Dear Helen

20160918_103222Dear Helen

At last it’s over. You are free and safely home at Bridge Farm. The judge saw through Rob and gave you full custody of both boys. Your nasty husband won’t be allowed to see Henry at all and will only be able to spend limited time with Jack under Pat and Tony’s supervision.

The nation breathes a sigh of relief. We can return to wondering who will win the Flower and Produce Show.

But I’m still worried about you.

I’m worried because you can’t cut Rob out of your life completely. He’s Jack’s father, and he will no doubt be manipulative over access. And he’s still living in Ambridge. You have a divorce to face, with legal and financial settlements to get through. You have been very brave, but you are going to need to continue to be so for a long time. And that will be hard.

I’m worried that things may be rocky for a while with Henry. He’s only a little boy, and he is bound to have a reaction too. Despite ‘Daddy’ having been unduly strict and irascible, he was there when you were not able to be. Henry may resent you for disappearing while you were in prison: he won’t be able to understand why you couldn’t be at home with him. He may tell you he misses Rob, and you will have to work out what to say and do that will help him.

I’m also worried because you’ve experienced a series of terrible traumas – coercive control over two years, multiple rapes, the incident that led to the stabbing, imprisonment,  loneliness and separation from Henry. Plus the fear of being convicted, having Jack taken away and never seeing Henry again. You are a very private person; the trial must have been excruciating, with everyone knowing your business. These things will have had an impact. And there is bound to be a reaction. You may find yourself feeling flat and exhausted. Or even sinking into despair. Please don’t pretend to be OK if you are not. Please talk to someone, maybe your Mum or Kirsty, however hard it feels to do so.

And I’m worried that the reasons Rob was able to manipulate you haven’t changed. You are a thoughtful, caring person. But you are also vulnerable. You’ve lost a brother and a previous partner, and now all this. Even if you don’t feel the immediate need for professional help, when you are ready it might be good to explore the things that have happened to you, the impact they have had and how you want to live your life in the future. If you need professional help to do this, it is nothing to feel ashamed of. In fact it is a courageous and unselfish thing to do. Again it won’t be easy. But it will be worth it.

I’m not a complete idiot, Helen. I am well aware that you are a fictional character. But you represent something very real to listeners. You have touched a nerve in all of us about narcissistic charmers like Rob who in subtle and not-so-subtle ways undermine and manipulate their partners, leaving them confused, diminished, even broken.

We Archers fans love how this story has been given time to breathe. No other soap could have done this. As there is no other soap that could allow your character to face the aftermath of the abuse slowly and gently, in real time.

Some people think The Archers is all about smug middle class farmers to whom nothing ever happens, with a few working class folk thrown in for a bit of comic relief. How wrong they are.

Thank you Helen and The Archers for showing us what it’s like to meet Mr Wrong. It is a lesson that we all needed to learn.

Wishing you much love and luck for the future

Lisa

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20 comments

  1. And, thank you Archers for showing my husband of 28 years how his treatment of me has been inching towards the undermining and suppressing behaviour that so paralysed Helen. We’ve listened together for years as our conversation has become zilch through his blocking comments since our girls left home. I think we were both astonished to hear a few of his habitual responses coming out of Rob’s mouth, although he really is nothing like as controlling or appalling as Rob. It’s made me stronger, and when our teacher daughter came to stay and asked her Dad if he realised how rude he was to me, the combination of The Archers and daughter’s brutal honesty allowed us to talk about what was happening. I was so tearful when she told me that she’d challenged him, and so grateful. He’s not a bad man, and he’s trying hard to make amends as he says he loves me and was deeply shocked when I mentioned I’d been thinking of divorce. Time will tell if he sticks to his commitment, and if I can unfreeze my defensive centre in order to love him as I once did. Lisa, your comments on the soap have been a wonderful support – thank you.

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  2. Must not forget that there are “coercive controlling” women as well. Sadly, I cannot see Rob and his odious parents taking all this lying down, and, regrettably, am not convinced by the Pat, Tony and Tom triumvirate as credible “protectors” of Helen and the boys. I am still not entirely comfortable with the fact that that a savage knife attack upon an unarmed person is regarded as use of “reasonable force” and the message that sends out. The previous poster’s story is interesting, and shows the value of talking through concerns about controlling behaviour. I just wish that Helen, an intelligent, strong character had stood her ground and resisted Rob’s control, and that she had simply taken Henry and herself away without the need to cook a meal and stage manage their proposed farewell in that way. As was illustrated by the wording and “spin” one of the “tabloid” stories about the trial, Helen could find that there is a highly unwelcome and unhealthy degree of intrusiveness into her life and that of the boys; having been the target of a twitter “nuisance” myself, and experienced the sad, sick postings on that medium (I am now deactivated, it is a waste of time, effort and life) I fear for Helen and boys if certain social media users focus their unwelcome attention upon them, My “nuisance” tweeter, who was not even anonymous, was just that a “nuisance” who called me puerile names, and rubbished my public sector background and moderately left wing political views, nothing too dramatic,but the Helen and Rob story is a whole different scenario.

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  3. I’m glad that Helen got dole custody of Henry and Jack…but I think it needs somebody stronger than Pat to let RR see Jack..possibly Kristy and Tony…?? Henry I feel is going to have some gentle explaining from Helen that Rob is not his dad and that no contact with him will be possible….Helen is going to have to give Henry so much of her time and reassurance of love etc. No doubt RR will get up to his old tricks and try to exert more access to Jack… Pat and Tony must NEVER leave Jack alone with Rob at any time because Rob just cannot be trusted.

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  4. The question of Rob and Henry is tricky; clearly, Rob is a manipulative, narcissistic barsteward, but he is the only father figure Henwee has ever know, and Rob has had virtually sole care of him for several months. It’s going to be hard for Henry to adjust.

    As a point of order, Usha owns Blossom Hill Cottage, and rented it to Rob and Jess initially. No idea if Helen is on the tenancy agreement, but it is not theirs to sell.

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  5. We all agree that Rob is a horrible person, but something that no-one seems to have talked about are the hints about the way Rob was treated as a child and the relationship with his father. Rob’s father is clearly a coercive and manipulative bully who controls Ursula and is very disparaging of Rob. Bullied, manipulated children grow up and become adults. We pity the child but have no sympathy for the adult that they become. This doesn’t mean that Rob’s treatment of Helen is acceptable, but it does bring questions from the other side of the story that I think should be further explored and discussed.

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  6. Yes, I agree. And that’s why my next The Archers blog will be a letter to Rob. We have to tackle the source of domestic abuse as well as the consequences if we want to make a real difference. Thank you for making such a great point that I know a lot of others think too.

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  7. What a lovely letter and it must put into
    Words how a lot of us feel. Helen isn’t out of the woods yet. I can just imagine the revenge Rob will be plotting in his evil mind to make Helens life as miserable as possible. Rising above this will be virtually impossible if Helen doesn’t have professional counselling. I believe this, if run in real time will take a minimum of 10 years to overcome. That’s what experience has taught me. It will be very interesting to see what transpires in the next few months.

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  8. Has to be said…of course any counselling will have to be private, or she will have to make do with six sessions of CBT……

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  9. Not everyone has the financial resources to extricate themselves from these situations and the abuser knows this. It’s so important to seek help if you are in this situation, Rob could have been stopped if Helen had done that. Spare a thought for anyone who is trapped in relationship, where the abuser has mental health, alcohol dependence or physical problems and to abandon them would be seen as being cruel or uncaring. How do you get out of that, where is the support for Carers?

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  10. After listening to this evenings latest in the Archers…I had a hunch that Usha would evict RR from Blossom hell cottage..I hope she does it. RR of course will get nasty and throw a strop..”it’s not fair…what have done wrong to be treated this way…” “Infamy..infamy .. you’ve all got it infamy!!!! “…. We will have to watch this space….

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  11. I’ve said all along that I’d like to know more about Rob’s family. You remember that family dinner a couple of years ago that his parents simply didn’t turn up to at all? Had he actually asked them, I wonder? And what about the brother we hear about, but who never puts in an appearance, what’s his story? I actually find Rob’s Dad a bit two-dimensional at the moment, he’s only ever nasty. It might be nice to hear another side of him, too.
    I think Rob has a personality disorder, certainly, with or without any input from his parents, but let’s not blame it all being sent early to boarding school. I was sent to boarding school when I was very young – and I hated it fiercely – but it hasn’t left me a demented wreck like Rob! There’s more to his problems than that, certainly.
    My word, the writers of The Archers have created a lively monster, haven’t they? I mean all these years and suddenly WHO CARES about the Flower and Produce Show and the Christmas pantomime? I mean the Grundys’ are happily destroying Grange Farm under Caroline and Oliver’s noses – and no one even cares much about that anymore!

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  12. To: Peter, LL.B

    – you say that “I am still not entirely comfortable with the fact that that a savage knife attack upon an unarmed person is regarded as use of “reasonable force” and the message that sends out. ” I’m not sure you realise that this is a reflection of how the law itself has been framed over the years, i.e. it’s been about men striking out in anger, rather than women’s tendency to slow burn followed by a final snap. You’re understandably concerned about female coercive control too, but it worries me that, as a lawyer, you don’t understand the the far more common issue of female suffering at the hands of male partners.

    – “I just wish that Helen, an intelligent, strong character had stood her ground and resisted Rob’s control”. Maybe you don’t appreciate that it’s as equally hard for supposedly strong personalities to stand up to such treatment as it is for others? The shame and disbelief of being on the end of mental and physical violence, irrespective of gender, easily lead to trauma and submission, which are difficult to discuss with anyone else. It’s heartbreaking from the outside, and unbelievably difficult from the inside.

    To: Sarah Passingham

    – I’m so pleased for you that this storyline seems to have been a breakthrough for you and your husband. My very best wishes for you that you both continue to make progress.

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  13. RR turns up about 20 minutes early for his hour long visit with .jack…he seems to have no regard of the law and rules…and he is pushing the envelope to see how far he can go..I think the only way he gets the message is if the Bull bars him..village shop bars him..as well as Lower Locket..Grey gables ..in fact they should run in out of Ambridge completely.

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  14. Will RR never learn anything??… On Fridays episode he tried to see henry through Emma but she wasn’t having any of it..then later in the Bull RR showed us his true character..bully boy tactics..but Emma stood her ground..good for Emma. Jazzer should have shown RR what they do to bullies where he came from in Scotland..

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  15. Listening to the Archers tonight , Tuesday Oct 4 showed the tichenors as body minded as ever..but glad to hear Helen told them they couldn’t see Jack as such short notice…Good for Helen. She is definitely under the GOOD influence of Kaz…she has helped Helen alot. And been a good friend to Helen in the M.b.u.

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  16. HH Geek;regrettably you are like some tweeters, you make wildly incorrect assumptions about people, that was one of the reasons that I deactivated my twitter account, because, ironically, I was targeted by a male twitter wannabe coercive controller, who rubbished me and called me every puerile, abusive name that he could think of and constantly monitored my TL, just because I was mildly left wing and supportive of the public sector. I am not a lawyer, I studied law, obtained an LL.B in 1965 and then entered the consumer protection and regulatory profession. Your assumption about my lack of “understanding” is extraordinary, I have had a fair amount of contact with Vera Baird QC, whose record as Northumbria PCC is exemplary as far as tackling domestic violence is concerned, I support everything that Vera says about the issue. As someone who investigated criminal and civil breaches of the law and prepared cases for court you seem to be someone who is making “evidential” bricks without straw and making assumptions ( but that is an assumption on my part); perhaps my use of the relatively mild words ” not entirely comfortable with” and “wish” should enter into the evidential equation and been weighed. I have first hand experience of an alpha male, who, whilst no RR, exhibits some of his traits, his wife, a good friend of mine and a gentle kind person stands up to him with wit, intelligence and charm; I also have experience of elderly family members who are the subject of what I would characterise as verbal “bullying”. The evidence given in the court case of RR’s repeated sexual attacks and rapes of Helen was distressing to hear, giving her far more justification for use of retaliatory force. Kaz’s description of how she was maltreated equally harrowing; if at the moment her hand was being forced into the oven and burned Kaz had lashed out with a knife that would have been a use of “reasonable force” as I understand it. My take on RR on the evidence of his behaviour post trial is that he is seemingly mentally ill, not excusing him, please do not assume that, just an observation, he is a sociopath, psychopath perhaps, and regrettably Helen and her family are still at risk from the man. Finally. yes I do have a mate who is being coercively controlled by his female partner, and it is not a pleasant experience to witness, he is a gentle, intelligent man who would never lash out either on an angry impulse, nor as a result of “slow burning”, in my opinion the latter trait is not an exclusively female trait. No doubt you will pick over my words (an assumption) and make assumptions and there is, as they say in my part of the world “nowt that can be done about that, marra”…

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  17. Law graduate but NOT a lawyer; worked in regulatory services/consumer protection for 35 years. Not remotely interested in making assumptions about other posters, too much of that on twitter! Have had fair amount of contact with Vera Baird QC Northumbria’s PCC, support her stance and policies on domestic abuse and violence 100%, because have had experience of it, fortunately not as victim, so need no education about slow burning, or tactics for dealing with coercive controllers and non violent tactics for resisting them.

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  18. I’m glad Helen is much stronger now… standing up to Arsula on the phone about RR not seeing Jack on Tuesday. And proclaiming to Pat “we will not be bullied by the Titchenors anymore”. I had a hunch that RR would practically empty the joint account..its the kind of sneaky thing he would do. And I’m also glad that Helen is going to start divorce proceedings. The sooner RR realises that he is disliked by so many people, the better. I reckon that RR is going to try and make Adams life as miserable as ever once everyone knows that Ian will have gone. What will happen when the time for RR to vacate BHC? If he doesn’t clean it to pristine condition he will lose his deposit. And he’s not going to like that!!

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