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Hollyoaks to highlight child sexual abuse with twins JJ and Frankie Osborne


Hollyoaks to highlight child sexual abuse with twins JJ and Frankie Osborne

E4 soap opera Hollyoaks is to highlight a common but under-recognised form of child sexual abuse…

In a storyline focusing on twins Jack Junior (JJ) and Frankie Osborne, the teen-aimed serial will look at sibling sexual abuse. Due to varying factors, sibling sexual abuse has been under-reported with campaigners citing a ‘lack of societal awareness’.

A spokesperson for charity SARSAS:

“It remains a hidden, chronically under-estimated and untreated form of child sexual abuse. It continues to be ignored, played down, or denied by parents, professionals, and authorities as harmless or non-threatening childhood sexual experimentation that does not require attention. This is despite the known lifetime effects of sexual violence and abuse on the health and happiness of survivors.”

Actors Isabelle Smith and Ryan Mulvey joined the soap this year and will be at the centre of the storyline, playing twins Frankie and JJ.  The Osborne and Ashworth families will be involved, with the twins being the children of the heritage character Darren Osborne (Ashley Taylor Dawson) and the returning character Suzanne Ashworth (Suzanne Hall). They have recently moved into the over-crowded household also living with Darren’s wife Nancy (Jessica Fox) and their children.

Darren was not present in Frankie and JJ’s lives and has only recently reconnected with them both since they arrived in the village earlier this year. In recent episodes, viewers saw Frankie accuse her paternal grandfather Jack Osborne (Jimmy McKenna) of touching her inappropriately.

The accusation came after the pair shared a dance whilst reminiscing about Jack’s late wife, triggering Frankie into remembering moments of abuse she had previously suppressed. Next week, it will be revealed onscreen that the abuse that Frankie suffered was at the hands of her twin brother, JJ, when they were both younger.

With JJ often labelled the ‘golden boy’ and Frankie the ‘problem child’, the storyline is set to delve into the dynamics of the pair within the family, and how the parents choose to investigate Frankie’s distressing behaviour, as she struggles to deal with the sexual abuse she has experienced.

Hollyoaks Executive Producer, Hannah Cheers:

“Sibling sexual abuse is a subject matter that desperately merits attention and recognition. It’s one of the most infrequently disclosed forms of sexual abuse, yet the statistics are startling. Hollyoaks is shining a light on this issue for the first time in a long-term soap storyline because we need to get this conversation started amongst our multi-generational audience.

“Our research, story, script and writing teams have devoted themselves to telling this story truthfully and passionately. Huge thanks go to SARSAS for their unwavering support in helping us take this on. The performances delivered by our brilliant newcomers Isabelle Smith and Ryan Mulvey are breathtaking. I believe this story will make an impact for years to come and I am proud that Hollyoaks is still breaking new ground almost four decades on. That’s what we’re here for.”

Hollyoaks has worked with charity SARSAS who have advised on the storyline throughout the writing process and briefed the cast on their portrayals.

The charity completed a two-year project that ended in March 2022, which was the largest Government-funded project on sibling sexual abuse to date. Funded by the Home Office and Ministry of Justice ‘Support for Victims and Survivors of Child Sexual Abuse (SVSCSA) Fund 2020 – 2022’, it was also the first England and Wales-wide project on sibling sexual abuse. The project was led by SARSAS as part of a partnership with Rape Crisis England & Wales (RCEW), West Mercia Rape and Sexual Abuse Support Centre, the University of the West of England and the University of Birmingham. On working with Hollyoaks on the story,

Hollyoaks actors Ashley Taylor Dawson and Jessica Fox have dealt with heavyweight issue-based storylines in the past, with a recent male depression storyline seeing Darren contemplate taking his own life, and Nancy losing her fiancé to suicide. TV Critic Vivian Summers notes, “When Brookside started to do this kind of thing, although it was consensual, that incest plot was the beginning of the end of the soap, however with Hollyoaks the beginning of its end has already started, so they have nothing to lose in highlighting this issue.’

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