EastEnders fans were “horrified” by a heartbreaking scene that saw Ben Mitchell (Max Bowden) raped in Monday’s episode.
The soap opera took on the storyline, which focuses on male victims of sexual violence, after developing it for some time.
The last episode started when an argument broke out when Callum Highway (Tony Clay) discovered her husband Ben had told bartender Lewis Butler (Aidan O’Callaghan) about his brutal assaults on homophobes, after he suffered his own targeted attack.
‘Heartbreaking’: EastEnders fans were ‘horrified’ by a scene that saw Ben Mitchell (Max Bowden) raped by Lewis Butler (Aidan O’Callaghan) in Monday’s episode
Impactful: It comes 10 years after the soap turned down a male rape story from then-executive producer Bryan Kirkwood, with the show saying it was too difficult
Ben then left for the pub, fearing the downfall of his marriage, and opened a dating app on his phone after a few drinks.
He didn’t spot a selfie that Callum then sends him with Ben’s daughter, Lexi, and instead viewers see him flirting with Lewis.
One thing led to another, Ben and Lewis soon found themselves upstairs – before the vigilante finally saw the photo sent by her husband.
‘Horrible’: The soap opera tackled the storyline, which focuses on male victims of sexual violence, after building it for a while
‘I’m stunned’: ‘Heartbreaking’ scene hailed by EastEnders fans, who took to social media to express their grief
He then headed for the start and refused Lewis’s advances, but the bar manager carried out the gruesome assault anyway.
The ‘heartbreaking’ scene was hailed by EastEnders fans, who took to social media to express their grief.
One user tweeted: ‘I’m stunned. Kudos to everyone who participated. Horrible. Stiff. Heartbreaking.’
Another said: ‘Really much worse than anything I could have imagined. My heart aches for Ben, for Callum too – but damn Ben… I haven’t cried on a soap opera in a very long time and tonight I did.’
Elsewhere, a commenter added: “The way Max delivered that last ‘i said no’ hurt my soul, why am I still watching this show when all it does, it saddens me.”
Praise: Elsewhere, a commenter added: ‘The way Max delivered that last ‘I said no’ hurt my soul, why am I still watching this show when all it fact is to sadden me”
Max Bowden’s performance was praised by viewers, with one on Twitter saying he “better get all the awards”.
Looking ahead to Tuesday’s episode, one fan added, “Tonight is the aftermath of Ben’s rape ordeal and he’s having a hard time coming to terms with it.”
“Max Bowden is going to break that script and it’s so important. No means no and sex without consent is rape.
The BBC soap has worked with a number of charities, including SurvivorsUK, Survivors Manchester and the Male Survivors Partnership, to ensure the subject is approached with sensitivity.
Important: Looking ahead to Tuesday’s episode, one fan added: ‘Tonight is the sequel to Ben’s rape ordeal and he’s having a hard time coming to terms with it’
It comes 10 years after the soap turned down a male rape story from then-executive producer Bryan Kirkwood, with the show saying it was too difficult.
The storyline and its aftermath are set to unfold over several months, with Max, who plays Ben, saying he’s “honored” to portray him.
He said: ‘Alongside wonderful charities and very inspiring survivors of male sexual assault in the UK, I think we’ve been able to really strive to tell the most truthful account possible, and I hope that we will be able to raise awareness and understand on a subject rarely discussed.
Fight: The final episode began as an argument broke out between Ben and her husband, before the horrific attack
“I am honored to have the opportunity to tell such an important story”
The harrowing storyline will not only focus on the assault, but also on consent, masculinity, and how sexual assault affects loved ones around the victim.
Giving context to the story, BBC Continuing Drama Manager Kate Oates said: “Ben went through a traumatic time after witnessing a homophobic attack on Callum which brought back painful memories of the loss from Paul.”
“As a result, Ben lost his way in life… that’s when he found Lewis.
“Ben finds Lewis attractive and sees him as someone who can understand him in a way Callum doesn’t; but that trust is abused when Lewis crosses a line and rapes Ben,” she explained.
Consent: The harrowing storyline will not only focus on the assault, but also on consent, masculinity, and how sexual assault affects loved ones around the victim.
It comes as Hollyoaks and Coronation Street explored the storyline in 2014 and 2018.
It looks like the soap is finally ready to explore the subject, after Bryan Kirkwood previously revealed he was told to avoid the subject “in plain language” when he was executive producer, before moving to Hollyoaks – where he directed it.
Rape charity SurvivorsUK hopes the plot will encourage male victims to come forward, with service manager Marta Almeida detailing: “Stories like this are an incredible opportunity to explore reality for so many men, families and communities across the UK”.
For confidential support, call the Samaritans on 116123 or visit a local branch of the Samaritans. To see www.samaritans.org for more details.
‘Honored’: The storyline and its aftermath are set to unfold over several months, with Max, who plays Ben, saying he’s ‘honored’ to portray him.