Warning: The following article contains descriptions of sexual assault that may be triggering for some readers.
Emmerdale stunned viewers on Monday (April 24) as the latest grisly twist in the Pierce Harris storyline included some of the most violent scenes in the soap's history.
Ominous signs of Pierce's (Jonathan Wrather) future with Rhona Goskirk (Zoe Henry) surfaced early on in the episode, when Pierc very nearly called off their wedding in a rage. While the two did ultimately tie the knot, their happiness was short-lived.
After ducking out of the reception at The Woolpack to celebrate privately, the mood between the newlyweds soured and quickly turned violent when Pierce sussed that Rhona had once kissed Paddy behind his back.
Pierce's dark side once again shone through as he shoved his wife to the floor and brutally raped her in a genuinely disturbing climactic scene. As a traumatised Rhona tried to make sense of her attack in the final moments of tonight' episode, Pierce attempted to justify his sadistic behaviour.
For some viewers, seeing such disturbing events unfold in the 7pm hour was a step too far:
#Emmerdale that's way too much for it only being half 7 absolutely awful- ☼ (@_Flower_Moon) April 24, 2017
that rape scene was not appropriate for this time of night it was clear what was happening a not done tastefully #Emmerdale- Courtney (@courte20s) April 24, 2017
Jesus christ that was a bit brutal for 7:30pm... 😐 #Emmerdale- Jack Johnson (@IAMJACKJOHNSON6) April 24, 2017
It might be excused as a social issue that should be raised but there is no way there should be rape in a soap opera at 19:00 #Emmerdale- Mark Doig (@MarkDoigFC) April 24, 2017
However, other fans felt that Emmerdale was both highlighting an extremely important issue and authentically portraying the trauma of sexual assault.
people moaning that it was too early.🙄 unfortunately no time restrictions on domestic abuse and rape #Emmerdale- Nicola (@nicciped) April 24, 2017
It's important to note that Emmerdale producer Iain MacLeod and his writing team worked with Women's Aid and Rape Crisis to help portray the rape scenes as sensitively as possible.
Last week, Zoe Henry revealed that she initially wondered when reading the script if some of the violence was simply too brutal to air on telly... but quickly realised that the scene reflected the brutality that goes on unnoticed in so many homes.
"When I read it, I found it quite shocking. I didn't imagine that the story would go to where it's gone to," Zoe explained.
"When we rehearsed it, which we don't normally, I did air my concerns about how brutal some of the stuff we were doing was. I asked: 'Are we going to be able to show all of this?'
"Our director said: 'We can't half-tell this story. You can't cut it down or make it less brutal, because what he's done is brutal and awful. If we don't tell it properly, then we're not doing our jobs right'. So that's why it's so awful to watch."
The fallout from Pierce's heinous abuse - and Rhona's desperate attempt to get away from her evil husband - will play out on Emmerdale once again tomorrow night (April 25) at 7pm on ITV.
Rape Crisis England and Wales works towards the elimination of sexual violence. If you've been affected by the issues raised in this story, you can access more information on their website or by calling the National Rape Crisis Helpline on 0808 802 9999. Rape Crisis Scotland's helpline number is 08088 01 03 02.
Readers in the US are encouraged to contact RAINN, or the National Sexual Assault Hotline on 800-656-4673.
Digital Spy Soap Scoop video – hit play below for all the latest Emmerdale spoilers, as there's wedding day horror for Rhona and a cheating scandal for Adam.
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