'The rape will change the way she is with men... her trust is scuppered'
In Emmerdale, a pregnant Victoria admits to family that she was raped. Actress Isabel Hodgins tells Georgia Humphreys the reasons behind her character's decision to keep the baby
When Isabel Hodgins was told about her latest storyline in Emmerdale, she was understandably nervous. In a recent flashback episode, we discovered that her character, Victoria Sugden - who she's played since 2006 - was raped by a fellow clubber called Lee (played by Kris Mochrie).
And while Hodgins was excited to explore such an important issue on screen, she also felt a responsibility. "I wanted to do it justice and do it well, for the women and men that have been raped," notes the friendly star.
"But I was also like, 'Thank you for giving me a very big story'. And I just remember telling them, 'I will try my best and I hope that you're happy with my performance!'"
After confiding in former mother-in-law Moira Dingle (Natalie J Robb), Victoria is persuaded to report the rape to the police.
But they tell her there isn't enough forensic evidence to prosecute and when he's questioned the following week, Lee argues it was consensual. Meanwhile, Victoria discovers she's pregnant - and decides she's not going to terminate the pregnancy.
"I think at first, she's still a bit numb," suggests Hodgins (25), who studied at the Sylvia Young Theatre School, when asked what her character is thinking at this point. "There's so much to deal with, she can't even fathom that she has yet another decision to make when it comes to the baby."
It's no secret that Victoria has wanted to be a mum for a long time. She wanted kids with her ex-husband Adam Barton (played by Adam Thomas) but he was infertile, which caused rifts in their marriage. Then, last year, Adam confessed to the murder of Emma Barton, and was forced to go on the run, leaving Victoria behind.
Hodgins says: "Maybe she's thinking, 'When am I going to get another chance?'" she elaborates on why Victoria chooses to keep the baby. "She's very much single. I think if all you want is to be a mum, as soon as it says pregnant, I think something would kick in and you'd be like, 'That's my baby'."
But even though the chef knows what she wants to do, she has to deal with her family and friends, who are stunned when they learn she won't be terminating the pregnancy. Best friend Matty (Ash Palmisciano) and her ex-boyfriend Ellis (Asan N'Jie) struggle to take in the news. Meanwhile, her big brother Robert (Ryan Hawley) decides he is unable to say he'll support her decision.
"Robert is not a happy chappy! Not saying this is right or wrong, but for family members who know that this has happened to someone, I think they'd be inclined to believe, 'You are not having this baby'. So, they put a bit of pressure on her, like, 'We need to go to the doctor's' or, 'Are you going to do something about it?' and she just shuts the conversation down."
Unsurprisingly, it ends up causing distance between her and Robert. "He's just upsetting her," explains Hodgins. "He doesn't mean to, but he is. She's like 'I can't do this without my brother' so there's a lot with Robert where he's trying to get his head around it. He wants to help but he just keeps making it worse with what he's saying."
Hodgins, who was dating former co-star Michael Parr (Ross Barton in the ITV soap) until they reportedly split earlier this year, hopes the storyline will start a conversation about consent, and encourage victims to come forward. "By the time she goes to the police, it's too late to do a physical exam," she says.
Victoria learns there's a "window for your best chance of prosecution or it going to trial", she continues. "You need to go to the police, have an examination so they can collect all of the evidence that they can, which would give you a strong case."
Asked if she thinks Victoria's situation paves the way for Adam to come back, Hodgins quips: "Oh, if only! That's the dream - everything I do is so Adam will come back!"
But one thing she is certain about in her character's future is how being raped changes her. "I think she would live in fear," she says. "Lee knows where she lives, he knows she's a chef, so who's to say he can't just rock in? I think she'd be on edge. I think it will mostly change the way she is with men. I think her trust is scuppered and I would be interested to see what kind of mother she becomes after something like this has happened to her."
Emmerdale, ITV, weeknights