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Downton Abbey season 4, episode 2 aired last night on PBS and included a surprise twist concerning Anna Bates. Spoiler warning!

Last night on Downton Abbey, Anna was raped by Lord Gillingham’s Valet Mr. Green downstairs while everyone else was enjoying an opera singer’s performance upstairs. You can read our recap to learn about the episode in more detail.

When the episode aired in the U.K. last year, viewers were upset and outraged that the show would introduce that kind of plot. PBS knew the outrage would happen here in the U.S. as well, and last night after the episode aired they made a special post on their website to address concerns.

“The complex and loving journey of Anna and Bates has been central to the narrative of the show,” Downton Abbey production company Carnival Films said in a statement on PBS’ site. “The events in episode two were we believe acted and directed with great sensitivity. Viewers will see in the forthcoming episodes how Anna and Bates struggle to come to terms with what has happened.”

Actress Joanne Froggatt, who plays Anna Bates, spoke about her character being raped on a U.K. morning program after it aired abroad. “We all just felt a big responsibility to get it right,” she said in October. “I think it’s a really brave thing to do… I believe that Julian has written it in a way that is not gratuitous at all.”

Added show creator Julian Fellowes in a separate statement, “The whole point of the way we do things on Downton is we don’t do them gratuitously. We are interested in exploring the resultant emotions and the effect these things have on people.”

As Fellowes says, Anna’s rape and how it reflects her and Mr. Bates’ relationship will play out during season 4 when it airs Sunday nights on PBS.

No matter how it plays out in the future, do you think the story line was suitable for Downton Abbey?

  • Caroline J.

    i think it’s an important story to tell that has been relevant since the beginning of time and continues to be important to address today. it’s very gutsy of Julian Fellowes et al to tackle such a complex issue on such a widely watched and loved program, and i think they have handled it well thus far and will continue to do so. in addition, i hope more attention will be paid to what happened to Tom as he too was taken advantage of in a similar way in last night’s episode.

    • Lillie Marie Peterson

      Thank you for saying this!

      • dcta

        Caroline J. – THAT is a very interesting take on the whole thing. I am really glad you pointed that out!

    • Nina Trimbath

      But he didn’t tackle it “complexly.” The way he wrote it, it seemed like Ana was being punished for opening herself up to a new person and not listening to her husband. He handles it as though it all could have been avoided for many reasons, and that is not realistic and a very simplistic handling of rape.

      • lankapal

        I don’t think he did so at all. Anna was nice to the man; he took that to mean something else (i.e. that she was opening herself up sexually). That is the case in many rapes. How many times do we hear about how female rape victims are blamed for their rape (why were they wearing a low cut blouse, why did they dance with the man, etc.)? I felt Fellowes was actually pointing out how ridiculous that idea is. We know Anna was being herself, a genuinely nice person, so we instantly are horrified by the idea that anyone could have taken that to mean anything more than simple kindness. So why then does she blame herself? Why do any rape victims think that they are somehow made impure? Because Anna, like rape victims today, grew up in a society that places the blame on women. I felt this part of the story highlighted how ridiculous the notion is that women should be blamed in any way for being raped.

      • Caroline J.

        i didn’t see it that way. i saw Anna being kind to a stranger – same as she was to Mr. Bates upon his arrival when everyone else hated him, letting loose on a fun night – same as she did at Dunneagle when Rose taught her to dance, and that stranger happening to be a terrible excuse for a human being. Green is a predator who chose her for no other reason than he thought he could get away with it. if it wasn’t Anna that night it most probably would have been someone else. that’s how i saw it at least.

      • spunkysmum

        I don’t think any of that is true. You are clearly reading things into it that were not written into it.

    • lankapal

      Agreed, it was done quite well.

  • James_HudsonRiverValley

    Would have been better if Green had sodomized Bates with a vase.

  • Louie K

    I think this is just smut being disguised as art. Sorry it is in horrible taste.

    • lankapal

      How is it smut if no part of the actual rape was shown?

    • Ashley

      You must not know what “smut” means. Rape is anything but smut. This is a very important topic and the fact that you think it’s just smut shows how ignorant you are.

  • A A Lee

    I agree that it is a very valid topic for exploration, but I’m so upset that it was the Anna character. I dread watching next and following weeks what the character will be put through because of the utter lack of protection for women in those times. And as several comments have pointed out, women are still blamed if they are raped. This has bothered me infinitely more than anything else that’s happened on the program.

  • Diana Ashworth

    I think this is exactly what often happened to house maids, who were raped by the young ‘gentlemen’ of the house, and if the girl made a fuss or got pregnant she was sent off without a reference.

    • Dave C.

      Yes, exactly. I wonder how it would have affected the dynamic had the rapist been one of the “gentlemen.”

  • testCase

    I was and still am upset by the rape. I am no longer willing to watch Downton Abby

  • Abigail Rivera

    The only worse thing could be that Ana get’s pregnant. What a thing to live with for the rest of your life. No sure why Fellows believed this would add to Downtown Abbey. Even worse would be for the rapist to get away with it….

  • PattyEm

    No, I didn’t like it, and my husband who watched with me, said it was unnecessary. Downton Abbey has a large following here in the US, no “shocking crime” was needed. Anna is probably one of the most liked and genuinely nice character on the show. It should not have been included.

  • Barbara Wade Cox

    Anna is such a strong person, I was disappointed that she didn’t make the rape known to Bates…I guess she feared many things, such as loss of job because she is already being picked on unfairly, upsetting the guests, her husband with a record already, killing the man…I was shocked and angry that she cheerfully said good-by to the raper as if nothing had happened.,I suppose she will now become frigid, aloof, withdrawn and Bates will think it is his fault…I hate all of this…


    If you watch SVU LAW AND ORDER you witness ” RAPE IN THE RAW”. It is out there, and nothing is left unsaid. Perhaps many of us like our period BRITISH imports to be all SUNSHINE, CRUMPETS, and CROWNS. RAPE occurs all over the world and always has. I think it was a BRAVE STEP in writing this into the plot, and handled with great taste and the actors performed this difficult scene with a good bit of skill. We all know WHAT HAPPENED, but really SAW VERY LITTLE. The EMOTIONAL DRAIN on ANNA and MR. BATES will be well-known to all women who have faced this terrible ordeal. On another matter, DAME NELLIE MELBA, who dined with KINGS AND QUEENS all over the world, would never have tolerated being kept in her room, and IF SHE HAD SUNG at a private party, which I have my doubts, would have been given THE CHAIR OF HONOR.

  • George Armstrong Bluster

    I’m wondering if all the prudish types here who are upset have forgotten that Lady Mary was assaulted by a house guest at the beginning of Season 1, and didn’t decide to stop watching at that point.

    • Khaki

      I am glad to read that you feel what happened to Lady Mary in Season One was rape. I have felt that way, too and that episode has always bothered me. The Turkish ambassador used Lady Mary’s pride and station as a weapon against her (not to mention the weight of his body), whereas Mr. Green used physical violence to debilitate and restrain Anna before raping her.

      I do, however, disagree with using the adjective “prudish” to describe those who are upset about Season 4 Epispde 2. Well-known, conservative estimates calculate that 1 in 3 women have been sexually abused and that 1 in 4 have been raped. It doesn’t take great math skill to deduce that the scene unexpectedly triggered bad memories for most of its viewing audience. Please go easy on the commenters here, who may know Anna’s pain all too well.

      • George Armstrong Bluster

        I must say I am impressed with your reasoned reply. Allow me to clarify. My use of the word “prudish” was not in reference to various commenters’ (here and elsewhere) anger and upset at the sexual assault of Anna–my guess is that Fellowes and the series creators would expect viewers to be upset. Certainly if someone saw something in a TV show that brought up devastating personal memories, that would be a more than valid excuse to stop watching. Most of such comments I’ve seen haven’t argued that point (as you do above), however. They simply want to stop watching because a certain rosy view of life at Downton they’ve nurtured has been damaged.

  • Carol A. Townsend

    I was deeply saddened by the rape episode. I consider it deplorable and will probably no longer watch or support the show. What a horrible choice was made for the storyline of this otherwise elegant and magnificent production.

  • spunkysmum

    Why wouldn’t it be suitable? It’s not as though show was set in a convent. There was no graphic depiction or frank description of what happened, so it was all very tastefully done, as tastefully as such an untasteful event can be.

  • Kel

    I, being a healthcare professional, has seen the devastating effects of rape to all parties involved. The effects are forever lasting even with extensive counseling and therapy. I am not dismissing the fact that rape is an every day occurrence in out society and all over the world. Downton Abbey is by far not immune to horrific events but why display that type of terror, whether without the actual brutal rape scene shown or not? We have plenty of shows that displays the graphic scenes of rape and the devastating aftermath. Downton Abbey, for myself and my husband, was our quality prime time show on Sunday. Oh yes, they have had their scandals,and misfortunes but that makes a great drama series.When they showed the dying scene of Sybil following birth, I had tears in my eyes and was very emotional for a couple of days. If this rape destroys Bates and Anna’s relationship, I will temporary stop watching the show.

    • CPMurdock

      Me too. I was depressed for days after watching that episode, and I wouldn’t watch it again when it was re-broadcast. I also had bad dreams about it (literally). Up to now, Downton Abbey hasn’t been about shocking its viewers, so why introduce a shock factor now? My best guess is that Fellowes has decided that he made the series too syrupy, so now he’s trying to introduce some reality — but it’s too late for that, and that’s not what the viewers want.

  • CPMurdock

    Because I included a link in my last post, it is being moderated, so let me go ahead and say some of the things I wanted to say.

    Whether he would admit it or not, Fellowes has created Downton to be a “feel good” series. He gets his characters into trouble, but they always come through in the end. But a rape like that is something that no one can “come through”. It stays with a person to the end of their lives. It is akin to shell shock for men who have gone to war. In a sense, Fellowes dealt us another death, and this one was as shocking as the other deaths, possibly more so because we know Anna so well. The deaths of Sybil and Matthew were necessary because the actors wanted to leave the series, but this death was really gratuitous. Yes, Fellowes will explore all the ramifications of it, but the innocent Anna has been killed off forever. It wasn’t necessary.

    It’s time for Fellowes to go back to pulling his punches. The series is better that way. If his viewers want stark reality, they can always watch the news.

  • ironselma

    I was dismayed to see this storyline, but realize, unfortunately, this was and is reality throughout time all over the world. Although this makes for an interesting turn of events in Downton Abbey, women have a hard time watching this as it is a reminder that not much has changed in the way sexual assault is viewed by the male-dominated religious and political structure, and handled by the criminal and judicial systems. The only way this storyline will redeem itself is if Anna has true justice. Sleeping With The Enemy and Fried Green Tomatoes resolved this scenario in a satisfactory way.

  • MacLeslie

    it is an outrageous bastardization of the right to human happiness in storytelling!

    • Lesley Gould

      Right you are MacLeslie. Well put. So far, it looks as if my response as a real life survivor of the very real crime of assault has been deemed unacceptable and unsuitable for print. Guess they just can’t handle the truth about themselves. I didn’t even use “bad” language. Hmn, maybe it’ll pop up later, otherwise, it’s gone. Oh well.

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