Archers' fans donate £80,000 to Refuge in wake of Helen and Rob storyline
Fans of The Archers have donated more than £80,000 to a campaign in support of women's shelter Refuge - the most ever raised for the charity by an individual supporter.
Listeners of the BBC Radio 4 soap opera have been shocked by a hard-hitting storyline about the domestic abuse of long-standing character Helen Archer by her husband Rob Titchener .
A JustGiving page was set up two months ago by one horrified fan, who launched The Helen Titchener (nee Archer) Rescue Fund.
Archers' fan Paul Trueman's page has now attracted almost 5,000 donations from concerned listeners, the most raised by an individual in Refuge's 45-year history.
Rob has conducted a sustained campaign of psychological - and more recently, physical - abuse against his wife, with a suggestion that this may have included rape.
He has gradually isolated Helen from her friends and family, manoeuvred her out of her job, and destroyed her self-confidence. Last week, he slapped her - but managed to persuade her it was her own fault.
Mr Trueman wrote: "If over the last year or two you've sworn at the radio, tweeted in outrage, taken the name 'Robert' in vain, or posted your disgust at the worsening situation in Blossom Hill Cottage, then now's your chance to do something constructive about it."
He urged people to donate to Refuge in aid of "all the women who are genuinely stuck in relationships like this - and much, much worse."
Figures released two weeks ago to the Press Association showed that calls to the national domestic abuse helpline have soared by nearly a fifth in a year.
Polly Neate, chief executive of the charity Women's Aid, credits an "Archers Effect" with helping to raise awareness that domestic abuse affects all sorts of people, including middle-class independent women in sleepy villages.
6,774 calls were made to the national domestic abuse helpline in February this year compared with 5,783 in February 2015 - an increase of 17%.
:: The Freephone 24-Hour National Domestic Violence Helpline, run in partnership between Women's Aid and Refuge, can be reached on 0808 2000 247.