Emmerdale actress Louisa Clein has opened up about helping real-life victims of child abuse with her character's grooming storyline.
Louisa plays teacher Maya Stepney, who is grooming 15-year-old student Jacob Gallagher, played by Joe-Warren Plant.
In Monday night's episode, the story got darker when Maya slept with Jacob in a hotel room.
Read more: Emmerdale: Has Maya Stepney groomed before?
It follows a scene last week that left some viewers feeling "physically sick", in which the pair got naked in Jacob's bedroom.
But despite some adverse reactions it seems the storyline is empowering real-life abuse victims, helping them to come forward with their own stories.
I'm getting a lot of private messages from people who are saying how much it's helping them come out and talk about their experiences.
Louise told Mirror Online: "I think people are rightly horrified by the story, which I take as a compliment, and that people are buying into the story and believing it and that's what we want."
She said that, although as an actress she's trying to unpick the reasons behind Maya's predatory behaviour, she understands that the character's an abuser and "should be treated that way".
A lot of people, Louisa explained, have praised Emmerdale for tackling grooming head on.
She continued: "I'm getting a lot of private messages from people who are saying how much it's helping them come out and talk about their experiences and seek help which is the only thing that matters really."
Other viewers, Louisa revealed, have said they now feel "protective" of Jacob, having watched him grow up on screen.
Actor Joe-Warren, who is 16 years old in real life, joined the cast in 2010 when he was eight.
Speaking further, Louisa has said she feels it's important for Maya to be exposed as part of the storyline, so victims understand that others will listen to them if they open up about their experiences.
She explained: "The whole point of this storyline is to expose the fact that women can be abusers and that young boys can see that there is some form of retribution and that if people come forward they will be listened [to]."
- Emmerdale is on ITV on weekdays at 7pm, with an extra episode at 8am on Thursdays.
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