What the Archers highlights so well about childhood abuse

Many of the issues which came up in the Archers on BBC Radio 4 last week are things we hear about on our support line every day. Around one in seven people were telling someone for the very first time about what happened to them as a child. NAPAC provides support to around 250 contacts a week through its telephone and email support service for adults who suffered any type of abuse in childhood.


Jim on his neighbour Harold: ‘One of the nicest of these neighbours was a young man called Harold.
‘Back then he was a friendly sociable young man. He became a good friend of my parents. My father was wrapped up in his work a lot of the time. Harold was always up for a joke or a game.
‘You might even say I was something of a favourite of his, for me he was quite a role model.’
Jim then says how one afternoon, everything changed: ‘It began as just another game, a bit of horseplay. Play fighting, tickling, roughing around. Then somehow we ended up upstairs, in my room. That’s when it all happened.’

Abuse is usually perpetrated by someone the child knows, often a family member or a friend of the family. Abusers may groom a child parents prior to grooming the child. The process of developing a connection with the intent of sexual abuse, commonly referred to as ‘grooming’, typically involves the abuser identifying what is lacking in the child’s life and then meeting those unmet needs. The abuser might offer the child anything from food, attention, physical care and touch, clothing, toys, day trips or anything else that the child needs or desires. Read our booklet ‘Untangling the web of confusion’

Guilt and shame

Jim: ‘The same thing happened again and again and again: I was just too ashamed and frightened to say a word. I couldn’t tell them. Nobody knew. Nobody at all.’

The emotional manipulation which happens through grooming leads to many children feeling that they chose to go along with the abuse, making them far less likely to disclose to someone else what is happening. In the long term, survivors are left with a crushing sense of self-blame, shame and guilt that can carry long into adulthood.
Read more on our Common Concerns page ‘Why do I feel guilt and shame?’

Disclosure – the decision to tell someone what happened to you as a child

At first Jim says: ‘What I’m going to tell you now, I’ve never told anyone before in my whole life. It’s about me as a child when I was eight years old.’
Alistair to Jim, after Jim tells him: ‘Such a terrible secret and you kept it all these years’

The majority of our callers did not disclose until decades after the event. Saying out loud what happened to you is a challenging but profound experience. For most, it is a crucial step in their recovery journey. It is important to consider who to disclose to and what the consequences of the disclosure might be. First and foremost, it is important to consider potential consequences of a disclosure for you. Disclosing to a person who is unable to listen and respond appropriately can be re-traumatising. Reflect with care on who to choose as a safe and appropriate recipient of your disclosure – whether it’s within your family, among friends or a professional.

Read more on disclosure in our common concerns section ‘Should I disclose my experience of abuse and, if yes, to whom?’

The reaction of family or friends

Jazzer’s reaction when he hears Jim: ‘I’m going to find that bastard and I’m going to kill him.’
Alistair’s reaction when he hears Jim: ‘You won’t have to face this alone.’

If someone you love discloses that they were abused as a child, how should you react and what can you do to help?
Read our tips ‘Know a survivor’

NAPAC support line

If you want to tell someone what happened to you, you can call us in confidence. Calls are free and they won’t show on your bill. It’s up to you what you tell us. We don’t ask names, we don’t record calls. Don’t be alone with it. NAPAC telephone support line 0808 801 0331

The Archers

The Archers episode was aired episode on Friday 26 June 2019 ‘BBC online – Life will never be the same for one family as a dark secret is revealed’

Summary of the storyline

At Greenacres Jim asks Jazzer and Alistair to sit down, he has something to tell them. He offers them both an apology and an explanation that may be difficult for them to listen to. Jim tells them that when he was growing up, he had a neighbour called Harold Jayston. The man who invited himself to the party. When Jim was eight years old, Harold started abusing him and Jim’s life was never the same again. Jazzer is furious and says he wants to find Harold and kill him. Alistair sends him away, he needs to be alone with Jim. Alistair tells Jim that he did the right thing in telling them. It changes everything. Now Alistair knows, Jim won’t have to face it alone anymore; he promises he’s here for him.

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