Drama’s hard-hitting story encourages thousands to seek advice on domestic abuse

A domestic abuse storyline which dominated a Radio 4 drama last year has been credited with helping to raise awareness of the issue.

The Archers’ focus on the misery that Helen Titchener suffered as a result of her husband Rob’s increasingly volatile behaviour was one of the most hard-hitting storylines in the programme’s 66-year history.

It is thought that the harrowing narrative played a major part in directing almost 25,000 people to the BBC website for advice on domestic violence. 1,350 individuals also got in touch via a dedicated support line.

The figures, which were released by the broadcaster at the end of last month, suggest that the plot had a considerable impact beyond the flurry of headlines it generated when events reached their climax in April.

Louiza Patikas, the actress who plays Helen, said: “As part of my research into this storyline I met victims of domestic violence and coercive control, and soon learned that abuse can happen to anyone.”

The Archers’ plotline unfolded slowly over a period of around two and a half years and was widely praised for choosing to focus on a relationship in which an individual repeatedly undermined or put pressure on their partner. Previously dramas have tended to document relationships driven by physical violence.

Sandra Horley, chief executive of the charity Refuge, was among those to acknowledge the “Archers’ effect”, referring to the increased awareness about the difficulties facing many of those trapped in abusive relationships.

“Women listening may realise they are not alone,” she said.

A year ago, the Government introduced a new law to protect victims of “controlling and coercive behaviour” by introducing a new offence. It is now a crime to subject someone to the type of behaviour that stops short of physical violence but which amounts to extreme psychological and emotional abuse.

It has been suggested that police forces would benefit from better training after it was found that the legislation had been used just 62 times in the six months following its introduction.

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