We went for lunch on Saturday and as soon as I sat down and dived into the bread basket, I said to June “did you hear The Archers last night?!” June hadn’t heard it so I had the excitement of explaining that Helen had finally told Anna The Lawyer, the truth about what happened the night Rob got stabbed. My brother George, who’s never shown any interest in The Archers before now, saw my excitement and said “what’s all this then?”
If you don’t listen to The Archers basically Helen has been in an abusive relationship for over two years with Rob. Evil Rob. Over that time we have heard him slowly taking over every aspect of her life. He started controlling what she wore and how she looked. He stopped her driving and stopped her seeing most of her friends. He knocked her confidence to the point where she was too nervous to make decisions. Though he has slapped her once, he’s not continuously physically abusive towards her. It’s more subtle and controlling behaviour, the sort of thing that is harder to explain but terrifying. In fact the law now recognises this as “coercive control.” The Cedar Network defines it as “a pattern of behaviour which seeks to take away the victim’s liberty or freedom, to strip away their sense of self.”
So after lots of shouting at the radio and the intervention of Helen’s friend Kirsty, Helen was going to leave Rob. We were so pleased. But on the night she told him he turned on her, put a knife in her hand and said the only way they wouldn’t be together, is if she killed herself. He said “You’re nothing without me Helen. Nothing.” Bloody awful. It was at this point that Helen’s 6 year old son Henry, ran in. He was scared of the shouting and Rob went for him. To defend Henry and herself, Helen stabbed Rob twice and also cut his wrist. She was arrested, has been in custody for five months and the trial started on Radio 4 last night.
It’s been a massive storyline for we who love The Archers, but it’s become part of something much bigger. Helen has become a poster girl for this kind of abuse and Polly Neate, who is the chief executive of the charity Women’s Aid, says “From February last year to February this year we saw a 20% increase in calls to the National Domestic Abuse Helpline, which we think is in part down to the ‘Archers’ effect’.” As it says on The Helen Archer Rescue Fund page, “For every fictional Helen, there are real ones.” People have been tweeting pictures of them having a cup of tea with the hashtag #solidaritea. It’s the show solidarity with Helen and other victims of domestic abuse.
One brilliant listener, Paul Trueman has set up a Just Giving page for The Helen Titchener (nee Archer) Rescue Fund, with money going to Refuge. It’s currently at £135,000 and has the most amazing comments from donors. They are also selling “Free the Blossom Hill One” tshirts, tea towels and tote bags. Blossom Hill is the cottage where Helen lives and who doesn’t love a new tea towel?!
If you don’t listen to The Archers this is the IDEAL time to get into it. The trial will be incredible and it’s just generally brilliant anyway. It’s on every night at 7pm, apart from Saturdays (when they’re all out on the razz) or you can listen like I do on the podcast while you brush your teeth.