Chantelle Atkins’ husband Gray turned nasty in tonight’s episode.
“When Chantelle and Gray arrived on the Square, they gave many of their neighbours a big dose of life-envy with their perfect relationship and no-filter-needed looks and lifestyle. But there is truth in the old adage that you don’t know what goes on behind closed doors; and the very first time we crossed the threshold of No 1, we saw the truth of their relationship, and the violence Gray subjects Chantelle to.
“In this story, we seek to acknowledge the fact that any relationship, however outwardly enviable, can be affected by violence and abuse. Chantelle is strong and capable, with friends and family to support her; and yet she is still unable to voice what is happening to her, and is therefore preventing anyone from helping her because she regards her abuse as a shameful secret. We hope this story encourages women and men who experience violence to seek out the help we know they deserve.” – Kate Oates, Head of Continuing Drama
Chantelle (Jessica Plummer) and Gray (Toby Alexander Smith) moved to Albert Square earlier this year with their children Mia and Mackenzie. As they settled into Walford, they seemed to have the perfect life. Gray, a successful solicitor and Chantelle a hair stylist, they were the vision of a young professional couple, deeply in love.
However, in tonight’s episode (Friday 12th July), viewers learnt that this was just a façade and that the Atkins relationship is very different behind closed doors when Gray took his frustrations out on Chantelle after being ribbed in the pub for failing to beat his father-in-law Mitch Baker, who he has been struggling to connect with, in the Walford 10k run.
After punching Chantelle in the ribs Gray later said “You know I never mean it”, implying that this is not the first time he has lashed out at her.
“Many women and men that are in Chantelle’s situation suffer in silence and we really hope that by showing this story we can highlight an issue and encourage those in similar situations to seek the help they need,” Jessica Plummer noted of the storyline.
“Chantelle and Gray’s journey is about to take a huge turn for the audience. This storyline will depict how hidden from sight domestic abuse remains even today. To the unaware eye Gray appears to be a loving husband and a committed father; but his charm is a front for the power and control he exerts over Chantelle – an experience all too common to thousands of women up and down the country today,” added Toby Alexander Smith.
Despite being a part of the close-knit Taylor family, Chantelle has yet to confide in anyone about the abuse she suffers at her husband’s hands and continues to harbour the secret.
EastEnders is working with Refuge and Women’s Aid on the storyline.
“Domestic abuse is the biggest issue affecting women and children in this country today. It is a crime which takes the lives of two women every week in England and Wales alone, with one in four women experiencing the issue in their lifetime. Domestic abuse mostly happens behind closed doors – hidden, lurking in the shadows of our society.
“The more we all understand domestic abuse, be it the physical, emotional, sexual, financial control exerted by one partner over another – and are able to spot the signs – more women, like Chantelle, will be able to seek help from specialist organisations like Refuge. No one should live in fear of their partner. Refuge commends EastEnders for shining a light on this insidious issue.” – Sandra Horley, CBE, chief executive of Refuge
Teresa Parker, Head of Communications for Women’s Aid added: “From the initial red flags to seeing what’s going on behind closed doors, this storyline has been thoroughly researched with experts in domestic abuse. We visited the show with Natalie, a survivor of domestic abuse who campaigns with us at Women’s Aid. She met with the writers and with Jessica who plays Chantelle, to talk through what it is really like to experience abuse in a relationship.”