The Archers and Refuge

Along with the rest of the nation, Refuge has been gripped by The Archers’ domestic violence storyline. Helen Titchener has been experiencing domestic abuse at the hands of her husband Rob for years.

Now, Refuge would like to thank The Archers for highlighting this important issue – and fans of the soap for raising so much money.

jg 18 april






The storyline

Refuge is delighted to see  that The Archers’ storyline has shone a spotlight on domestic violence and we have been impressed by the realistic portrayal of Rob’s controlling behaviour.

Over many months, listeners have heard Rob purposefully and gradually erode Helen’s independence and self-esteem, like water dripping on a stone. As with many perpetrators, Rob has disguised his jealousy as concern and love. Yet to an outsider, Rob may have appeared the perfect, caring husband.

Helen and Rob1However, he was systematically controlling Helen; whilst confusing her with his ever changing behaviour. One minute he seemed caring and kind; the next controlling and abusive. A Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde personified. This behaviour will have been all too familiar to the thousands of women Refuge supports every day.



Sandra Horley CBE, chief executive of Refuge, says:

“The ‘real time’ approach they have taken to showing how a perpetrator of domestic violence controls and confuses his partner is incredibly powerful – and sadly all too accurate. They have brought the daily reality of the ‘hidden’ forms of domestic abuse and its more subtle and insidious elements into people’s living rooms and kitchens.”

In a shocking plot twist, Helen stabbed Rob during a confrontation in which she told him she was leaving. Following the episode, Refuge chief executive Sandra Horley released a statement, which highlighted that leaving is often the most dangerous time for women experiencing domestic violence. She said:

“Helen obviously felt under threat from an aggressive man. Rob was behaving in a menacing way towards Helen’s son Henry, and in the melee that ensued, Rob suffered (apparently) fatal wounds. This episode tells us that a victim of prolonged abuse may one day respond when she is in great danger.”

“Helen’s situation mirrors what so many abused women feel and experience every day.  It is important to remember that research shows an abused woman is at most risk at the point of separation. 76% of domestic homicides occur during separation or up to six months afterwards.”

The impact

  • The storyline has provided a brilliant opportunity to raise awareness of domestic violence – in particular, its subtle, insidious nature
  • As the storyline has unfolded, Refuge has been able to share vital messages with listeners, ensuring that women who find themselves in Helen’s situation know where to turn for support. This information has been shared far and wide by fans
  • Thanks to ‘real time’ social media channels we have been able to draw attention to Rob’s tactics of abuse as they play out, and in parallel provide information about spotting the signs of controlling behaviour and how to access life-saving support
  • In the month of February, as the storyline intensified, there was a 17% increase in calls to the National Domestic Violence Helpline, run in partnership between Refuge and Women’s Aid


The Helen Titchener Fund

Archers thank you April 2016

Another enormous impact of the storyline has been The Helen Titchener Fund. This Just Giving page was set up in early February by The Archers fan Paul Trueman.  Paul came up with the brilliant idea of turning Archers’ fans anger at Helen’s situation into funds for Refuge, to help real-life Helens and Henrys up and down the country. Paul was inspired by an article from the very courageous Helen Walmsley Johnson, who wrote for the New Statesman on how Helen’s story of abuse reminded her of her own.

Many women have shared their experiences of what the storyline has meant to them on the Just Giving page, and their words show the value of talking about domestic violence, an issue which is still considered taboo in our society.

i had rob

To date (April 2016) this amazing fund has raised more than £122,000 for Refuge – and is still growing. This is an incredible amount of money and Refuge is enormously grateful to everyone who has donated – a phenomenal 6,000 donations have been made so far. This money will translate into support for women and children escaping domestic violence.

Paul and friends Michael Moran and Susan Waters have also set up a new fundraising initiative: “Free the Blossom Hill One” fairtrade T-shirts, bags and tea-towels. In just the first week of selling this merchandise, they raised £3,945 for Refuge, which has been added to the Helen Titchener Fund. Refuge is so grateful to them for setting up this initiative and to all The Archers fans who have bought merchandise.

Donate to Refuge via the Helen Titchener Fund.

Refuge statement on The Fund reaching £100,000

Refuge statement on the Fund reaching £60,000

Refuge statement on the Fund raising £20,000 in 48 hours


Helen and Rob3Refuge’s involvement in the storyline

Refuge understands that the BBC has consulted a number of domestic violence charities to ensure it accurately reflects the experience of a woman who is being controlled and undermined by her partner.

Refuge has  given the BBC The Archers team guidance on the dynamics of domestic violence and insights into women and children’s experience of domestic violence. However, Refuge has had no involvement in how the plot line has, or will, develop.







Refuge and The Archers in the media – relevant articles to read

10 April 2016, Refuge case study in The Sunday Telegraph: ‘Like Helen Titchener’s friends, I know what it’s like to feel powerless when your best pal is abused’

5 April 2016, Sandra Horley for Independent Voices: ‘What The Archers didn’t show is that austerity makes it harder for women like Helen to leave an abusive partner’

5 April 2016, Third Sector Magazine: Five lessons from Refuge and The Helen Titchener Fund

5 April 2016, Sandra Horley comments on the stabbing of Rob: The Archers: What effect has the Rob and Helen story had?

29 March 2016: Sandra Horley discusses The Archers’ storyline on Woman’s Hour

9 February 2016, Sandra Horley for The Guardian: ‘Domestic violence services shouldn’t have to rely on The Archers’ fans for funds’