Police and rape counsellors have praised the makers of Broadchurch and said they hope the storyline will encourage victims to come forward.
Viewers were moved by harrowing scenes in which Trish Winterman, played by former Coronation Street actress Julie Hesmondhalgh, recounted being raped as the show returned on Monday.
The show’s writer, Chris Chibnall, said he wanted to tell the story after continued increases in the number of sexual offences being reported to police.
Set in a fictional Dorset town, the hit ITV crime drama’s third series follows the investigation into the attack and producers worked closely with victim support services before filming.
Helen Stevens, service manager at Dorset Rape Crisis, said it had been a “real privilege” to work with Chibnall and the Broadchurch production team.
“We hope that the series will enable victims of sexual violence to come forward to receive the help and specialist support that is available to them,” she said.
Before Broadchurch returned to screens, Julie said she hoped it will make “great strides in raising awareness as well as being a good piece of TV drama”.
She appears in the new series alongside Olivia Colman and David Tennant as DS Ellie Miller and DI Alec Hardy.
Joan Carmichael, Detective Chief Inspector at Dorset Police, said the force was experiencing a rise in the number of reports of sexual crimes that reflected a national trend.
She said: “Broadchurch is dramatising a very sensitive subject but it serves as a reminder that the police will do everything they can to bring offenders to justice and there is help and support available to anyone who has been a victim of such crimes.”
Michelle Challis, manager at The Shores support centre in Bournemouth, said: “It was really important to us that Broadchurch’s portrayal of the service provided by the SARC (sexual assault referral centre) was realistic.
“Seeking support following an assault is never easy so we wanted it to be demonstrated that there is dedicated support available and you will be taken seriously and looked after.”
Chris, whose credits include the BBC’s Torchwood and Doctor Who, said: “We’ve spent time since the series was last on air researching and developing this story.
“We have worked closely with support organisations in the Dorset area who work with victims of sexual assault. We’ve spent time with the amazing support workers who run referral centres.
“We’ve developed relationships with and talked in depth with independent sexual violence advisers as well as police who investigate these crimes, and survivors of these crimes. These extraordinary people have advised us every step of the way.
“I wanted to tell this story because recorded sexual offences have been increasing year on year.”