‘Chilled me to the core’ Viewers find BBC One drama Three Girls ‘hard to watch’

Viewers have been struggling to watch new BBC series Three Girls, with some having to ‘leave the room’ and feeling ‘sick to the stomach’ due to the harrowing nature of certain scenes.

BBC One’s new, hard-hitting drama aired last night and was met with strong reactions from those watching at home.

The three-part series follows the true story of three teenage girls in the north of England who were groomed and sexually assaulted for years by a group of local men. They were just three of thousands of victims that suffered abuse between 2008 to 2012 in Rochdale, Greater Manchester.

After the first hour-long episode Twitter was flooded with emotive messages from viewers, with many expressing how hard the show was to watch.

One Twitter user wrote, ‘#threegirls last night was very uncomfortable to watch 😐’.

Another was even brought to tears by the programme, saying, ‘#ThreeGirls highly emotive hour in my life.left the room twice and cried hard.’

And they weren’t the only ones to feel a physical reaction to scenes, with many more revealing how affected they felt by the show.

‘Just caught up on three girls,its 07:03 and I feel sick to my stomach #threegirls’

‘Hard to watch #threegirls last night! The system let them down massively and worst of all it still happens now.’

‘#threegirls #BBC1 last night has literally chilled me to the core, made me sick to the pit of my stomach, almost can’t stay watching 😳’

The programme shows that although several people came forward at the time of the offences, the case was ignored by authorities for years who believed that the girls did not come across as believable due to their underprivileged backgrounds.

Researchers and producers behind the show described how the girls were ‘treated like riff-raff who were undeserving of the law and not deemed worthy of care’.

The country was shocked when in 2012 the harrowing details finally became public and nine men were charged with serious sexual crimes such as rape and human trafficking.

Image: BBC/Sophie Mutevelian

Maxine Peake will play Sara Rowbotham – a sexual health worker

One woman who worked tirelessly to have the abuse recognised by the authorities was Sara Rowbotham, played by Maxine Peake, a sexual health worker who reported the behaviour to the council repeatedly only to be ignored.

Speaking to the BBC on playing Sara, who she spent time with in preparation for the drama, Maxine said, ‘Nobody seemed interested in helping these girls who were in desperate situations. These were really vulnerable young women – the lack of care for them I found mind-blowing.

‘The powers that be weren’t encouraging her, they were shutting doors, they were telling her to be quiet, they weren’t interested.’

Image: BBC/Sophie Mutevelian

Jill Halfpenny stars as one of the parents in the programme

Each of the hour-long episodes will follow a different girl’s story, and although not sensationalised, is said to be a difficult watch.

One of the storylines follows schoolgirl Holly, who having just moved to the area is keen to make friends and stay out after school around the local kebab shop where there are offers of free food and alcoholic drinks.

It isn’t long before these offers turn much more sinister and the girls are used for sex, being driven to a ‘flat full of men’ and ‘passed around like a ball’.

One of the makers of the TV programme, Susan Hogg, said that she hopes it will spread awareness of this type of sexual abuse and aims to help both young people and parents spot concerning behaviour.

Speaking to The Guardian she said, ‘What’s really important for us is that the public really understand how grooming works, and recognise it when it’s happening. That’s where we’d really like to have an effect.’

Image: BBC/Sophie Mutevelian

Starring in the programme is former Emmerdale star Lisa Riley, who has also commented on why it’s such an important story.

Speaking to Whats On TV, she said, ‘Of course a lot more girls were affected, but we only have three hours to tell the story. It’s going to open people’s eyes about what’s going on – it could be happening next door to you.

‘I think we need more awareness in schools and it would be amazing if they could show kids a drama like this.’

You can watch Three Girls on Tuesday 16th, Wednesday 17th and Thursday 18th May on BBC One at 9.00pm