In a controversial new storyline the long-running Radio 4 drama the Archers have decided to address the issue of historic/non-recent child sexual abuse.
For those who tune into the radio show you will be aware that in recent years the Archers have confronted some of the more thorny issues that we face as a society.
In addressing the issue of historic/non-recent child abuse, in last Friday’s episode an elderly character disclosed that he was sexually abused in his own home by a family friend when he was eight years old. The character confided in his son that he had kept this “terrible secret” for a lifetime and finally disclosed it when he came face to face with his abuser at a surprise birthday party.
The elderly character described how in effect he was groomed by this man who was a neighbour and close family friend, trusted by his parents. He told how he had “fought as hard as I could” against the abuse but the perpetrator was bigger and stronger than him and so there was nothing he could do to stop the abuse.
The BBC have advised that they have worked closely with Survivors UK, an organisation that offers support to male survivors of sexual abuse and assault and Rape Crisis to develop the storyline.
The producers of the show hope that in dealing with sexual abuse on the show that it might encourage survivors of child sexual abuse to come forward, disclose the abuse and seek the appropriate help and support.
Katherine Cox, Supervisor, Counsellor and Groupwork Co-ordinator at Survivors UK says: “Hearing one’s own story reflected in drama can give people the words to describe their experience and help to make what feels unsayable more sayable. In a drama, a survivor can also use the reactions of others to reflect on possible reactions of people in their own life. People also use speaking about a storyline as a gateway into saying, ‘that happened to me too.’”
Director of Survivors UK, Andy Connolly, explains: “In a world where [a survivor] might feel invisible or ignored, a high-profile story such as this can really help a survivor feel that their needs and experiences are represented in the public realm.”
In 2016 the Archers ran a storyline addressing domestic violence between two central characters the main theme being that of coercive control, this storyline saw donations exceeding £170,000 being made to the charity Refuge from fans of the show.
At that time Refuge reported that the storyline had “raised unprecedented awareness of domestic violence, as well as incredible amounts of money to go towards Refuge’s frontline services, which at the time supported 3,800 women and children on any given day”.
No doubt campaigners and charities providing help to prevent child sexual abuse and support where abuse has occurred will be hoping for a similar impact.
Written by Sharon Moohan at BLM