Content warning: This article details instances of sexual assault and may be distressing to some readers.
Last season, viewers witnessed Aimee Gibbs (played by Aimee Lou Wood) getting on a bus on her way to school. She smiled at a man behind her and he smiled back. Moments later, she felt something on her leg – the man had masturbated and ejaculated onto her jeans.
While TV shows don't often spend a significant amount of time delving into the multi-layered emotional aftermath of a sexual assault incident that isn't rape, when Sex Education Season Three revisits Aimee's journey, it reminds us that any sexual assault is traumatic.
For Wood, it was "really important" that she did the storyline justice because there would be many young viewers who would relate to what Aimee had been through, and potentially feel triggered when watching it unfold.
"I knew that it meant it was going to mean a lot to a lot of people," Wood told Refinery29 Australia over Zoom.
The fact that the narrative was based on the personal experience of show screenwriter Laurie Nunn also added to the responsibility Wood felt, but the actor also wanted to ensure her own character's unique quirks shone through.
"I felt very honoured to have been trusted with it but I [wanted to] make sure that I was telling the story through her," the 26-year-old explained.
"She is such an individual and she has such an individual way of expressing herself and looking at the world, so it was a great acting challenge because I really want to express the importance and magnitude of this issue, but I also want to maintain that lovely Aimee-ness as well."
Since the storyline was first introduced last season, Wood and the show have been applauded by many viewers for their respectful treatment of the issue. The TV star said she was honoured to hear that it had touched people.
"It's just been a real kind of honour," said Wood. "It's also just so amazing and moving to hear feedback from people and hear how much that storyline had an impact. It's really, really special."
I knew that it meant it was going to mean a lot to a lot of people
aimee lou wood
Throughout Season Three, Aimee will not only deal with her trauma by seeking therapy, but embrace her evolving feminist voice and learn more about her body (spoiler: there will be vulva cupcakes involved). She'll also discover the impact her sexual assault has had on her relationship with her boyfriend Steve Morley (Chris Jenks).
As Wood described, Aimee is "coming into herself and really growing into her full self" in the upcoming episodes, and she "reaches new levels of Aimee-ness in Season Three".
Sex Education premieres on Netflix on Friday September 17. The interview has been edited for length and clarity.
If you or anyone you know has experienced sexual or domestic violence and is in need of support, please call 1800RESPECT (1800 737 732), the National Sexual Assault Domestic Family Violence Service.