This story follows Helen and Rob Titchner, newlyweds who’re expecting their first child, and therein lies the problem. There was an outcry among listeners in September when Rob appeared to sexually assault his new wife, who not much later fell pregnant. Helen, who already has a young son, has been ambivalent about a second child all along, but at each turn has been talked – or pushed – into going along with the idea by her husband. This is what has recently become known as reproductive coercion.
The Committee on Healthcare for Underserved Women defines reproductive coercion as “behaviour related to reproductive health intended to maintain power and control in a relationship” and that such behaviours might include “explicit attempts to impregnate a partner against her will, control outcomes of a pregnancy, coerce a partner to have unprotected sex, or interfere with contraceptive methods.”
There are currently no specific laws regarding reproductive coercion in the UK, though it would certainly fall into the category of ‘unreasonable behaviour’ if someone were seeking a divorce. That said, Helen, and many other women suffering this kind of emotional and psychological abuse, may not be in the right place even to contemplate divorce.
Sean O’Connor, who edits The Archers, has said: “The next part of the story will be about Helen understanding what has happened to her and we are being advised by professional bodies and by charities on the way this story will develop.”
We’ll have to check back in and see if these developments are more family law fact or family law fiction.