When I first heard Rob talk to Helen I froze to the spot. Did they know what he sounded like? It turned out that yes, they did and it was all part of a plan. For those of you who don’t listen, The Archers is a long running soap on BBC Radio 4 that was based around farming and has widened its horizons.
Today sees the culmination of a six month story line (at least) with the end of the trial and the deliberation of the jury as to whether Helen is guilty of attempting to kill her husband or whether she was acting in self-defence.
Coercive control is what I would refer to as passive-aggressive behaviour where Rob repeatedly pointed out to Helen how she wasn’t quite capable, that she was making wrong decisions and if she’d only leave them all to him life would be easier. He’s not confronting her, just chipping away at her confidence. It’s really subtle and slides you down a slippery slope until you lose all control over your life and become incapable of making a decision even if given the freedom to do so.
My father ruled the roost at home and wore away my mother’s attempts at independence until she decided that it was easier to just do what he wanted. This to the point that even when he had an affair for a couple of years she just let it slide as she didn’t have the courage to leave or the belief that she could learn to make it on her own.
Listening to Rob’s father bully his wife as well as Rob made me wonder how much of a chance the fictional Rob had to change direction as well as how much could be passed down from one generation to the next.
My father’s desire for total control, where he would discuss things for hours until my mum or I just gave in for the sake of peace. It’s not surprising that I went for men who were domineering and who very much were passive-aggressive in their manner, who sapped away at my self-confidence such that after leaving one I hooked up with another. Even when I left him too I almost started with someone else in a similar vein but luckily I finally got enough self-awareness to realise that it would be a bad move.
During the trial Helen finally reveals that she didn’t want to get pregnant by Rob and that he raped her repeatedly until she became pregnant.
I can safely say that I acquiesced to sex lots of times, because the alternative was an argument for several hours as to why I didn’t want sex, what was wrong with me, whose fault it was and why I was so unreasonable. Does that count as rape? I don’t know and I’m not about to contact the police so in that sense it doesn’t matter. But would I put myself in that situation again? No way.
I have a friend who used to get thumped by he partner. Eventually she got out and years after she actually got free of him. I think physical violence is easier to recognise, identify and denote as unacceptable. It’s easier to mark the boundary. Rob’s dad said something about what happens between a man and wife should stay between them. Luckily we have moved on from there although sadly not all cultures have.
I never listened to The Archers regularly, just got to the point where I wouldn’t turn it off it was on. I don’t like soaps. They did sensationalise it and make it go on too long which is the nature of the beast. But I have listened to every single episode over the last however many months it’s been. I have cried. I have remembered. I have felt. It’s even helped clarify some thoughts. Can we get back to worrying about the future of farming now though?
P.S. If you’re wondering what the hell The Archers is and what I’m blethering on about, try here for the short version.