Domestic Violence – what does it mean?

by Jon Whettingsteel

Whether or not you are a fan of The Archers on Radio 4 you will heard about the recent storyline involving Helen Titchener who stood trial for stabbing her husband. There are no spoilers below and I won’t reveal the verdict!


Helen’s trial was the culmination of a storyline lasting more than two and a half years with Helen being a victim of domestic abuse at the hands of her husband Rob.  The abuse, as is frequently the case, escalated over time. Rob’s suspect behaviour began in February 2014 after Helen spent a long time preparing a meal for Rob which he then refused to eat, saying he ‘didn’t like tuna’ and on New Year’s Eve 2014 Helen selected a dress which Rob decided was ‘too revealing’. In 2015 matters escalated, with Rob forcing himself on Helen resulting in a friend noticing bruising around Helen’s wrist. Rob continued exhibiting controlling behaviour, including stopping Helen driving and isolating her from her friends by convincing her he was ‘looking after her’ and she ‘didn’t need anybody else’. Rob convinced Helen she was the one with issues and persuaded her to see a psychiatrist. This conduct is sometimes referred to as ‘gaslighting’; a reference to the play Gaslight in which a husband makes his wife believe she is losing her mind.



Ingrid Bergman in Gaslight

Due to Rob’s behaviour Helen was isolated from her friends and family and had few people to turn to for help; it took some time before she found the courage and strength to tell her close friend who convinced her to phone a helpline and seek assistance.

Matters went full circle and during dinner one evening in April 2016 when the couple were eating a tuna pasta, Rob denied ever saying he didn’t like tuna and Helen must have imagined it. When Helen told Rob she was leaving him and an argument ensued, Helen stabbed Rob.

Although this trial marks the end of one aspect of this story, it is far from over with the couple now pursuing court proceedings for their two children.

This story, and subsequent media coverage has done an excellent job in highlighting the changes in legislation which included the definition of domestic violence to include ‘any incident or pattern of incidents of controlling, coercive of threatening behaviour, violence or abuse.’ This includes emotional, financial and psychological abuse, not just physical. The length of time over which this story had unfolded has also served to illustrate how perpetrators of domestic abuse seek to manipulate and control their victims over time, sometimes over a period of years.

Women’s Aid report that in England and Wales two women are killed by their partners or ex-partners every week and 95% of female survivors of domestic violence report being victims of coercive control.

As well as women it is important to remember men can also be victims of domestic violence with The Office for National Statistics releasing figures stating for the year ending March 2015 around 1.3 million women and 600,000 men in England and Wales reported being victims of domestic violence. There is a stigma for men in reporting the issue which is still considered a ‘taboo’ subject.

In April 2013 Michelle Mills received a prison sentence after being convicted of murdering her boyfriend Edward Miller who had been subject to a history of physical, verbal and emotional abuse from Miss Mills.

The family department at Shentons have a number of years of experience in helping victims of domestic violence as well as those that have been accused of perpetrating domestic abuse in both a family and criminal capacity. We believe it is important not just to put in legal measures to protect victims of abuse and their childrenm, such as Occupation and Non-Molestation orders but also in working with a number of local agencies to provide them with ongoing support. We recognise that many need more to overcome the trauma of past experiences and we have strong connections with a number of local agencies who can offer long term support and assistance, such as the Women’s programme at The Trinity Centre in Winchester.


To seek advice about any of the above issues or any family matters please call our offices on 01962 844544. All calls will be treated in the strictest confidence.