Ben rape story is EastEnders' second most complained about scene in a decade

The dark storyline which has focused on the rape of Ben Mitchell (Max Bowden), and its devastating aftermath, has divided viewers over the last couple of months.

With many praising the harrowing performances of Max, Aidan O’Callaghan (who plays attacker Lewis) and Gillian Taylforth (Ben’s mum Kathy), the episodes have sought to raise awareness and discussion around the topic.

However, others have felt it has gone much too far, with scenes of violence being difficult to watch and the plotline as a whole being deemed ‘too dark’ for the pre-watershed soap.

The rape was not shown on screen but the vile attack was heavily implied, with the devastating impact on Ben’s life being a focal point of recent weeks.

This has led to 353 complaints being lodged officially with the BBC, in relation to the episodes, making the scenes of Ben’s ordeal the second most complained about moment in Walford over the last decade.

A scene in which Karen Taylor described those having Covid vaccines as ‘lab rats’ back in March 2021 led to 684 complaints.

After Ben’s storyline first began airing, backlash led to the BBC releasing a statement in response.

‘EastEnders has been a pre-watershed BBC One staple for over 37 years and has a rich history of dealing with challenging and difficult issues and Ben’s story is one of these,’ it read.

‘We have worked closely with organisations and experts in the field to tell the story which we hope will raise awareness of sexual assaults and the issues surrounding them.

‘We are always mindful of the time slot in which EastEnders is shown and we have took great care to signpost this storyline prior to transmission, though on-air continuity and publicity as well as providing a BBC Action Line at the end of the episode which offers advice and support to those affected by the issue.’

EastEnders is working with SurvivorsUK, Survivors Manchester and the Male Survivors Partnership, on the storyline

‘The important thing we’ve tried to deal with within this whole subject matter is the idea of consent,’ Max told us.

‘The very straightforward fact that no means no -no matter what happens in the build-up. When that word is uttered, it means no.’

Within 24 hours of the rape storyline commencing on screen, fans raised over £1000 for charity in response.

Recent developments in the story showed Ben change his mind about reporting the rape to the police after fearing he would not be believed.

At one point, he considered killing Lewis as he lay in wait with a crowbar but, after support from mum Kathy, he has taken some time away from the Square.

His marriage to Callum (Tony Clay) is currently on the rocks, but his husband is in the dark over what has happened to him.

The most complained about storyline of all time dates back to 2011’s baby swap saga.

A plot which saw grief stricken Ronnie swap the body of her lost baby with Kat’s healthy newborn, holds a record of 13,000 BBC complaints.

It would go on to be cleared by regulator Ofcom.

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