The Archers tackles historic child abuse in latest harrowing storyline

Radio 4 drama The Archers
Radio 4 drama The Archers Credit: BBC

 

The Archers is to tackle the topic of historic child abuse, as an elderly character reveals he was a victim of a family friend in the latest campaign-driven storyline from the Radio 4 soap. 

The long-running BBC drama has embarked on a controversial new plot, after character Jim Lloyd, played by actor John Rowe, disclosed he had been abused as an eight-year-old boy.

In an emotional episode aired on Friday, a sobbing Jim finally told his son about the “terrible secret”, kept for a lifetime, after recognising his now wheelchair-bound abuser at a party. 

Describing how the neighbour and family friend, trusted by his parents, had sexually assaulted him as a schoolboy, he told how he had “fought as hard as I could” in a harrowing scene that unveiled the long-running trauma he had experienced.

 Jeremy Howe, editor of The Archer, said: “By exploring historic sexual abuse in The Archers we are hopeful it will help others who have had similar experiences to speak out. We know how important it is to tell a story as difficult as this accurately and truthfully.

 

John Rowe plays character Jim Lloyd Credit: BBC

 

“We have worked closely with organisations like SurvivorsUK [specialists in male sexual abuse] who have highlighted how a long running drama like The Archers can have a really positive impact when it portrays an important subject in this way. 

“It is a responsibility everyone in Ambridge - both behind and in front of the mic - takes very seriously.”

Fans have long suspected a big revelation was coming, after a scene at a surprise birthday party in which Jim stormed out in a “moment of madness”. 

It came to a head during last night’s episode after a sustained campaign from daughter-in-law Shula to convince him to speak about recent odd behaviour. 

Earlier in the week, he had become emotional after learning that a new character, “that man” Harold Jayston, had played his keyboard at the party, destroying the “spoiled and tainted” item and bursting into tears for reasons unknown to listeners. 

 

Jeremy Howe, editor of The Archers Credit: BBC

 

The storyline will no doubt be watched carefully by campaigners, with hopes that it could become a nationwide topic of conversation in the footsteps of previous heavyweight plot lines on the show. 

In 2016, a domestic violence storyline between characters Helen and Rob was widely praised for its slow-burning and chillingly realistic development, making the theme of coercive control a household debate. 

The charity Refuge, which received more than £170,000 in donations from Archers fans as a result, said that it 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”.