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Duchess praises domestic abuse survivor for advice on Archers storyline

The Duchess of Cornwall has praised a domestic abuse survivor for the advice she gave to The Archers over the radio show's hard-hitting coercive control storyline.

Camilla told Mandy Thomas on a visit to the Women's Aid head office in Bristol: "You have brought it out in the open and people are talking about it."

The BBC Radio 4 soap gripped the nation as Rob Titchener, played by Timothy Watson, subjected his wife Helen, played by Louiza Patikas, to many months of abuse - slowly chipping away at her confidence and controlling nearly her every move.

Miss Thomas, a Women's Aid ambassador who has described herself a "real life" Helen Titchener, shared her own story with Camilla, telling of the horrific torture, rape and mental abuse she faced from her ex.

Ahead of the soap's award-winning storyline, Miss Thomas met with actress Louiza Patikas to help her portray the situation correctly .

Camilla said: "The advice you gave to The Archers has been so brilliant because people who have never heard about it before, people who didn't understand about coercive control, now understand about it.

"They became gripped. They had no idea - and I was probably guilty of that too - a lot of us had no idea quite how terrible it was and how easy people were taken in.

"Along comes the charming man who's polite... but they don't see this other darker side."

Miss Thomas thanked Camilla and said she was proud of the work they had done with the show.

Polly Neate, chief executive of Women's Aid, said: "Valentine's Day is a day to celebrate love. But, it is not a happy time for everyone. For women living with domestic abuse, Valentine's Day can provide no light relief.

"So, we are especially grateful that the Duchess of Cornwall is championing our work on this significant day, and sending out the powerful message that domestic abuse does not stop on Valentine's Day."

Camilla also had an emotional meeting with Claire Throssell, a spokeswoman for the charity's Child First campaign to change the family courts, whose two sons, Jack and Paul, were both murdered by her husband during family court-ordered access.

Women's Aid works to end domestic abuse against women and children and has been at the forefront of shaping and coordinating responses to domestic violence and abuse for over 40 years.

The Duchess is passionate about raising awareness of domestic violence and has spoken in the past of how society needs to challenge the "corrosive" silence that surrounds it.

She hosted a reception at Clarence House last year for survivors of domestic abuse and those working in the field.

Camilla, who is an avid fan of The Archers, made a cameo guest appearance on the show in 2011.

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