'13 Reasons Why' Showrunner Stands Behind Season 2's Graphic Rape Scene

Brian Yorkey said the scene was based on research that suggested an "epidemic" of male-on-male violence

Spoiler Alert: The following article including spoilers for season 2 of 13 Reasons Why

13 Reasons Why creators are standing by their decision to include a violent rape scene in the finale of season 2.

In the last episode of the season, loner Tyler (Devin Druid) is sodomized with a mop. The attack, which leaves Down bleeding and bruised, pushes him to show up at his school with a loaded assault rifle.

Critics and fans alike swiftly expressed their outrage over the scene, labeling it “harmful” and calling for Netflix to cancel the series entirely.

Creator Brian Yorkey defended the scene to Vulture, saying it was ultimately included not for shock value, but to start a conversation about sexual violence against men in high school.

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Netflix

“We’re committed on this show to telling truthful stories about things that young people go through in as unflinching a way as we can. We fully understand that that means some of the scenes in the show will be difficult to watch,” he said in a statement. “I think Netflix has helped provide viewers with lots of resources for understanding that this may not be the show for everybody, and also resources for people who do watch it and are troubled and need help.”

Yorkey said that the scene is meant to shed a light on a topic that people often choose to ignore.

“But the fact is that, as intense as that scene is, and as strong as our reactions to it may be, it doesn’t even come close to the pain experienced by the people who actually go through these things,” he said.

He continued: “When we talk about something being ‘disgusting’ or hard to watch, often that means we are attaching shame to the experience. We would rather not be confronted with it. We would rather it stay out of our consciousness. This is why these kinds of assaults are underreported. This is why victims have a hard time seeking help. We believe that talking about it is so much better than silence.”

'13 Reasons Why' season 2 first look: Tensions run high as trial begins
Beth Dubber/Netflix

The showrunner said the scene was based on research that suggested an “epidemic” of male-on-male violence.

“When we dug into that research, I think we were all astounded to find how many times this happened, this disturbingly similar story of a male high school athlete violating a weaker boy with some sort of instruments like a mop handle or a pool cue,” he said.

Yorkey also noted that season 1 of 13 Reasons Why featured rape scenes between a boy and girl that did not elicit the same reaction.

“The very, very intense scene of Hannah’s suicide seemed to overshadow the fact that Hannah and one other girl were violently raped in season one,” he said. “If there’s a greater sense of backlash about this scene, especially it being hard to watch, ‘disgusting,’ or inappropriate, that goes to the point that we need to be talking about the fact that things like this happen. The fact that this would be somehow more disgusting than what happened to Hannah and Jessica, I’m shocked but not surprised.”

RELATED VIDEO: Kate Walsh Reveals Details of ’13 Reasons Why’ Season 2!

In response to criticism of the show’s graphic portrayal of suicide, sexual assault, substance abuse and bullying, season 2 of the controversial series begins with cast members Dylan Minnette (who plays Clay Jensen), Katherine Langford (Hannah Baker), Justin Prentice (Bryce Walker) and Alisha Boe (Jessica Davis) warning viewers about the heavy content.

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Beth Dubber/Netflix

13 Reasons Why is a fictional series that tackles tough, real-world issues, taking a look at sexual assault, substance abuse, suicide, and more. By shedding a light on these difficult topics, we hope our show can help viewers start a conversation,” the cast members explain, taking turns delivering the message.

The disclaimer also comes with a recommendation that some viewers consider either not watching the show, or not watching it by themselves.

On Friday, Netflix canceled the premiere event for season 2 following a deadly school shooting at Santa Fe High School in Texas.

“Our hearts are with the victims of the Santa Fe High School shooting, and with all victims of gun violence,” the streaming service said in a statement obtained by PEOPLE. “In light of today’s tragedy, we are canceling the 13 Reasons Why S2 premiere event tonight.”

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