SARSAS: The Charity Behind Hollyoaks’ Sexual Abuse Storyline

Two people holding hands in a support session, symbolising care and recovery in dealing with trauma and the work SARSAS do with survivors.

In an impactful partnership with the popular TV soap Hollyoaks, SARSAS (Somerset and Avon Rape and Sexual Abuse Support) has taken a pivotal role in shaping a powerful sexual abuse storyline. This collaboration aims to raise awareness and educate viewers on the realities of sexual violence, portraying the challenges survivors face and the support systems available to them. SARSAS, known for its dedication to helping those affected by sexual violence, brings authenticity and expert insights to the storyline, ensuring that it reflects real experiences and encourages open discussions about this critical issue.

The Mission of SARSAS: A Foundation of Support and Education

SARSAS, established in 2009, quickly became a cornerstone for survivors of sexual violence in Somerset and Avon. From the start, the charity focused on providing a lifeline through its free, confidential support services. These services include counselling, advice, and a helpline that welcomes calls from those in need. Initially, SARSAS worked to establish trust within the community. They emphasise the importance of a safe space where survivors could share their stories and begin their healing journey. Alongside direct support, the charity has always prioritised education about sexual violence prevention. As well as the significance of consent, striving to instigate community-wide change.

Expanding Reach and Impact: SARSAS’s Comprehensive Support System

Beyond the initial setup, SARSAS has continually expanded its reach and impact to address the growing needs of survivors. The charity now offers a broad spectrum of services. They cater to diverse needs, including specialised support for young people and marginalised groups. Initiatives like group therapy sessions and one-to-one support complement their helpline, creating a comprehensive support network. SARSAS also engages in community outreach and training programs. The aim is to educate the public and professionals on how to respond effectively to disclosures of sexual violence. These efforts not only aid in recovery but also work towards reducing the incidence of sexual abuse through education and awareness.

Hollyoaks and SARSAS: Highlighting The Issue Of Sexual Abuse

The recent Hollyoaks storyline focusing on Jack Junior (JJ) and Frankie Osborne addresses a challenging subject. Something that is rarely explored on television: sibling sexual abuse (SSA). The narrative reveals Frankie’s past and ongoing suffering due to abuse inflicted by her twin brother, JJ. Shining a light on a distressing issue often shrouded in secrecy. This storyline was carefully selected to break the silence on SSA, a subject seldom discussed openly in society.

Hollyoaks approached SARSAS after recognising the charity’s influential work on the National Project on Sibling Sexual Abuse. The show’s producers saw the reintroduction of the Osborne twins as an opportunity to explore the hidden dynamics of SSA within a family setting.

The Collaboration Process: Ensuring Authenticity and Sensitivity

The partnership between Hollyoaks and SARSAS started with thoughtful and rigorous discussions. This was to ensure the storyline was developed ethically and also sensitively. Initial conversations were marked by a mixture of apprehension and excitement. This reflected the team’s awareness of their responsibility to portray SSA accurately. SARSAS played a crucial role in grounding the narrative in reality, introducing the Hollyoaks team to survivors of SSA, affected family members, and even individuals who had committed sibling abuse.

These interactions ensured that the voices and experiences of real people impacted by SSA were integral to shaping the storyline. The Hollyoaks team, including producers, researchers, and scriptwriters, engaged deeply with SARSAS’s expertise to craft a narrative that was both impactful and respectful, aiming to do justice to a profoundly sensitive topic.

Engaging in a Deep and Productive Partnership

One of the highlights for the SARSAS team during their collaboration with Hollyoaks was the openness and collaborative spirit of the soap’s production team. Every conversation about the storyline was invigorating and productive, even though it was often challenging. The Hollyoaks team was committed to doing their due diligence, ensuring they understood the profound impacts of SSA on survivors and the associated risks of re-traumatisation. Their empathetic and respectful approach to the partnership was crucial in bringing the storyline to life while honouring the experiences of those it represented.

The collaborative process involved frequent discussions where ideas were openly debated and refined. Hollyoaks valued the insights from SARSAS, sending over scripts for feedback and arranging meetings at key points in the storyline’s development. This process ensured that the narrative remained sensitive to the needs and experiences of survivors, reflecting SARSAS’s expertise throughout the development.

Why This Storyline Matters Now

The storyline’s relevance is underscored by the fact that sibling sexual abuse is the most common yet under-reported and under-discussed form of intra-familial abuse. By bringing this issue into the living rooms of its diverse audience, Hollyoaks has taken a step towards changing that. The soap’s broad and multi-generational viewership provides a unique platform to raise awareness and encourage dialogue about SSA.

The aim is not only to reach survivors who might see aspects of their own experiences reflected on screen. But also educating the public about the realities of SSA. By doing so, Hollyoaks helps to encourage those currently suffering in silence to come forward and seek support. This promotes a broader societal recognition as well as discussion of the issue.

Supporting Survivors Beyond the Screen

Understanding the potentially triggering nature of the storyline, SARSAS emphasises the importance of self-care and accessing support networks. They encourage viewers affected by the storyline to engage in self-care practices and also seek help if needed. Additionally, SARSAS and Hollyoaks have pointed viewers towards new resources. This includes a website specifically created for survivors of SSA, offering support and information tailored to their experiences.

This storyline is a testament to the collaborative effort between a charity and a media production to handle a delicate subject with the sensitivity and depth it requires. Through their partnership, SARSAS and Hollyoaks have set a new standard for how media can address complex social issues, making a significant impact on public awareness and understanding.

Conclusion: Media as a Catalyst for Change

The partnership between SARSAS and Hollyoaks shows the significant impact media can have on social issues. By addressing sibling sexual abuse in a popular soap opera, they have brought a hidden issue into public discussion. The collaboration ensures the storyline is both authentic and sensitive, helping to educate and engage a broad audience.

This initiative highlights the power of combining media reach with expert insight to foster understanding and support for survivors. It’s a compelling example of how storytelling can influence societal attitudes and aid in the healing process.

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