We Archers addicts are waiting with bated breath for September and the trial when, we hope, serial bully and narcissistic cad Rob Titchenor will finally get his come-uppance.
But our hopes keep being dashed. Scruff has gone to his grave (alright, an urn in Lynda’s basket) without revealing the secrets of the flood. Shula’s confession (that she lied to the police and that Rob really did hit the hunt saboteur) may wreck her marriage and her saintly reputation. But it won’t help Helen. And Helen isn’t helping herself; she won’t tell Anna the full extent of the shameful secrets from her marriage to Rob.
It’s all very frustrating. Which is good for us listeners, because that’s what real life is like. As well as messy, inconclusive and often unfair. In this article from 2014, psychotherapist Philippa Perry explains why tragic events in fairy stories, books and films are good for children. They help them to practice the emotions needed to deal with real-life disappointment and loss.
We adults need the same. And we must prepare ourselves. Because the chances are that Helen will get convicted next month. I’m not saying this because I think she’s guilty. I believe that, at worst, she acted in self-defence. I say it because men like Rob often get away with it. The odds are stacked in his favour. He lacks emotions about anyone but himself. But he also plays the loving father and victim very well for short periods. He could fool the jurors. After all, he fooled most of us when he first appeared in Ambridge.
And the prosecution will paint Helen as an unreliable witness. We may not like it, but women like Helen, who have experience of mental illness, plus have had their confidence sapped by abusive partners and being separated from their children, often fare badly within our adversarial judicial system.
Some judges bend over backwards to make sure that vulnerable women get a fair hearing in court. But not all. The one who presided over the interim custody order for Henry seemed predisposed towards Rob. He was sharp with Anna and with Helen. Shockingly, that wasn’t unrealistic.
But we can still hope.
- We can hope that the trial judge is a bit more enlightened. But even then, the odds are stacked against Helen. Juries are made up of people representative of society. And like it or not, in our society, women are unfairly discriminated against, in court as in many other settings.
- We might also hope that Henry will remember what he heard, even saw, on the night that Rob got stabbed. Of course, we don’t know what actually happened. Or what Rob has subsequently persuaded Henry that he heard or saw. Henry could say something that makes things even worse for Helen.
- We can hope that Henry will tell the social worker that Rob has an evil temper, is always telling him to be quiet and a good boy, and does cruel things like threatening boarding school and confiscating his rabbit because it’s babyish. Rob’s parenting methods are based on what his own awful parents did to him. Plus he has told Henry that his Mummy is bad and has abandoned him. Henry may feel that Daddy is all he has left. The holiday with Pat and Tony has come at a good time. But we should be worried for poor little Henry, who seems unnaturally well-behaved given what has happened to him recently.
- We are of course all hoping that Helen will somehow find the courage to face what Rob did over many months when he isolated her, psychologically abused her, threatened her, belittled her and sexually assaulted her on the night that baby Gideon/Jack was conceived. And joked afterwards about her being a minx who made him get carried away. But Helen has buried those memories because they are disgusting and unbearable to her. She may never be able to face them, even though they hold the key to saving herself and her children.
- We can hope that Jess will have a change of heart and be prepared to tell the court what she has already admitted to Anna about Rob’s psychological and physical abuse of her too, and how she warned Helen about him. But it sounds like Rob has bought Jess off. And she is also probably frightened of him and maybe even still in thrall to him. As Helen may also be too. Men like Rob seem to mesmerise women. They wield physical power. But it is their psychological power that is the most threatening.
- We can even hope that somehow Stefan will reappear and spill the beans on whatever Rob did to cause the flood. Or that some other miracle will happen.
I’m definitely still hoping; the writers have had us on tenterhooks for a long time and we need a break. But I’m also preparing myself for the worst. Because as a soap, The Archers must mimic real life.
And in real life, shit happens. Especially to people who don’t deserve it.