This blog contains spoilers. In the UK the National Domestic Violence Helpline is 0808 2000 247. If you are based outside the UK check out this link.
All going on in Ambridge
The fictional community of Ambridge, created in the long running BBC Radio 4 programme 'The Archers', has seen a domestic abuse storyline develop between two main characters Helen and Rob. The writers have taken advice from Women's Aid in developing the plot to make the story as realistic as possible. Rob is abusing his wife Helen over many months (and years) through a variety of methods and means. See our earlier blog here on some of how that has been done. In recent weeks this has increased in frequency and intensity. Sunday night's episode saw Helen planning to leave Rob and had told her friend Kirsty who was wanting to help. Rob found out.
The point of leaving a relationship can be the most dangerous part. Two women a week, yes two a week, are killed in the UK, murdered, by their partner or former partner. Leaving the relationship mean the person choosing to abuse loosing control over the other. This can see an increase in intensity of abuse in order to maintain power and control over the woman.
In Sunday night's episode things took a dramatic turn as Helen seemed to stab Rob as he went towards the child Henry. Rob had handed her the knife and referred to a previous aspect of Helen's life. It was excruciating to listen to and utterly horrible. It has provided an insight into the nature of living in a situation where your partner/husband is abusing you.
What Happened Next?
Helen called her friend Kirsty to say she had killed Rob. In Monday nights episode we find that Rob is still alive. The police and paramedics were on the scene to take action. Helen was arrested.
What is interesting is the reactions of listeners to the programme. Earlier last week there was a discussion on Woman's Hour some saying it was too much and switching off the programme. Twitter went into meltdown with #thearchers hashtag seeing 20,000 tweets in four hours. See here for a selection of tweets compiled by the programme. Many supporting Helen. Barristers saying they would defend her and looking what might happen in court, others offering to give the fictional character an alibi. Others saying they believe her and heard it all. On Monday morning Women's Aid released a press statement on the storyline (you can read it here) about the reality of domestic abuse and the effects of this on a person.
It's hard to see the positive in such an horrific storyline. We are grateful however, that it has raised the issue of domestic abuse on a national scale. We are thankful for Women's Aid that has been advising the story writers to make the depiction so realistic. The storyline has made headline news, it has created newspaper stories, there have been online debates. People are being educated and made aware of the everyday reality of the pernicious nature of domestic abuse and it's impact on a woman. Some of the reactions of 'I believe you' are a encouraging and a first step when a woman discloses abuse. Listening and believing are important. The reality is though that many women do not feel as though they will be believed if they disclose abuse.
In reaction to the storyline one person set up a Just Giving page and has raised over £70,000 for Refuge, a charity in the UK providing safe houses for women who have been abused. We are appreciative of the work of Refuge and all they do.
Some of the reactions are that this sort of thing couldn't happen here. Not in this rural idle. Not in this middle class village in the country. We know though that domestic abuse happens in all places and is no respecter of wealth, geography or religion. Domestic abuse happens in churches too. This is why, as Restored, we have made resources freely available to help churches to be aware of the signs of domestic abuse and how to respond well. It is a useful resource to understand more on the nature of abuse. Anyone can download our church pack here.
There is a need to challenge any preconceived ideas we may have about the nature of abuse and who is abused. It can be a barrier for women accessing the help and support they need. Watch our myths of abuse clip here to see if you have absorbed any myths along the road of life.
We are so grateful that Restored has kept going over the last six years through the support of individuals and a few trust funds. It is with this support that we have been able to produce the resources like the church pack, train churches, advocate for change, work with men and see change happening. Thank you for enabling us to make that happen. We are so grateful. We pray for a day when we no longer need to exist because violence against women has ended.
If you would like invest in the continuing work of Restored and give on a regular basis please donate here. Thank you.