Coronation Street need to be praised for their grooming storyline, not criticised.

I'm an avid fan of Coronation Street, I have been for as long as I can remember. To the point where, when we used to go on holiday, mum and dad used to set up several VHS recorders and blank tapes to record every episode while we were away.

I even went on the Corrie tour a few years ago when it opened on the old set - best. day. out. ever.

One of the biggest, 'controversial' storylines I can remember from watching it as a child was Sarah-Lou's teenage pregnancy.

Now, 17 years later, and Sarah's daughter, Bethany, is involved in, arguably, the soap's most controversial storyline to date.

Yet, while it's the most controversial, it's probably the most important. The most important that any soap has ever covered in its history, I would go as far to say.

For those who don't watch the soap, or follow it in the news, Bethany has been the centre of a grooming storyline which has been slowly burning since before Christmas.

She was picked up by Nathan and has been groomed by him since, with him selling her for sex with his sick, older friends.

Last night's show was the most shocking to date, with three of his friends handing over cash to him before heading into a room where she was gang raped.

This morning, I've seen stories online saying that it's inappropriate and irresponsible of Corrie to show the details of Bethany's story and that they've gone too far in showing the dark scenes.

There have also been a number of complaints to Ofcom about it, which I find totally and completely ridiculous.

Child sexual exploitation and child grooming is a massive, massive issue at the moment. It is happening, far too widely, across the country and people are too afraid to speak out about it. It's a taboo subject, and it shouldn't be.

Corrie bosses bravely took the decision to tell this story and I highly commend them for highlighting the issue.

Those who are being groomed, or are victims of child sexual exploitation, don't realise what is happening to them is abuse. They've been brainwashed and manipulated in such a way that they think it's normal, they think it's loving, and they think it's okay.

Yes, the scenes on Corrie are uncomfortable to watch, but what makes it even more uncomfortable is realising that this is happening all over the country. There are teenage girls who are victims of this kind of abuse enduring far worse than we are being exposed to on our television screens.

It's so, so important that Coronation Street tackle this issue and bring it to people's attention. If it can just resonate with one girl that the same is happening to her, and it isn't okay, then it has achieved what it set out to do.

Those who are reporting the grooming storyline to Ofcom are, in my view, being quite irresponsible.

One person tweeted "@itvcorrie how can you broadcast this storyline in this much detail @Ofcom please help our children watching this!!!! #coronationstreet"

That's the exact reason it needs to be broadcast in the way it has, to make children realise that it is not okay and it is not normal. There haven't been any graphic scenes, nor have we seen any incidents of actual gang rape. Last night's episode ended with three men entering the room with Bethany before closing the door. The camera stayed on the door for, slowly zooming out before rolling the titles.

Nothing was actually shown, and it didn't need to be. We all knew what was happening.

It was broadcast after the watershed, too, so in theory, they could have shown more graphic scenes. But it doesn't need to. Leaving it for us to imagine the disgusting abuse makes it worse than they could ever portray.

It's so important that Coronation Street is raising awareness in this way, highlighting the fact that there are sick individuals who target young girls in this way and, more importantly, that there are so many girls who are victims of this.

I understand parents wanting to protect children from the harsh realities of the world, nobody wants their kids to see all the horrible things that are going on, but we can't wrap them in cotton wool and shy them away from reality. Them not being aware of things like this makes it unlikely they would spot it if it were happening to a friend, someone they knew, or even themselves.

Coronation Street have handled the whole storyline in such an excellent way, so that it isn't too graphic or dark for children to watch in the usual 7.30pm slot, and for that they need to be praised, not criticised.

Lucy Fallon, who plays Bethany, has also played the character incredibly. She deserves all the awards and praise for this. I've read lots of interviews with her, too, where she has spoken with victims and survivors of abuse - and that is incredibly telling from the way she is portraying the character.

By raising awareness, the hope is it will encourage victims to speak out and put an end to the abuse they are enduring. And that can only be a good thing.

For free confidential support and advice, 24 hours a day, call Childline on 0800 1111. You can also visit their website by following this link.

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