Public Understandings, Sexual Violence and Safe Spaces

Lesley Henderson

in Social Issues in Television Fiction

Published by Edinburgh University Press

Published in print June 2007 | ISBN: 9780748625314
Published online March 2012 | e-ISBN: 9780748651177 | DOI:
Public Understandings, Sexual Violence and Safe Spaces

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This chapter addresses how audiences ‘make sense’ of social issue storylines. Its overall aim is to explore the links or disconnections between how messages are constructed for the imagined audience by the programme makers and how they are received by audiences. The chapter focuses on the reception study of sexual violence in the television soap opera Brookside, building on Chapter 2, which explores the ethos and philosophies of the production team members. It also develops Chapter 3, which examines the production background to this story of sexual and physical violence. In this chapter, participants were asked to answer a questionnaire covering basic demographic characteristics, television viewing habits and the question: ‘Should the issue of child abuse be portrayed in soap opera?’. They were then given photographs depicting the rape scene in Brookside, and were asked to write dialogue for the scene and discuss their responses to the topic of sexual abuse in television fiction to the group. The chapter begins by mapping audience reactions and responses to the topic of child sexual abuse in television soap opera, and then explores the reactions and responses to specific characterisations, including those of the victims and the abuser. Finally, it explores how this type of story influences public understandings of such issues as the complex and ambiguous emotions experienced by an abused child.

Keywords: social issue storylines; sexual violence; Brookside; audience reactions; child sexual abuse; public understandings; television soap opera

Chapter.  11805 words.  Illustrated.

Subjects: Television

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