Michaela Coel Writing About My Sexual Assault Was Cathartic


Michaela Coel Writing About My Sexual Assault Was Cathartic

When she was writing the second series of Chewing Gum, Michaela Coel took a break from work and went out for a drink with a friend.

The next morning, she woke up and started having flashbacks. Michaela realised her drink had been spiked and she’d been sexually assaulted.

This real-life experience became the basis for her new BBC One show, I May Destroy You, which she wrote, co-directed and stars in.

“It took me two and a half years all in all to write it and I didn’t do any other job,” she tells Radio 1 Newsbeat.

“It’s been quite hard but cathartic because I’m reflecting on a dark time rather than feeling it is happening to me right now.”

According to Rape Crisis, 20% of women and 4% of men have experienced some type of sexual assault since the age of 16 in England and Wales.

A BBC investigation also found more than 2,600 reports of drink-spiking incidents in England and Wales between 2015 and 2019. 72% of alleged victims were female.

‘Blaming ourselves is the most unhelpful thing’

Michaela’s character Arabella, goes through a range of emotions, including humour, to process what has happened to her, which she says mirrors the experience she went through.

“We respond to trauma and triggering situations in many different ways, it’s not always a pity party,” she says.

“Sometimes we’re in deep denial and it’s not that we’re begging people to believe us, but actually people are pleading for us to believe them about what’s happened to us.”

Arabella, with the help of her friends Terry (Weruche Opia) and Kwame (Paapa Essiedu) work out where she was assaulted and who by.


These characters have their own issues when it comes to learning to use their voices in sexual situations.

“The whole show deals with that moment where consent was stolen from you and you lost the moment where you had agency to make a decision,” Michaela says.

Formula 1 Mercedes Conduct Two-Day Test

“Pointing to ourselves and blaming ourselves is the most unhelpful thing.

“We need to be kinder to ourselves a bit more and forgive ourselves for the times when we didn’t say no loud enough.”

She hopes people learn this from the show.

Michaela Coel Writing About My Sexual Assault Was Cathartic


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