‘Outlander’ Star Caitriona Balfe Explores Rape And Sexual Violence

Some blame Game of Thrones, with the rape of Sansa Stark (Sophie Turner) by her husband Ramsay Bolton (Iwan Rheon), for making the concept of sexual violence on television such a hot topic, but Outlander star Caitriona Balfe recently pointed out that Game of Thrones is not the first, nor is it the only series, to use sexual violence as a plot device. Including Balfe’s own Outlander, with the other series being Banished, Ms. Balfe mentions two historical dramas that have featured storylines which included rapes.

Outlander‘s Caitriona Balfe approaches the topic as many professionals in creative arts might, as she points out that sexual assault was a fact of life in 18th century Scotland, the setting in which Outlander takes place.

“I think what we’re trying to show in that – during that time – sexual violence was a weapon used against women. It still is unfortunately, throughout a lot of the world and here,” the Outlander star said.

Caitriona points out that to be either socially relevant or historically accurate — two goals for which Outlander strives — events such as rape and sexual violence cannot be discarded.

“I think you can’t discard that. In that time women were like second-class citizens and the easy thing for men to do to intimidate that, to abuse them was to use sexual violence,” Balfe said. “And I think in a sense a lot of period pieces that’s the go-to but that’s the case. We’re trying to show life as close as possible to what it was back then.”

On Outlander, Balfe plays Claire Beauchamp Randall, a woman from the 1940s who is inexplicably sent back in time to the Scottish civil war of the 18th century. Although Claire is married in 1945 and had been on her honeymoon, when events sent her back in time, she falls in love with Jamie Fraser (Sam Heughan). As a part of Outlander‘s pilot episode, Balfe’s character was nearly raped, but is saved. Caitriona’s character Clair experiences sexual assault throughout the Outlander series, and the actress admits to finding those scenes particularly difficult to act out, but credits both writers and fellow actors for making the scenes easier to film.

“It’s not easy to watch and it’s not easy to film and it’s not easy to think about and unfortunately so many people today are still victims of that and you can never take those things lightly because it is such a problem today,” Outlander‘s Caitriona Balfe said. “I hope that it’s not something that people watch lightly. Hopefully it sparks some kind of a conversation and maybe an awareness.”

Outlander airs Saturday nights on Starz.

[Featured image: Caitriona Balfe and Sam Heughan courtesy of Starz/Outlander]