Dramatising a contemporary childhood sexual abuse narrative: reinforcing a hierarchy of victims

Jo Woodiwiss

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Following a number of high-profile sexual exploitation/grooming cases, such as that which culminated in the trial of nine men in Rochdale, UK in 2012, and accusations against Jimmy Savile and other celebrity figures, the sexual abuse of children has been recognised as an issue of major public concern. These cases received considerable news coverage, but there has also been a proliferation of dramas covering both “real life” events and fictional stories. In this article I take a narrative approach to explore the construction of victims in two such dramas both aired on UK television in 2017 and later broadcast worldwide: Three Girls, a docudrama based on the Rochdale case, and Unforgotten, a fictional drama that resonates with the Savile case. In drawing on a singular narrative of childhood sexual abuse and the ideal victim these dramas, I argue, leave many stories untold, and help to consolidate a new victim hierarchy—based not on what is done to a person, but on who they are or might (have) become. The dangers of this or any other singular story, I argue, go beyond the UK context of these two dramas.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)4187-4202
Number of pages16
JournalFeminist Media Studies
Issue number8
Early online date22 Dec 2022
Publication statusPublished - 1 Dec 2023


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