I feel terribly panicky and need some help. I never miss The Archers on Radio 4, and have been following the Helen and Rob storyline. Yesterday's episode has affected me very badly. You see, I am in a relationship with a man who has been mentally and physically abusing me. He is extremely powerful, and to outsiders he is regarded as a pillar of society. I feel no one will believe me when I tell them what I have to put up with. After I moved in with him last year, his kind loving manner changed, and he has become increasingly critical and aggressive towards me.I was dealing with things okay, until I gave up my job three months ago, because my partner became jealous and thought I was too friendly with my work colleagues. I miss them so much, as work was an outlet from my home life. I did have a best friend, but the last time she came to see me, my partner made her feel so uncomfortable that she has since stayed away from me. My parents and I have fallen out because I refused to leave my partner after he hit me, and they called me pathetic for putting up with him. Nothing I do for him is right. He insults my cooking, and just yesterday threw a meal I had prepared for him over the kitchen floor. He told me that I don't deserve him and that I am a useless girlfriend, and insults me in the bedroom too. I feel so worthless, and can't see me ever completely moving on from this experience.Listening to The Archers yesterday has made me realise I have got to get away from this monster, but I am so scared, and don't know how to go about this. Please don't think of me as being weak for putting up with this man's behaviour. I don't know how it reached this state. What do I do?Patricia Marie says...
Observing other people's lives, either from listening to radio productions, watching soaps or indeed, in real life, can often allow us to see our own situation more clearly. Helen and Rob's domestic violence storyline in The Archers on Radio 4 has gripped the nation, and would have affected many, especially those, such as yourself, who have experienced this type of abuse.
By writing to me, you have shown great courage in taking the first step to change your life. Understandably, you are scared and fearful, but living as you are must no longer be an option. You have allowed yourself to be treated by this man with neither love nor respect, and I urge you now to set yourself free from this intolerable situation, regain some self respect, and live the life you very much deserve.
Do not apologise for being weak. Your partner has used bullying tactics to manipulate you and disguise his own weakness. I feel your parents' reaction was perhaps due to anger and frustration, not a personal affront. Please contact them to explain you have now reached breaking point and need to leave your partner. They will, I am sure, be extremely relieved to hear this, and you need to be proud of yourself for making this life-changing decision.
Remember, you do not have to deal with this alone. Women's Aid are there for victims of domestic abuse, offering emergency assistance, which could even mean accompanying you to collect your personal belongings in safety. As well as ongoing support and legal advice, they offer counselling, which will help you address the low self esteem caused by your partner's continued physical and mental abuse. With professional help and the love of your family you should begin to feel stronger. Be assured too that once you feel able to return to work, you will make friends again and be the person you once were, not the controlled one you became. You will survive this.
For every fictional Helen there are real ones, and as this plot has shown, and mirroring your own experience, abusers are often initially charming and loving, until their partner is fully committed to them. Then begins the gradual process of controlling, intimidating and abusing their victim, gradually isolating them from friends and family, and making them wholly dependent on the perpetrator.
The insightful writers have received much praise for the realism, which many listeners have found disturbing and uncomfortable, never expecting anything quite so shocking to happen in The Archers' beautiful rural village of Ambridge. They have emphasised that domestic abuse can happen in any community, and to anyone, and this powerful storyline will hopefully encourage others such as yourself to reach out for help.For anyone affected by domestic violence, call the 24 hour Women's Aid Helpline on 0800 2000 247 www.womensaid.org.uk