Hard-hitting and shocking scenes in tonight’s Coronation Street saw what started as a night of drinking between friends and flatmates Aaron Sandford (James Craven) and Amy Barlow (Elle Mulvaney) turn into something much more disturbing, as Aaron proceeded to have sex with Amy while she was so drunk she was in no state to consent.
Coming episodes will show Amy realising what occurred and that what happened to her was rape. Even though she and Aaron were kissing earlier and even though there was an attraction between them, he didn’t check that she wanted things to go further.
Elle Mulvaney told us that, ‘For us it was important that when we portray that night it’s clear that while Amy doesn’t say the words she definitely doesn’t consent. The characters were getting closer before the event but even though they were friends that doesn’t mean it’s ok for him to do what he wants, this shouldn’t be a grey area.’
Co-star James Craven agrees with this. ‘[Aaron’s] biggest mistake is he doesn’t check in with himself and importantly doesn’t check in with Amy that she’s ok with all of this. It’s a lack of care due to a lack of thought,’ he told us.
Trying to put himself in his character’s shoes he said, ‘I think his immediate thought when he first wakes up is, “Oh God I’ve just slept with my ex’s best mate.” He’s worried about how he can approach that without making it sound like it didn’t mean anything and it was just a one night thing. But initially there’s no sort of thought in his mind that he’s done anything wrong. He’s also trying to piece together what happened as well. He’s got this thing going on of – did that really happen? It was so out of nowhere for him and it took him by surprise.’
To begin with Aaron doesn’t realise the seriousness of his actions, according to James, and certainly doesn’t think what he did was rape.
‘From his point of view he believes he hasn’t done anything wrong in this moment so I think if someone told him that he’d be shocked and he’d be devastated and it would be really, really stress-inducing. I think the hard part for me when we got this story was to try and find a way to justify why he reacts in the way he does. Me, as James, knows that it’s wrong but to find a way for the character to justify his actions was quite a hard thing.’
How did Aaron fail to realise what he was doing was wrong?
‘Maybe if he’d had the education beforehand and he’d been spoken to about it and he was thinking about it a bit more then maybe he would have made a different decision,’ James reflected.
‘He hasn’t been this malicious character or evil character in the past but I think that’s the really important thing about the story and that’s why it should be so important because despite the way he is as a person, he’s still capable of doing something like that. That’s the important thing to highlight here – if someone’s in that state, because he’s had the alcohol and all the emotions are heightened to the max it makes him vulnerable to getting himself in this situation as well.’
The show worked with the Schools Consent Project, a charity that exists to enable and educate young people to engage with issues around consent and sexual assault. James found their insights really helpful and hopes that the storyline can help to amplify the work they’re doing.
‘We knew that when we set out to do this story we weren’t going to change everyone or educate everyone. If we tried to do exactly that then hopefully we were going to deliver the best story we possibly could and deliver it with a real sensitivity and truth,’ he said.
‘I think the most important thing that people can take away from this is that no matter how you’re feeling, no matter whether you’ve had a lot to drink, you’re happy, you’re sad, you’re confused, angry – but when you find yourself in these intimate situations be it with a friend, a girlfriend, a partner or someone you’ve just met, the absence of no is not a yes.
‘Only a yes is a yes, and that’s all there is to it.’
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