It was nice to get such a lot of interest in my blog about whether it was Helen or Rob Titchenor who needed to see a psychiatrist. As they are both fictional characters, it felt OK to surmise about their relative states of mental health, and also to remind people who were getting excited on Facebook and Twitter that having a mental illness is not a character flaw.
But right now, Helen is in turmoil. And because the writers, the producers and the actress have created someone people care about, there is a lot of advice flying around – to Helen herself, to her friend Kirsty, to her parents Pat and Tony, to her odious mother-in-law Ursula and to her abusing control-freak husband Rob. I realise that the scripts have already been written and the recordings made weeks ago, but nonetheless, here are my thoughts. They can’t help Helen, but they might help someone like her. Or their children, family and friends.
Should Kirsty break her promise and tell Pat that Rob hit Helen?
No. Because Helen has only just started to confide in her. It is really important for women who are abused by their partners not to experience what might feel like abuse from others. Helen is not in immediate danger. The best thing Kirsty can do is be there for her, listen to her and gently help her work out what to do for herself. It helps that Kirsty has sought advice from a domestic abuse website such as the wonderful Rise UK http://www.riseuk.org.uk/ It is important that Kirsty stays calm, despite how angry and upset she feels. There may come a time when she has to break her word, but not now.
Why hasn’t Helen’s psychiatrist done something already?
Again, it is vital to build trust. If the psychiatrist is doing their job properly, they will be carrying out a careful assessment of Helen. This should include checking for signs of abuse. I just hope they don’t allow Helen’s history of previous mental illness to mislead them. It is one of the curses for people who, from time to time, experience mental illness, that they can become defined by their medical history rather than it simply being a small part of who they are.
Isn’t it a good thing that mother-in-law-from-hell Ursula is going home?
I’m not sure. While Ursula is truly ghastly, she does offer some degree of protection from Rob’s more diabolical deeds. As far as we know, she isn’t the one who has been tampering with ovens and bathwater, hiding things or messing up orders at the shop so that Helen has started to doubt her own sanity.
What should Pat, Tony and Tom be doing?
They should also be listening to Helen, which means not necessarily believing everything they see or hear. And they should talk to each other and give voice to the individual concerns they are undoubtedly keeping buried under the surface. Family secrets are rarely a good thing.
But then they should be careful not to approach her together, as that could feel like ganging up. I think Tom might be the one most likely to gain her trust. Pat and Tony should make it clear that they are always there for her, no matter what has happened.
And finally, they should avoid recriminations and guilt. None of this is anyone’s fault. Except Rob’s.
Surely the idea of Henry being sent away to boarding school will bring Helen to her senses?
That’s a comment I read on Twitter. It is unkind and judgemental. Helen is vulnerable, abused and unable to think clearly. The chances are, Rob will make her believe that the pain of sending Henry away is something else she must bear for the greater good. But it could well be the trigger for Pat and Tony to stop trying to convince themselves that Rob is a wonderful husband and stepfather. Because whilst there are those who extol the benefits of boarding school, Pat and Tony are unlikely to be amongst them, especially not for their beloved five year old grandson.
What will happen to the evil Rob Titchenor?
Who knows? If life were fair, he would be prosecuted under the new laws covering psychological domestic abuse. He would go to prison, where he would get help to recognise that his own narcissistic tendencies are not only hurting other people, they are also damaging to him.
But life isn’t always fair. The chances are, Rob will somehow get away with having nearly ruined Helen and Henry’s lives, wrecked Charlie’s career, punched the saboteur, damaged Adam and Ian’s relationship, plus whatever he really did in the flood. And anyway he will be part of Helen’s life forever because of the baby, not to mention the claims he will undoubtedly make on her inheritence.
So we will have plenty more opportunities to discuss him on social media.
Surely this storyline has gone on too long? It’s making me distressed/mentally ill myself.
I disagree. Domestic abuse and mental illness are commonplace. If soaps were realistic, they would have many more such storylines. And this one is subtle. The woman is mature and the abuse is mainly psychological. I like the different angles the storyline takes. And that we can’t guess how it will end. If the most exciting thing to happen in The Archers was a risqué calendar, we’d be disappointed.
So I hope this particular storyline is allowed to run its course. It certainly isn’t making anyone who listens to it become mentally ill. That isn’t possible.
But it may trigger feelings in those who have been abused. Which is why helpline numbers are given at the end of the programme.
If you or someone you know needs help, call the National Domestic Violence Helpline on 0808 2000 247 http://www.nationaldomesticviolencehelpline.org.uk/
And if this story saves even one woman – or man – from domestic abuse, won’t that be wonderful?
In my experience, he kicks her out and marries someone with the same name. Truth? Fiction? Can’t make it up. But I came out stronger.
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I agree with everything you say. But don’t you think it’s unfortunate that the “If you have been affected by..” announcements only started after the incident of physical violence? The psychological abuse is just as damaging, if not more so.
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You make a great point Ian and one that hadn’t occurred to me. If I ever get an opportunity, I will say so!
I do not believe that Shula would ever lie to the police, and certainly not for something so feeble as “the good of the Hunt”
Whilst I agree with much of what you say, I can’t agree that Helen is not in immediate danger. For one, she has just been raped again. Two, she is doubting her own sanity and this can only get worse. She could attempt to harm herself and the baby. Also, at this rate, she stands a good chance of dying in childbirth.
Yes, the reality is these situations can go on for years, yes, Rob would probably get away with it and then leave for a younger woman, taking his son with him, but sending him to boarding school as he himself was. This kind of damage can repeat down the generations.
However, its a radio show, and we can’t bear much more! I’m hoping Kirsty tells Tom at least!
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I agree with your assessments, but not that it should go on and on. Fiction works differently from real life and, to be frank, many of us now find this storyline tedious and have stopped listening. I hope I don’t have to say that, in real life, my support of a friend would not stop, no matter how long it lasted. My husband died quite some years ago and I really, really know how long the problems last, but books where it goes on and on are unbelievably boring. Fiction needs to work like fiction.
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Does anyone else remember Dr Lock saying that he thought he recognised Rob from somewhere? Maybe he could be Helen’s saviour?
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My wife (who is a health visitor) says your article is spot on and thank you for it.
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‘Helen is not un immediate danger.’ Really?! She’s been raped twice (that we know of) and slapped once.
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I understand and agree that domestic abuse can go on for years, but this is fiction, we know exactly what Rob is doing, and would continue to do if allowed. I feel that Dr Locke may give us the key, and end this, as he stated he recognised Rob from somewhere. I came out of domestic abuse, not weaker but much stronger. I am sure that the news that Henry is off to boarding school will at least wake Pat and Tony up. Time to end this as a storyline though, we know there is a law which covers emotional abuse, maybe Rob will be found out for something he has done in his past, enough now!!
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Whilst I wholeheartedly agree that this type of abuse should be aired in fiction to help raise awareness and possibly help someone in the real world it is going on far too long. We listen for entertainment not to be put off our favourite radio show by the genuine upset and distressing escapades of any one character. Let’s hope the writers resolve the story by ensuring we know how to help someone we may know and Rob is suitably brought to justice and then we can return to the missing family characters that appear to have vanished without trace, I am sure there’s a lot of potential to keep us entertained.
Good points Noel. I’m just keen on the educational opportunity this story affords. Haven’t caught up on tonight’s episode yet!
Throughout this long-running storyline, I have been trying to get inside Rob’s head, because his long-term motives are not easy to discern. I can’t see any outcome that would make him happy, and as he seems to be quite a driven character, I’m not sure what he thinks he is driving himself toward. It’s hard to believe whatever childhood and upbringing he had is influencing him totally and he must have some kind of moral sense that what he is doing is not right, as he is so quick to judge the behaviour of others. I know he is a narcissistic abuser and always wants to be seen to be right, and I feel that if he was abused himself he would try not to perpetuate that behaviour, but he doesn’t! He has no ‘normal’ friendships, is cold and calculating, and is, yes, evil in every way. So yes, I would like to know from someone with experience of dealing with such sociopathic behaviours, what they think is really driving him.
I was in an abusive relationship myself, and the reason I was given for the abuse was ‘because I hate myself’ (him), and that I wasn’t ‘doing my duty’ as a good wife. Okay, that’s a simplistic description of a complex set of problems, but it is easy to let it go on for longer than it should, as we always hope that things will miraculously somehow right themselves. But they usually don’t, and definitely not in the case of Helen and Rob. Once the trust is gone, it’s almost impossible to mend.
I await with interest to see how Rob’s inevitable downfall will occur.
Bless you, that must have been so hard. Abusers choose people who they can dominate. It reinforces their damaged sense of self. Take care now ☺☺☺
Good article and well made points
Helen is very much in immediate danger. I am a sibling of someone who has been abused the only reason it stopped was the abuser’s sudden death. Had his heart not given out we would still be in the midst of it and my sibling could very easily been dead.
Very many sound points in this correspondence. Though we have not solved the mystery of Rob’s immediate objective.
Ron’s objective is complete control of his environment. He wants power over anyone who could adversely affect him, in my opinion. I grew up with an extremely abusive father, so I speak from experience, I’m afraid.
The problem now as I see it the writers must introduce help fot Kirsty either Tom or Jess or both Helen will start to lose our sympathy by not going down the I can see what is happening to me line
I really must see the start of realisation
It has and is getting to be painful starting about from when he deleted the cricket cheating on Helens phone
Ah yes, he cheated at cricket. I’d forgotten that. I think Kirsty is getting through to her, Robbie. I really do. Let’s have faith x
In response to a couple of the comments above: the reason Dr Locke thought he recognised Rob was because he was the doctor that took the DNA for Jess’s baby’s paternity test. I’m not sure if that will turn out to be relevant or not.
A need to control is often born from fear. My father was very controlling, though not abusively so, having been in hospital for 7 years. But he could be a bit of a bully if he thought his word wasn’t being taken seriously. In hospital, he was paralysed and ‘at the mercy of’ the hospital staff, which terrified him. When he emerged, a very damaged and disappointed 34 year old, he had to use a wheelchair for the rest of his life. He couldn’t chase after his young family to keep us secure, so he ruled us with an unarguable discipline. He feared for our, and his, safety so he was deeply suspicious of work done on the house, my mother’s rather lax ideas of food hygiene, our schools, home security, and later, the maintenance of our cars etc. We spent a lot of time reassuring him, which helped his obsessive control. Going back to Rob, I too, hope we’ll get some idea of what happened in Rob’s past to make him so fearful of trusting people close to him. But I still hate him!
Now that the snowball has started to roll
I trust the writers will gradually show Helen Robs true side
Paying for paternity to Jess
Erasing the cricket scenario
The reasons for his being sacked
The bath water incident
There are quitr a few issues to be resolved
Did Rob set the fire in the hen houses
Did Rob plant the dog that brought the disease
What he done to Charlie
He will obviously ask Helen for a fresh start this though difficult should be denied at least
temporarily until his whole demeanour has been outed
Bring back Kirsty as the true friend who should explain to the family what Robs true self is
Enough to be going on with I think