WARNING: The following article discusses domestic abuse.
Since arriving in Walford, EastEnders fans have been wondering how long it would be before Chantelle Atkins (played by Jessica Plummer) escapes the abuse she has endured for years at the hands of her husband, Gray Atkins (Toby-Alexander Smith). However, the BBC has confirmed, the mother of two will be killed later this month. When the soap returns, viewers will see how her harrowing ordeal has worsened throughout lockdown and sadly, to mirror what is happening in reality, Gray will take Chantelle’s life.
Over the past few months, Refuge, which runs the 24 hour National Domestic Abuse Helpline, has seen calls and contacts to this life-saving service soar during the pandemic.
Whilst Women’s Aid released the startling statistics that over two-thirds of survivors reported their domestic abuse escalating in lockdown.
And this will be mirrored on screen as Chantelle has been isolating with her husband and the show picks up as she makes the big decision to file for divorce.
After attempting to escape, devastatingly Chantelle doesn’t make it and is killed at the hand of her abuser.
Jon Sen, EastEnders Executive Producer said: “Chantelle’s story is such an important one to tell accurately and upon both character’s inception we planned her tragic ending with the intention of embedding the stark reality of domestic abuse at the heart of the Atkins family.
“Being able to shed light on the realities of what goes on behind closed doors has never been more crucial given the harrowing statistics as a result of the current pandemic and hopefully Chantelle’s story will encourage people to speak out to someone they trust and get the support that they need.
“Jessica’s performance is nothing short of extraordinary and even in her final scenes, the audience will be moved by Chantelle’s strength.
“We’re very sorry so see Jessica go but hope that her impact on viewers is long-lasting,” he added.
Her co-star, Toby also said: “We hope that Chantelle’s story gives people the courage to speak out before it’s too late and to know that there are services out there to help.
“Working with Women’s Aid and Refuge has been invaluable in understanding the mindset of an abuser and the awful realities of abusive relationships.
“With such a tragic ending bound to be shocking for the audience, hopefully it serves as an important reminder of the devastation domestic abuse causes, especially at the moment.
“Working with Jessica has been wonderful, she’ll be greatly missed and I am so thankful that we’re part of such an important story together,” he continued.
Teresa Parker, Head of Communications for Women’s Aid also commented: “It has been a pleasure to work so closely with the team at EastEnders during the development of this storyline, and they have really listened to the real life experiences of survivors of domestic abuse to ensure that the scripts have been as realistic as possible.
“At the beginning of the storyline, we visited the studios with a survivor of abuse who spoke to Jessica, which was very emotional and had a huge impact on how she has played the character of Chantelle.
“At Women’s Aid we know only too well how horrific Covid-19 has been for those living with abusive partners, and this will be reflected over the coming weeks as Chantelle’s story comes to an end – tragically her death reflects the reality of many women living with abusers, and many more women than usual were killed at the hands of their current or former partners during the first weeks of lockdown.
“I know that this storyline will help to save lives by raising huge awareness of domestic abuse, signposting to the support that is available and starting an important conversation about domestic abuse in the UK and beyond,” she added.
Lisa King, Director of communications and external relations from Refuge explained: “Refuge is delighted to have worked closely with EastEnders over many months on this important storyline.
“The Covid-19 crisis has magnified the reality that many survivors like Chantelle face every day.
“Domestic abuse is the biggest issue affecting our society and millions of women and girls remain trapped with an abusive partner.
“Sadly, Chantelle’s murder is not an isolated incident – on average, two women a week are killed by a current or former partner in England and Wales,” she concluded.
It is not know when or how Gray will kill Chantelle, nor the outcome for Gray after he has committed the murder.
If you or anyone you know has been affected by Chantelle’s storyline, please contact Refuge’s National Domestic Abuse Helpline on 0808 2000 247 or visit their website here.
EastEnders airs Mondays at 8pm and Tuesdays at 7.30pm on BBC One.
Published at Sun, 06 Sep 2020 21:00:00 +0000