IMPORTANT UPDATE: COVID-19

As the popular soap returns to our TV screens, it has been revealed that this week Chantelle Atkins will be killed by her abusive husband, Gray Atkins.

The storyline line follows character Chantelle (played by Jessica Plummer) having to isolate during the covid-19 lockdown with her husband, Gray (played by Toby Alexander-Smith) who has subjected her to years of mental and physical abuse and control. The storyline sees Chantelle make the decision to file for divorce, which her husband discovers and then kills her after she fails to escape him.

The storyline reflects the real-life increase in domestic abuse suffered by victims throughout the lockdown period and the statistic that three women will be killed in the UK every fortnight (a statistic which has been even higher during lockdown).

Refuge, who have worked closely with the soap on the storyline, reported a 54% rise in women contacting their helpline to seek emergency accommodation in the first week of July when lockdown restrictions were first lifted. Women’s Aid also worked closely with the soap and have also commented that two thirds of survivors reported their domestic abuse escalated during lockdown.

Jon Sen, the executive producer of EastEnders has said: “Chantelle’s story is such an important one to tell accurately…with the intention of embedding the stark reality of domestic abuse at the heart of the Atkins family.”

Toby Alexander-Smith, who plays Gray has been so inspired by the storyline that he has now joined Women’s Aid as an official charity ambassador in order to continue to raise awareness and support the charity in the future.

It’s important to remember that domestic abuse is not just a storyline but in fact a stark reality suffered by many. We hope that this storyline will help people to realise the signs of domestic abuse and come forwards to get the help and support they need.

If you believe you or someone you know are suffering from domestic abuse, we are here to help. Please get in touch with our Family team in confidence by calling 01484 821500 or email family@ramsdens.co.uk. We can provide assistance and obtain urgent injunctive orders for your safety and protection remotely via telephone or email and work closely with many local organisations offering help and support to victims.

If you are in immediate danger please always contact the Police on 999. IF YOU call 999 and can’t speak, secretly dial ‘55’ – this is one of the ways you can urgently get in touch with police if you’re stuck inside with an abuser.