The Way “Riverdale” Handled Cheryl’s Sexual Assault Was Actually SO Important

9 November 2017, 13:58

Cheryl Riverdale Sexual Assault
Katie Louise-Smith

By Katie Louise-Smith

The whole thing is incredibly hard to watch but SO important at the same time.

Riverdale has been touching on some incredibly important social issues recently. A few episodes ago, they addressed Kevin Keller's sexuality with an important gay cruising storyline and this week, the show absolutely nailed the right way to portray sexual assault on the small screen when Cheryl was almost raped by Nick St. Clair.

In the episode, Cheryl takes a shine to Veronica's ex-boyfriend(ish) Nick when he arrives in town with his parents to help celebrate the Lodge's SoDale project. After reacquainting himself with V by offering her and Archie a bump of cocaine, he continues to wreak party boy havoc on the town by throwing a rager in his hotel room - complete with Jingle Jangle. 

The CW

The following day, everyone attends Hiram Lodge's Southside gentrification (!!) function. Cheryl waltzes in and approaches Nick, where he swiftly spikes her drink and ushers her away for the rest of the night. Later in the evening, she's on the dance floor completely disoriented before Nick drags her out and back to his hotel.

Just as Nick is about to climb on top of a completely unconscious Cheryl and assault her, Veronica and the Pussycats manage to run back to his hotel to stop him - and by stop we mean beat the SHIT out of him.

Riverdale absolutely nailed the situation on screen. While many TV shows use a rape storyline as some kind of plot device to further a male character's moral complexity (Game Of Thrones, anyone?), Riverdale served the "women helping women" card on this one and they did it well. Both Veronica and Josie (who aren't even close friends with Cheryl) could have just left her to her own devices but they knew she was acting out of character. They had her back and went out of their way to make sure she was ok.

The CW

By having that female support system, Cheryl gets the backing she needs to be strong enough to report him to the police - a difficult process that unfortunately doesn't happen as much as it should in real life. 

The episode highlighted the importance of allowing sexual assault victims to be heard, taken seriously and then given proper justice as it's implied that Nick St Clair will NOT be getting away with anything when Cheryl says she's pressing charges. (Unless The Black Hood gets him first, thanks to Betty.)

It's also an important wake up call that reminds us that it's not just older powerful men that commit these crimes, it's teenagers, it's your friends and it's people you know. Madelaine Petsch even made a PSA after the episode explaining why it's SO important - for teen shows in particular - to address these stories and address them correctly. 

 

Showrunner Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa points out that the episode was written and filmed before any of the Harvey Weinstein allegations were reported. The content of the episode is now more timely than ever considering the HUGE conversation we're having about assault and harassment right now. He also said that the effect this attempted rape has on Cheryl will have some lingering effects too - as well as the repercussions on the Lodges and Archie. 

Honestly, come through Riverdale on such a powerful episode. Let's hope they don't drop Cheryl's story so quickly and commit to seeing it through to the end.

The CW

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