The ITV Yorkshire soap opera is currently tackling a difficult subject.

“Sexual abusers are manipulative and controlling. They will exploit a child’s vulnerability and coerce them into sexual behaviour. Abusers gain a child’s trust with affection and gifts but can then use blackmail and threats as a method of control.” – Barnardo’s Chief Executive Javed Khan

Barnardo’s is warning parents of the signs of sexual exploitation as the teacher/pupil abuse storyline between Emmerdale characters Maya and Jacob deepens.

In the soap, teacher Maya, played by Louisa Clein is in a relationship with David Metcalfe portrayed by Matthew Wolfenden, but she has been seen kissing and grooming 15-year-old Jacob, actor Joe-Warren Plant, David’s adopted son.

Jacob is becoming increasingly vulnerable and confused. Anxious to impress her, he sends scheming Maya a topless selfie in tonight’s episode (Monday Jan 14th). Young survivors of sexual abuse and Barnardo’s experts have met with Emmerdale actors and producers to advise on the storyline to highlight the vulnerability of boys to sexual exploitation.

To help Emmerdale tell the abuse storyline authentically, Barnardo’s arranged for their researchers, story team – actors Louisa, Matthew and Joe-Warren – to meet experts and young men who have been supported by a Barnardo’s project called Better Futures Cymru. The workshops were focussed on enabling Emmerdale to understand how the characters would be feeling or behaving. Last year 301,100 children, young people, parents and carers were supported by Barnardo’s through more than 1,000 services across the UK, such as young carers, care leavers, foster carers and adoptive parents, training and skills or parenting classes.

Soaps have over the years covered the topic of teenage affairs with older associates. One of the first major storylines to cause a fuss was in 1977 when pupil Lucy Hamilton, actress Jan Todd, began an affair with her teacher Richard Lord, portrayed by the late Jeremy Mason, in ITV daytime saga Crossroads.

“Our specialist UK-wide services support thousands of children who have been sexually exploited by both men and women. The grooming of boys by adult women is a taboo subject but, like all grooming, it causes lasting harm, and problems with trust, affection, love and sex.” – – Barnardo’s Chief Executive Javed Khan

For more information visit www.barnardos.org.uk

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