EastEnders viewers witnessed Gray Atkins (played by Toby Alexander Smith) turn violent towards wife Chantelle (Jessica Plummer) in tonight’s episode of the BBC soap.
Chantelle and Gray moved to Albert Square earlier in the year with their children Mia and Mackenzie so they could be nearer to Chantelle’s parents, Karen Taylor (Lorraine Stanley) and Mitch Baker (Roger Griffiths).
In tonight’s instalment, Gray and Mitch competed against each other in a 10k fun run but Gray was left red-faced when he lost to his father-in-law.
Even though Mitch admitted he cheated, Gray was poked fun at for being a sore loser and he took out his anger out on Chantelle when they were alone.
Discussing the sensitive storyline, Chantelle star Jessica 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.”
While Gray attacked Chantelle, her family enjoyed a pint in the Queen Vic believing the married couple were spending a romantic evening together.
“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.,” remarked EastEnders star Toby.
Karen is currently unaware of what her daughter is going through but if the fiercely protective mum did find out, it wouldn’t take long for her to confront her son-in-law.
As Karen is known for her hot-headedness, could she lash out and kill Gray as punishment for hurting her daughter?
After his violent outburst, viewers watched as Gray verbally attacked his wife by insulting her family and blaming her for his temper.
Read more: EastEnders spoilers: Shirley Carter betrays Jean Slater in devastating Phil Mitchell twist
Gary began: “I’m sorry you know I never mean it, but how do you think I felt my own wife laughing at me like that. I moved here for you Chan, so you could be near your family, do you think that’s easy for me?”
“It’s not like I’ve got a family of my own is it? My dead mum isn’t ringing me up everyday is she, but I do my best to fit in with the Taylor clan don’t I It’s hard work, your mum sets my teeth on edge and your dad is an absolute disgrace of a man but I put up with them don’t I and it’s all for you, all to keep you happy,” he added.
Speaking out on the storyline, Kate Oates, Head of Continuing Drama Series, explained: “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.”
When Chantelle arrived on the Square it became clear how close she is with her family and yet she has kept Gray’s behaviour a secret.
She added: “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.”
EastEnders are working with Refuge and Women’s Aid on the domestic abuse storyline to make sure the portrayal is “realistic”.
Teresa Parker, Head of Communications for Women’s Aid, said: “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.”
For support please contact the National Domestic Violence Helpline Run in partnership between Women’s Aid and Refuge on 0808 2000 247
EastEnders returns Monday at 8pm on BBC