EastEnders: How accurate is Gray Atkins’ abuse storyline? Charity speaks out

EastEnders: How accurate is Gray Atkins’ abuse storyline? Charity speaks out

August 16, 2021

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Gray (played by Toby-Alexander Smith) put wife Chantelle (Jessica Plummer) through a period of horrific abuse before her death last year. Heartbreakingly, Chantelle was killed at Gray’s hands just as she had decided to leave him, and the EastEnders storyline tragically reflects the reality of many, with an estimated two women a week killed by a current or former partner in England and Wales alone, according to the Office for National Statistics. Express.co.uk spoke to two domestic abuse charities, who confirmed the importance of soaps such as BBC’s EastEnders covering such issues.

Gray murdered his Chantelle and staged her death as a tragic accident almost one year ago.

She was silent about her abuse, which is the experience of many people in her situation in real life.

Chris Brook-Carter, chief executive of the Retail Trust, said: “We can all play a role in helping people around us experiencing abuse by first of all understanding what to look out for and then making sure anyone who needs help has access to the support they need.

“This could be as simple as displaying domestic abuse helpline numbers in a staffroom at work as well as making sure businesses have the right guidance to help their employees.”

Chantelle hid the truth from her family until she finally decided she had to take action.

On the day she was killed, she told Gray she was leaving after he found her packing her bags.

She also said she was taking their two young children with her.

“You can cancel my bank card, you can push me around, you can beat me black and blue but you will never win because I don’t love you anymore.

“I lost your baby and I was glad – look at you, what woman would want to be with a man like you?”

But Gray wouldn’t allow her to flee, and he left her to die in their home before staging the scene.

The charities explained that many domestic abuse victims do unnecessarily feel ashamed.

Razi explained: “Domestic abuse is nothing to feel ashamed of, and telling someone that you need help could save your life.

“The Domestic Abuse (DA) Alliance is also on hand to provide free, confidential legal advice and access to protection measures for anyone experiencing domestic abuse.

“This includes court orders to protect against violence and threats of violence from an abuser, and preventing all forms of communication from them.

“We can also help survivors seek special orders to protect any children involved in domestic abuse situations.”

“We now have on the Retail Trust’s website some of the key signs that may indicate someone is experiencing domestic abuse. “They include things like noticing unexplained injuries as well changes in behaviour, such as someone isolating themselves from their friends or family or being more secretive about their home life.”

This certainly happened in EastEnders, with Chantelle hiding things from those around her.

Talking about the importance of soaps covering domestic abuse, Razi continued: “It’s vital that TV shows continue to highlight issues like domestic abuse, as they have the power and reach to educate the public and, most importantly, encourage survivors to seek support.”

Throughout lockdown, domestic abuse cases have been on the rise.

Razi explained: “Our legal support service has seen a rise in referrals during the pandemic and nationally police have reported a

nine percent increase of offences flagged as domestic abuse (Police recorded 206,492 against the person offences that were flagged as domestic abuse between March and June 2020, compared to the same period in 2019).

“A workplace may be the only safe space for someone experiencing domestic abuse.

“With much of the UK workforce continuing to work from home, this can mean there is no escape.

“That’s why our work with charities like the Retail Trust, which supports the health and wellbeing of retail workers, is so important.

“If we can help employers to spot the signs of abuse and support colleagues who are affected by it, we can tackle the issue much earlier on and help survivors to leave their abuser.”

There are charities out there to support people suffering, and issues highlighted in soaps such as EastEnders provide an important education to viewers.

Gray’s story is sadly a common one, with Chantelle paying with her life.

For support and advice on issues raised in this storyline, visit the DA Alliance at https://domestic-abuse.co.uk/ or the Retail Trust at https://www.retailtrust.org.uk/.

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