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Joanne Froggatt proud of Downton Abbey bravery over rape plot

Downton Abbey

Story by Jack Foley

JOANNE Froggatt has praised Downton Abbey for its bravery in tackling a controversial subject matter such as rape.

The actress, who plays rape victim Anna May Bates on the show, was speaking to BBC Breakfast following the furore surrouding Sunday night’s episode, in which she was attacked by a guest’s valet.

The scenes in question provoked an angry response from fans, many of whom took to Twitter to complain. ITV also received more than 60 complaints, while Ofcom has yet to disclose how many it has received.

But stressing that the storyline was being handled responsibly, Froggatt said she felt “proud” that Downton could tackle such a weighty subject.

“I think it’s a really brave thing to do,” she explained. “[And] I believe that Julian [Fellowes] has written it in a way that is not gratuitous at all. We all felt a big responsibility to get it right.”

She added that forthcoming episodes would now “explore the emotional journey of Anna and Bates after this event”, insisting that Fellowes had “done a beautiful job at hitting the right note with it”.

Froggatt went on to say that the storyline was also designed to reflect the difficulty women had – and still have – in reporting such crimes.

She pointed out that the show’s historical advisor, Alastair Bruce, had told her that 100 years ago, when the story was set, women felt unable to tell the police about sexual assaults.

“There was still such a stigma attached to any kind of attack like this that you were very much in danger of losing all of that,” she said. “And if a woman lost her reputation that would bring shame upon the house, she could lose her job, she could lose her husband. And society still saw it as no smoke without fire, ‘well he’s only a man – he couldn’t help himself.’”

Froggatt also praised the way the scenes were shot, with the rape itself taking place behind closed doors without the camera being allowed to linger on the acutal assault.

“That’s an incredible thing in this industry in this day and age,” she said, adding that the show still had “shock value” without having to resort to showing “anything graphic”.

Fellowes himself has also been moved to defend the storyline, insisting that “Downton deals in subjecting a couple of characters per series to a very difficult situation”. Read more

An average of 9.2 million viewers watched Sunday night’s episode, with a peak audience of 9.9 million.

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