Posted by Jane Chanot on 22nd April 2016
Last updated 23rd January 2023


The crime that has touched the public through an everyday tale of country folk 

 The Governments Coercive or Controlling Behaviour Offence came into effect on the 29th December 2015.  This means that victims who have experienced behaviour that is extreme psychological abuse but stops short of serious physical violence can now face criminal proceedings which carry a maximum imprisonment of 5 years or a fine or both.

It’s now a crime

The Serious Crime Act 2015 under Section 76 addressed what was seen as a gap in the law where physical violence did not manifest itself but offenders were able to control and coerce those with whom they had an intimate relationship or a family member.

Listeners to the Archers on Radio 4 have over the past 2½ years will have heard such a relationship develop first hand with the characters of  Rob and Helen Titchener. Helen has come from a vulnerable background both in terms of losing a partner to suicide as well as suffering anorexia.  She had had a child, Henry, with the assistance of a Fertility Clinic.  She therefore may seem to be the sort of person who would be susceptible to this type of abusive relationship and someone desperate to find her Mr Right. The reality however is that anyone of any class, creed or culture can fall prey to a perpetrator of coercive or controlling behaviour.

Controlling behaviour patterns

Listeners to the Archers have expressed their disbelief at the length of time this type of relationship can take to build.  This however is a relatively short period for such a relationship to build and to continue and those who fall victim to such perpetrators can feel lost and alone for many years.

The insidious behaviour of Rob Titchener has shown how Helen has gradually been convinced by him that she is having a mental health crisis, becoming so confused by his controlling behaviour that she struggles to make decisions for herself and even accepting she is an a relationship.  He has also sought to undermine her relationship with her young son as well as alienating her from family and friends.

It is a close friend, Kirsty, who recognised the nature of Rob’s behaviour and how it had changed her friend resulting in her encouraging Helen to talk to a Help Line.  Helen however cannot see this and is easily swayed by Rob’s controlling charm.

Evidence & Support

It is evident that the police also struggle to recognise how her assaulting Rob has come about due to abusive behaviour.  The difficulty arises due to the lack of evidence.  Outwardly he appears the model husband and hero of the community but behind closed doors he is quite the opposite reflecting a Jekyll and Hyde personality.  It is hoped that Jess, his first wife, will hold the key for Helen.  Although her name has yet to be mentioned again since Helen’s attack upon Rob, it was Jess who convinced Helen to leave Rob having convinced Helen that she would have been a shadow of herself if he had be able to maintain his total control of her.

The incident which ensues between Rob and Helen reflects the extremes difficulties that can arise in leaving the perpetrator leaving and highlights the need for support in these situations.

Who do you talk to

The story line has been supported by advisers from the charity, Refuge.  The public are showing their support by donating through Just Giving to the “Helen Titchener Rescue Fund” which has now raised in excess of £122,000.

Refuge is a National Charity set up for women and children against Domestic Violence.  They have a 24 hour National Domestic Helpline who can be called on 08082000247.

Charities locally to Exeter who can also be contact for help and support for victims of domestic abuse and with whom The Family Law Company have close links are:

  • SAFE (Stop Abuse For Everyone) who have been delivering serviced in Exeter for the last 40 years to provide support for those affected by Domestic Violence and Abuse and its contact number is 01392 269544.
  • Splitz Support Service who provide one to one support to adult victims of Domestic Abuse whose contact number is 0345 155 1074.
  • SEEDS (Survivors Educating and Empowering with Domestic Abuse Services) who can be contacted on 07866355409.
  • Other Help lines are Devon’s Domestic Abuse Helpline on 03451551074.
  • Rape Crisis Helpline on 08088029999.
  • Men Have Rights Too is a charity offering help and support for men and their families in or who have been in an abusive or violent relationship. Tel:  07456 257 457

Getting good legal advice

The Family Law Company’s Private Law Children Team provide support and legal advice regarding all forms of Domestic Abuse call 01392 421777.

Need some advice? Get in touch today

Jane Chanot is an experienced Mediator, Collaborative Law Solicitor and Director at The Family Law Company. Jane works in the areas of divorce, finance and children law. She also specialises in jurisdictional matters relating to children.

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