EastEnders revealed last night (July 12, 2019) that they've been working with Refuge and Women's Aid on a domestic abuse storyline involving two of its new additions to the Square: Chantelle and Gray Atkins (Jessica Plummer and Toby-Alexander Smith).
When the couple moved to Walford earlier this year with their two children, they looked to have the perfect life. Both successful in their careers, they were the vision of a young professional duo, clearly in love.
However, in last night's episode, audiences were shocked to see Gray's violent side come to the forefront when he failed to win the marathon around the Square. As soon as he and his wife were behind closed doors, he accused her of laughing at him before punching her in the stomach.
It quickly became clear that this wasn't the first time the physical abuse had happened, and Gray showed how manipulative he could be, first apologising to his wife, before flipping the abuse on its head and attempting to convince Chantelle that it was her fault.
Speaking about the storyline, Plummer said: "I feel honoured to take on the responsibility of Chantelle’s story. This is an issue that I, and everyone at EastEnders, hope we can raise awareness of. 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."
Smith added: "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. Domestic abuse, in all its forms is against the law and is shrouded in secrecy. I hope that by tackling such a sensitive subject matter we can raise awareness of the importance of changing societal values so that both women and men’s rights to live free from abuse, invasion, disempowerment and intimidation are respected."
Head of the soap, Kate Oates said that "there is truth in the old adage that you don't know what goes on behind closed doors", adding: "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."
Refuge, a charity tackling domestic violence for women and children, have commended EastEnders for picking up such a vital storyline, whilst Women's Aid were also on hand to make sure that the abuse shown in the soap is as realistic as possible.
"EastEnders have been working with us from the early stages of the storyline," says Women's Aid's Head of Communications, Teresa Parker, "through to advising on themes to the detail of the scripts. From the initial red flags to seeing what is going on behind closed doors, this storyline has been thoroughly researched with experts in domestic abuse."
EastEnders continues throughout the week on BBC One.
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