Updated: Sunday, 12th July 2020 @ 9:02am

Coronation Street story gives rape helpline 800% surge in calls

Coronation Street story gives rape helpline 800% surge in calls

By James Riches

A rape helpline is dealing with 800% more calls than normal as viewers have reacted to a Coronation Street plot shown last week.

Rape Crisis experienced the sharp rise in calls at their main centre in London after audiences saw Carla Connor abused by former fiancé Frank Foster a day after she called off their wedding.

The charity’s telephone number was displayed at the end of the episode, and extra volunteers were drafted in to deal with the extra volume.

Operations Coordinator Fiona Elvines said: “TV seems to work really well as people have connections to the characters and so the reality of rape sinks in a bit more.”

Indeed, the surge initially left the helpline with a huge backlog of calls, leaving some victims unable to get through.

They have been urged to keep trying by the charity, which admits that call levels are beginning to return to just above their normal level as the rush dies down.

Writers attracted praise from Rape Crisis for their detailed research into the issue, while actor Andrew Lancel, who plays Frank, agreed that they “did their homework.”

Producer Phil Collinson said: “Obviously it’s sad that so many people needed the help and support, but if Carla’s ordeal encouraged even one person to find the strength to ask for it then I think we did a good thing.”

He added that the programme had worked closely with St Mary’s Sexual Assault Referral Centre in Manchester, with a counsellor on set and present at the scriptwriting stage.

Police were also consulted to ensure the scenes in the aftermath of the rape were an accurate representation of real life.

But whilst Mr Collinson was happy with the episode’s impact, he said that programme-makers did not deliberately set out to draw attention to the problem of rape.

“We never seek to highlight an issue, just tell the best story for every character,” he said.

“Frank is manipulative and controlling and his raping Carla is the next chapter in a long story.”

For Rape Crisis, the programme has ensured that their work does not stop here.

London Helpline Coordinator Rosa Knight said: “Though other programs have run similar storylines, the response for the Coronation Street storyline has been like nothing we've experienced before.”

Rape victims in Manchester can turn to www.manchesterrapecrisis.co.uk, or call 0161 273 4500 from 10am-4pm Monday to Friday and 6pm-9pm on Wednesday and Thursday.

The national Rape Crisis helpline is open from 12pm-2.30pm and 7pm-9.30pm every day of the year on 0808 802 9999.

Alternatively, for those raped in the last twelve months, St Mary’s Sexual Assault Referral Centre can be contacted at www.stmaryscentre.org, or by 24-hour phone line on 0161 276 6515.