We all know the theme tune, and we all where to tune in. But I don’t think I’ve ever been asked whether I’ve been listening to The Archers before.
Recently the Radio 4 soap synonymous with rural affairs and countryside alliances of one form or another has hit the headlines for its abuse storyline.
In a story arc that has spanned more than 18 months Rob and Helen Titchener have been locked in a pattern of abuse, control and, ultimately, violence.
But rather than the domestic abuse we’re more normally exposed to on television, this focuses on emotional abuse and coercion.
It starts with something that seems innocuous enough – a meal, specially prepared by Helen, that Rob won’t eat because he doesn’t like tuna.
Yet this one thing was the start of a campaign that was to see Helen annexed from her friends and family, forced to do things she didn’t want to do, that would make her doubt her own sanity and, pregnant with Rob’s child, given a knife and told to stab herself as the only way she’d ever be able to end her marriage.
Control like this is almost impossible to prove.
The people doing it are often charming and have very plausible reasons for wanting their partners to stay, for example, or not to invite their family or friends to stay for the weekend.
I wonder if the victim in this realises what’s happening before they’re in too deep? I wonder whether their friends and family would dismiss their fears out of hand?
And I wonder how many people stay, trapped and alone, forever?
Perhaps if there’s one thing The Archers can teach us it’s that these situations happen all around us. Not just in the big cities, but in the countryside, in “nice” communities too.
The government has recently made emotional abuse illegal, with promises that police will investigate any allegation and look at the issue as a whole, not just as isolated incidents.
I hope that’s true. Reports of abuse have increased as The Archers has run this story – more now know there is a way out.