.”

5: ‘She was kissing and flirting with me’

This isn’t the same as agreeing to have sex.

“You can’t assume when it comes to sex and sexual relationships. If in doubt you need to check,” says Katie.

Louisa Lytton, who plays Ruby told Radio 1 Newsbeat she’s had women contacting her thanking her for tackling the subject.

“Women have been saying thank you for doing the story justice.

“But also, some have said it made them realise that something they’d experienced years ago was rape.

“I didn’t think so many women would want to speak to me first hand and tell me their stories.”

Image caption

School friends Matt, Martin and Ross

If you want to talk to someone, you can get details of organisations that can help are on the BBC Action Line website.

Follow Newsbeat on Instagram, Facebook and Twitter.

Listen to Newsbeat live at 12:45 and 17:45 every weekday on BBC Radio 1 and 1Xtra – if you miss us you can listen back here.

Source BBC News

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