How NOT To Leave A Coercive Controlling Partner | Masterclass from Helen Titchener nee Archer

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by Annie Kaszina on April 7, 2016

How to leave a coercive controlling partner is the very last thing most people think about.  Recent episodes of the Archers have left listeners reeling: that kind of domestic violence doesn’t happen in Ambridge – except that now it has. And what a blessing it is that it has.  Because Domestic violence is no respecter of class, education or, as Rob Titchener himself put it, living in a ‘chocolate box village’. Domestic violence and coercive control, are ugly and distressing, especially for the victims – most of whom, like Helen, suffer unnoticed, unseen and unheard.  This week that changed.

Poor Helen Titchener, now quite possibly murderess Helen, gave us a master class in how not to leave a coercive controlling partner.  Until the point when Helen stabbed Rob, it was just like so many other – true – stories of Domestic violence and coercive control.  Leaving aside the unforeseeable (and somewhat improbable) stabbing,  here’s where Helen went wrong:

How NOT to leave a coercive controlling partner like Rob Titchener

  • She tried to get away from her coercive controlling partner without the support she needed.  She thought she had to do it all by herself. In fact, that was the most naïve – and dangerous -thing she could have done.
  • She was woefully ill-informed.  Yes, she had had that chat with Jess. She’d discovered that Rob is, in his ex-wife’s eyes, a monster.  But she had no idea how dangerous it is to deal with a monster. Had she but known that the risk factor goes sky high when the victim  of coercive control – and outright domestic violence – is leaving (and remains sky high after they leave) then she would have made better decisions: not least, to keep her friend, Kirsty, with her.  Had Helen had someone with her, chances are the situation would not have escalated the way that it did.
  • She didn’t have a clear plan. Having finally ‘seen the light’, to some degree, Helen just wanted out.  She hadn’t thought that Rob was constantly watching her and, therefore, likely to be one step ahead of her.  (The choice of music he chose before ‘going for his shower’, The Eagles, “Lying Eyes” is proof enough.)  She had no idea how cunning Rob was, or the lengths he would go to not just to stop her but to break her psychologically.
  • She wanted to have a reasonable conversation with someone who operates through coercive control.  She wanted to be able to sit down, like civilized people, over dinner, and have a half-way civilized conversation.  Helen was mistaking how she hoped things could be with the reality she was still struggling to admit to herself.
  • She was still in denial. She was still struggling to accept that her husband had hit her because he is violent.  Therefore she couldn’t possibly admit to herself that he was increasingly likely to escalate the violence.  In the event, he opted for the crazy manoeuvre of putting a knife in her hand but, not foreseeing that she might do with it what many listeners have been wishing for months.

How not to leave a coercive controlling partner

What are the lessons here for anyone who’s made the decision to leave a coercive, controlling and possibly violent partner?

  • Get help. Seemingly, Helen had one conversation with the Domestic Violence helpline. But she didn’t understand what she was up against.  She desperately needed to enlist the support of family, friends, the police, and a Domestic Violence counsellor.  Lives are lost every week because victims of domestic violence don’t get the support they need.
  • Have a clear plan of action. You need to plan carefully to ensure that it will be as safe as it possibly can be to leave.  Be sure to have everything you need – including passport, money, credit cards, and important documents – ready ahead of time and, ideally, safely stored, somewhere else, with a trusted friend or family member.
  • Don’t even think about having a civilized conversation face to face with the person who has driven you to this decision by how badly they’ve treated you.  There is nothing to be gained but plenty to lose – at the very least, in terms of the tongue-lashing you can expect from a partner.
  • Don’t wait until you break. There were plenty of points earlier in the life of the relationship when Helen knew things were terribly wrong: when he raped her, when he started isolating her from the world,  when he confiscated her car keys, and when he turned his abusive behaviour on his 5 year old step-son to name a few.  Each time Helen stayed she unwittingly gave Rob carte blanche to up the ante.
  • Don’t make excuses for bad behaviour. Rob is a text-book Jekyll and Hyde abuser. Even when Helen couldn’t miss Rob’s horrible behaviour, she chose to overlook it.
  • Don’t be a hopium addict. Helen stayed as long as she stayed, despite becoming increasingly fearful and depersonalised, because she hoped she could still have the fairy tale. Yes, he had raped her a couple of times, struck her, and been wantonly cruel to her son, but until just a couple of days before she left, she still hoped that something would magically transform him, so that they really could have the Happily Ever After.

The moral of the Helen and Rob storyline. 

Rob Titchener was able to get away with abusing, isolating and psychologically torturing his wife until she could take no more – and almost nobody noticed. Helen’s own family didn’t make sense of what they saw because Coercive Control just wasn’t on their radar. Helen suffered as much as she did, with huge consequences for the rest of her life – and her son’s – because she tried to deny, or minimize, what was happening. The only way to prevent the kind of tragedy currently unfolding in The Archers is to break the silence and learn about coercive control, so you stand a much better chance of recognizing the signs early on.

Warm wishes for your healing and happiness,

Annie Kaszina

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