The relationship between Emmerdale teacher Maya Stepney and her pupil Jacob Gallagher has left viewers “sickened” and “disgusted”.
Soap fans have watched in horror as Jacob has developed a crush for his teacher – and dad David’s girlfriend! – which she has done very little to dampen.
In fact, many have accused her of grooming the young lad.
In awkward, uncomfortable and cringeworthy scenes over the past week or so, the pair even shared kisses – once instigated by Jacob, the second time by Maya.
Barnado’s have now confirmed that representatives from the child charity have been working alongside the ITV soap on the child abuse storyline.
Young survivors of sexual abuse have advised Emmerdale actors and producers on the female teacher/pupil abuse storyline between characters Maya and Jacob, who is under 16.
Read more: Emmerdale SPOILER: Charity punches Marlon
This week, Maya kissed Jacob and was later seen demanding he tell no one.
Fans were outraged as she blackmailed him to keep quiet, knowing the damage it would do to her career if the illicit relationship became public knowledge.
Maya would lose her job, and almost definitely her relationship with David.
Viewers will have to watch the soap to see how the plot unfolds, but producers have said it is a storyline that needs to be told.
Emmerdale’s Laura Shaw says: “It was important for us to tell this storyline authentically, so we approached Barnardo’s for advice on scripts and character behaviour.
“Our researchers and story team – along with actors Louisa, Matthew and Joe-Warren – met with Barnardo’s experts and young men who have been supported by the charity.
“We met some incredible individuals and were moved by their courage and willingness to help us tell this story sensitively.”
“Hopefully it will make young people and their parents more aware of these issues and their impact,” she added.
Meanwhile, Barnardo’s Chief Executive Javed Khan said: “We were really pleased to be approached by Emmerdale to advise on the serious subject of adult women grooming and abusing boys.
“Too often this is seen as ‘taboo’ and not talked about. […] We know from research that outdated views still exist about boys who are groomed by adult women, but in reality it causes lasting harm, and problems with trust, affection, love and sex.”
Shocking statistics provided by the charity show that sexually exploited boys and young men often miss out on the support they would receive if they were girls, because professionals don’t always recognise them as victims.
Visit www.barnardos.org.uk for more information or if you have been affected by this storyline.
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