Press Release

21 September 2020

Refuge statement on Eastenders domestic abuse storyline

In response to the murder of Chantelle Atkins by her husband Gray in Eastenders, Lisa King, director of communications and external relations at national domestic abuse charity Refuge said:

‘The scenes we have seen take place in Eastenders over the last few months are sadly reflective of what Refuge sees every single day. Women being controlled, abused, and in some instances killed by their abusive partners. Women’s lives being lost to male violence, while friends and family members are left to grieve having felt powerless to stop the abuse, or being unaware it was even happening.

The team at Eastenders has done a great job reflecting on screen what is a horrific reality for so many families . Refuge has helped to support the development of these storylines which is important. Soaps are a cornerstone of our society and it is vital that they reflect what happens across the country and in our society today. Domestic abuse is the biggest issue facing women and girls and storylines like Chantelle’s, while painful to watch, are key to ensuring we continue to shine a light on domestic abuse and do everything we can to support women who need help.

The behaviours displayed by Gray – controlling, monitoring Chantelle’s every move, trying to isolate her from her friends and family, tracking her movements, spying on her, manipulating the children, as well as the physical abuse she is subjected to – are all tactics that abusive partners use frequently. They are designed to exert maximum control and to prevent women from leaving. What we also know is that leaving an abusive partner is the most dangerous time for women – and is when the majority of domestic homicides occur. Once a woman threatens to leave, her abusive partner might feel his control slipping, and this can, and does, result in the murder of women across the country. 2 women a week are killed by a current or former partner in England and Wales – a statistic which should horrify us all.

The timing of this storyline, whilst brutal, is relevant. Any day now the Domestic Abuse Bill will return to Parliament giving the Government a real opportunity to protect and save the lives of abused women and children in this country. We hope that they will ensure it is as bold and transformative as it has the potential to be. Women’s lives, women just like Chantelle, depend on it.’