The plotline on BBC’s The Archers is cited as the reason for a 17% annual increase in calls to Britain’s national domestic violence helpline
A controversial storyline about domestic abuse in a hugely popular British radio show has had such a profound effect on its listeners that they have raised more than £142,000 ($188,809) for a domestic violence charity in the name of a fictional character who has been abused.
BBC program The Archers is the world’s longest-running radio soap opera. Set in the fictional village of Ambridge in the English midlands, generations of listeners have followed the lives of the show’s lovable – and not so lovable – recurring characters since it began in 1950. Since then, more than 180,000 episodes have been broadcast and roughly 4.7 million people tune in to the six fifteen-minute episodes released each week. The drama unfolds in real time, and listeners hear the characters grow and develop alongside their own lives.
But one highly controversial plot has gripped listeners especially hard: the tumultuous relationship between Helen Archer and her husband Robert Titchener. Rob’s emotional abuse of Helen has been a slow-burning storyline drawn out by the writers over the past two and a half years, from Rob gradually acquiring control every aspect of Helen’s life from her friendships to her mobile phone, to him raping her “over and over again” – as was revealed in an episode this week.
It finally reached a climax last April when a depressed and pregnant Helen attacked Rob in self defence. “It’s your choice, but it’s the only way I am ever letting you go,” Rob said, goading Helen to kill herself after she told him she was leaving him.