And the soap are working closely with Refuge and Women’s Aid on the storyline.
Chantelle and Gray moved to Albert Square earlier this year with their two 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 uncomfortable scenes during tonight's episode (Friday 12th July), we witnessed the devastating truth about what's been happening behind closed doors between Chantelle and
Gray. As Gray attacked his wife the instant they were alone and it soon became clear this was not the first time it has happened.
Despite being part of the close-knit Taylor family, Chantelle has yet to tell anyone the truth about the abuse she suffers at her husband’s hands and continues to harbour the secret.
Speaking about the storyline, Jessica Plummer who plays Chantelle Atkins 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.”
And Toby Alexander Smith who plays Gray Atkins said “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.”
Whilst Kate Oates, Head of Continuing Drama Series for the BBC added “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.”
Chief executive of Refuge, Sandra Horley CBE says: “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."
Going on to say "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.”
Whilst Head of Communications for Women’s Aid, Teresa Parker added "It is important when portraying domestic abuse on screen to make it as realistic as possible, and EastEnders have been working with us from the early stages of the storyline, 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.
As well as using our knowledge of survivors’ stories to inform our feedback, we visited the show with Natalie, who is a survivor of domestic abuse who campaigns with us at Women’s Aid. She met with the scriptwriters and with Jessica who plays the part of Chantelle, to talk through what it is really like to experience abuse in a relationship. We look forward to supporting Jessica, Toby and the EastEnders team as they develop this new storyline, which will raise so much awareness of what is often a hidden issue.”
EastEnders continues Mondays, Tuesdays, Thursdays and Fridays on BBC One