Jump to Main ContentJump to Primary Navigation

Why everybody's talking about The Archers' domestic violence storyline

Domestic abuse.jpg

Listeners of Radio 4 drama The Archers were left in shock on Sunday night after a long-running domestic abuse storyline came to a brutal climax.

For almost two years, the character of Helen Titchener (Louiza Patikas) has been subjected to gradually worsening emotional, physical, psychological and sexual abuse by her husband Rob. In Sunday night’s episode, she attempted to leave him for good – but ended up stabbing him after he tried to harm their young son.

The episode ended on a dramatic cliffhanger, with listeners unsure as to whether Rob (Timothy Watson) would survive. The Archers immediately began trending on Twitter as people took to social media to voice their support for Helen. 

The programme has been widely praised for drawing attention to an issue that affected 1.4 million women in Britain in 2014.

When he was written into The Archers in 2013, refined Rob Titchener was not an obvious soap opera villain – or abuser.

But he has gradually revealed himself as manipulative and controlling: criticising Helen relentlessly, questioning her sanity, limiting her access to her car and phone, and isolating her from her friends and family.

Through following the Titcheners’ story, listeners have been exposed to many of the hallmarks of an abusive relationship. Statistically, domestic violence victims are most at risk when they attempt to leave their abusive partners, making Helen’s situation even more frighteningly true to life.

The Archers

Rob and Helen's abuse storyline took a bloody turn. Photo: BBC

Archers fan Paul Trueman was so moved by Helen’s story that he set up the Helen Titchener Rescue Fund.

“If over the last year or two you’ve sworn at the radio, tweeted in outrage, taken the name ‘Robert’ in vain, or posted your disgust at the worsening situation in Blossom Hill Cottage, then now’s your chance to do something constructive about it,” Trueman wrote on the fund’s JustGiving page.

All the cash raised for the fictional character will be donated to Refuge to help real-life victims of domestic violence. So far, nearly £90,000 has been raised for the charity.

Refuge’s chief executive, Sandra Horley, said that the charity was “as shocked as everyone else” by the episode’s horrifying turn of events. She added: “This episode tells us that a victim of prolonged abuse may one day fight back when she is in great danger.  

“Helen’s situation mirrors what so many abused women feel and experience every day,” she said. “It is important to remember that research shows an abused woman is at most risk at the point of separation. This storyline simply reflects the reality for many women today and I congratulate the script writers for highlighting a much ignored issue." 

The long-running plotline has also coincided with the introduction of Britain's new coercive controlling behaviour offence, which aims to protect domestic abuse victims who are subjected to psychological and emotional abuse.  

Some Archers fans have been critical of the dramatic storyline, saying that it is too much like “something you might see on EastEnders.”

But when one in four women in England and Wales will suffer from domestic violence during their lifetime, anything that gets us talking about this horribly everyday crime can only be a good thing.

Domestic violence is a crime. If you think you might be experiencing domestic violence, you are not alone, please visit refuge.org.uk for information and support.

Image: RexFeatures


dean strang.jpg

Making A Murderer fans rejoice; Dean Strang is getting his own show


The most exciting new books of April

the pill.jpg

Women are sharing their experiences on the pill with #MyPillStory

sex education feminism.jpg

“Compulsory sex education is a vital tool for the feminist movement”

bridget trailer.JPG

The trailer for Bridget Jones' Baby has arrived


Why feminists should vote ‘remain’ in the EU referendum

The Trouble With Women hb.jpg

The witty feminist cartoons exposing history's sexism

cara delevingne model.jpg

Cara Delevingne opens up about her battle with “self-hatred”


Why I won't let fear stop me from travelling alone as a woman



Bake Off’s Mary Berry confirmed for brand-new cooking show

And it’s hitting our screens in time for a very Berry Christmas…

by Kayleigh Dray
25 Oct 2016

This 'Very British Problems' Twitter account is all of us

"Best weekend activity: a really nice sitdown"

by Sarah Biddlecombe
24 Oct 2016

13 Going on 30 is the latest film to get a musical makeover

by Amy Swales
24 Oct 2016

This streaming service is so boring it will send you to sleep

Forget Netflix and chill

by Harriet Hall
24 Oct 2016

Poldark slammed by women’s rights campaigners as “romanticising rape”

“It’s worse than if it had been a straightforward rape scene”

by Kayleigh Dray
24 Oct 2016

The selfie vs. the group photo: which actually makes us happier?

Time for an Instagram break?

by Moya Crockett
24 Oct 2016

Backlash follows Wonder Woman’s appointment as UN ambassador

The move has been called 'reductive'

by Harriet Hall
24 Oct 2016

Bake Off fans scandalised by Berry and Hollywood news: “I am OUTRAGED”

"It makes me feel sick and empty inside"

by Kayleigh Dray
24 Oct 2016

Meet the 'supermodel' dog whose hair is bewitching the internet

She probably has better hair than you

by Sarah Biddlecombe
24 Oct 2016

Male contraceptive pill (and nasal spray) could be here by 2021

Breakthrough “switches off sperm within minutes”

by Anna Pollitt
24 Oct 2016