EastEnders story continues as Yolande discloses the abuse - Gaslighting, #MeToo and more.

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Last night, a two-part special episode of EastEnders continued the story of Yolande Trueman with emotional and affecting scenes as she disclosed her abuse to her husband, Patrick Trueman.

This storyline, created in collaboration with Hourglass and the End Violence Against Women and Girls Coalition continues to spark important conversations across social media and beyond around the abuse of older people. 


In this two-part episode, Patrick Trueman is concerned about Yolande’s behavior, becoming withdrawn and isolating herself from the community. He speaks to Pastor Clayton for advice, without being aware that he is the individual who abused Yolande. The pastor then began to tell Patrick that Yolande has dementia, claiming that this is the reason for her recent behavior, saying “I've seen it before, especially in older ladies. They can get agitated, confused, and say inappropriate things”.


Dementia is often used by perpetrators of abuse to discredit the experiences of older victim-survivors. A form of gaslighting, perpetrators point towards a lack of mental capacity and memory issues to refute that abuse has occurred or even to dissuade older victim-survivors from reporting the abuse. This can lead to people not believing the victim-survivor and dismissing their very real experiences. While awareness of gaslighting has increased in recent years, being named the ‘word of the year’ by Miriam-Webster in 2022, there remains a lack of public awareness around the unique ways this manifests when it comes to the abuse of older people.


Gaslighting is defined by Miriam-Webster “psychological manipulation of a person usually over an extended period of time that causes the victim to question the validity of their own thoughts, perception of reality”. It is an insidious form of psychological abuse that can be used by perpetrators to further take advantage of an older person. This can include manipulating them into handing over control of their finances, naming them in their will or making them their power of attorney. 


The second part of the episode focuses entirely on Yolande and Patrick’s difficult conversation as she finds the strength to open up about her abuse. During the conversation, Yolande tearfully refers to historic sexual harassment and abuse, saying “we were never taught consent, women my age, we never said #MeToo’.


For older victim-survivors, generational issues can result in a lack of understanding of what constitutes abuse, leading many older victim-survivors not realising they abuse has even occurred. In many cases this abuse has been happening for a long time, beginning when awareness around consent and sexual abuse was limited. 
It has only been relatively recently that marital rape was criminalised, with the case of R vs. R in 1991 changing the law, being made statute law under the Sexual Offences Act 2003 in England and Wales. Prior to this, it was not illegal to have forced sexual activity within a marriage.


In Northern Ireland, marital rape was similarily made an offence in 1991,the first conviction coming in 2000 and being criminalised under statue law in the Sexual Offences (Northern Ireland) Order 2008. In Scotland however, marital rape was criminalised in 1982, a full nine years before it was made an offence elsewhere in the UK. 


A groundswell of change came in the mid 90s and early 2000s both within the UK and across the world as can be seen in this timeline from the Centre for Womens Justice, continuing to this very day: https://www.centreforwomensjustice.org.uk/timeline. 


Social movements such as #MeToo, a hashtag that trended in 2017 and has since become a cultural phenomenon have contributed greatly to changing attitudes, creating accountability and removing the stigma around speaking up about abuse.


For older victim-survivors however, who would have been growing up in a time before policies to criminalise abuse within relationships were introduced and cultural changes were brought about, abuse is often normalised. Awareness of what constitutes abuse is low, as is awareness of the support options that are available. With research suggesting that at least 2.7 million older people experience some form of physical, psychological, sexual, economic, domestic abuse or neglect each year in the UK, it’s vital that we continue to raise awareness and reach those in need of support.


That is why we’re incredibly proud to have been invited by the EastEnders production team to advise and offer support to the writing team in the creation of this storyline. Through this story, featuring on one of the biggest television shows in the UK, we hope to reach as wide an audience as possible and start these important conversations in homes up and down the four nations. 


Veronica Gray, Deputy CEO and Policy Director explains: 

“The EastEnders storyline has the potential to open up more eyes to the abuse of older people. Not just the government, funders and the general public, but importantly the countless victim-survivors who don’t make the call and reach out for support. Yolande’s storyline underlines why. 

“In last night’s episode, perpetrator Pastor Clayton falsely claims that Yolande has dementia and thus attempts to discredit her accusation of sexual assault. This form of gaslighting is common and many of the cases reported to Hourglass involve perpetrators trying to undermine victims in this way. 

“This issue is compounded by the fact that for older victim-survivors, generational issues can result in a lack of understanding of what constitutes abuse, leading many to not realise they have been abused. Yolande, of course, is totally correct in saying how consent was never taught. And this is where the struggle intensifies.”


Speaking on these episodes, executive producer of EastEnders Chris Clenshaw said: 

“When you have a story that deserves time and space to explore, and you have talent like Angela Wynter and Rudoph Walker, it felt only right to produce an EastEnders two-hander episode. 

This conversation is the most difficult that Yolande and Patrick will ever have, and an episode dedicated to them gives us a chance to tell this story truthfully and authentically. I’m in awe of the performances Angela and Rudolph have given and they’ve handled such a challenging and sensitive subject matter.”


If you’ve been affected by any of the issues raised in this EastEnders storyline or are concerned about an older person in your life, support is available. Our 24/7 helpline is available to call on 0808 808 8141 for confidential guidance, advice or simply a listening ear. You can also visit our services page for more information on our SMS, email and instant messenger: https://wearehourglass.org/hourglass-services