Downton Abbey rape was a huge shock – and all the better for it

Anna Bates (Joanne Froggatt) is traumatised after the rape
10 Oct 2013 @ 8.25 am
| Opinion
Anna Bates (Joanne Froggatt) is traumatised after the rape
Anna Bates (Joanne Froggatt) is traumatised after the rape

grace-clarke-bylineViewers dipping into the warm bath of Sunday night’s favourite drama were given a cold blast of reality. Good, says Grace Clarke


More than 200 people have lodged complaints at being confronted with a rape scene on Sunday night’s Downton Abbey. Compared to a 10.5 million strong viewership, it barely seems worth reporting, does it?

Words like “morally reprehensible”, “sick” and “disturbing” are being used to describe a fictional rape. If people got this worked up about actual, real life rape, we’d be living in a far better world.

In the episode, the much loved ladies maid Anna was attacked by visiting valet, Mr Green. Until the rape he’d been getting on splendidly with everyone, organising card games, being a bit cheeky. He seemed like a good bloke.

Then he smacked Anna in the face and dragged her off screen.

Although the rape was merely alluded to, I found it really distressing. But I wasn’t appalled at it being shown. I was impressed.

And I was impressed that there’d been no hint to what was coming during the show, because as you’d expect, I was topping up the wine during the pre-show violence warning.

I’ve been trying to find a way of putting this delicately, and I don’t think I’m going to be successful, but the fact that I had no idea what was coming made the experience all the more realistic.

Attacks happen when you don’t expect them. From the people you least expect.

It was incredible to watch a TV drama where the perpetrator was a man the victim knew, someone who seemed trustworthy and likeable.

Anna pleads with Mrs Hughes (Phyllis Logan) not to tell anyone what has happened
Anna pleads with Mrs Hughes (Phyllis Logan) not to tell anyone what has happened

So often televised rape scenes play to that idea of stranger rape, when in reality, it’s our friends and boyfriends that often become our attackers. We can all watch the 10 O’clock News, pour another glass of wine and think: “That will never happen to me.” But believe me, it really does happen to normal people.

And if it takes a show like Downton Abbey to open up a discourse about it, then so be it.

The complaints only show that people want to ignore that rape happens. Well I hate to be the one to tell you this, but it does.

It happens everyday, everywhere. Sometimes even of a Sunday evening, would you believe? I know, the indecency of it all!

The sooner we stop ignoring it and start talking about it honestly, the sooner we are going to stop believing the myths, the sooner we are going to stop victim blaming.

If we were all a little bit more realistic, and stopped being disgusted and even embarrassed by the topic of rape, we could really start doing something about it.