The creator of the sitcom Chewing Gum revealed she was sexually assaulted while at work on the television series.
Star Michaela Coel writes, produces, and acts in the Channel 4/Netflix series, which is based on her own play Chewing Gum Dreams. For the first two seasons of the show, Coel was the sole writer on the project. (Most other television shows utilize writer's rooms, as Chewing Gum will reportedly do for a still-in-the-works season 3.) It was during a late-night writing session that Coel stated she was sexually assaulted.
During a lecture at the Edinburgh International Television Festival, Michaela Coel shared the painful story with the audience.
"I was working overnight in the company’s offices; I had an episode due at 7 am. I took a break and had a drink with a good friend who was nearby. I emerged into consciousness typing season two, many hours later," Coel revealed, per Deadline. "I was lucky. I had a flashback. It turned out I’d been sexually assaulted by strangers. The first people I called after the police, before my own family, were the producers."
Coel stressed that she was not attacked by anyone working at Retort, the FremantleMedia-owned production company that produces the London-set series. She added:
"[After my sexual assault] I saw [the Chewing Gum cast and crew] morph into an anxious team of employers and employees alike; teetering back and forth between the line of knowing what normal human empathy is and not knowing what empathy is at all. When there are police involved, and footage, of people carrying your sleeping writer into dangerous places, when cuts are found, when there’s blood … what is your job?"
Representation for Coel and Retort did not immediately respond to requests for comment.
In the speech, Coel also shared a story about how a producer once made a crude comment towards her after she won a prestigious writing award:
"'Do you know how much I want to fuck you right now?' was [the producer's] immediate choice of response [after the award win]," Coel revealed. "I turned from him and went home so quickly I left my plus one."
This lecture comes on the heels of news that Coel is working on a new BBC project, titled Jan 22. According to The Guardian, the series will explore themes of sexual consent and "the distinction between liberation and exploitation."
If you have experienced sexual violence and are in need of crisis support, please call the RAINN Sexual Assault Hotline at 1-800-656-HOPE (4673).