EastEnders' domestic abuse storyline involving Chantelle Atkins and her abusive husband Gray will have a tragic ending.
Viewers will know that Chantelle (Jessica Plummer) has suffered years of both physical and mental abuse at the hand of her violent and controlling husband, and that she will soon make the decision to leave him.
However, Gray (Toby-Alexander Smith) has been tracking her phone and has his suspicions that she is planning to leave confirmed when he spots a pop-up advert for divorce lawyers on his computer.
Devastatingly, after finally trying to escape from him, Chantelle is killed by her husband in what has been a heartbreaking storyline to watch unfold.
The tragic ending to Chantelle's story has been planned from the beginning, with the aim of showing viewers the awful reality of domestic abuse.
Jon Sen, EastEnders' executive producer, said: "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."
Plummer said she hopes that as a result of the storyline more people suffering from domestic abuse will get help.
"It's been such a privilege to play Chantelle and to be able to tell her story," the actress said. "Sadly what she goes through is all too common and her death is a reminder of the devastating effect of domestic abuse.
"I've known it wasn't going to end well for Chantelle for a while now and although it was a shock to find out her fate, far too many men and women suffer in silence so I hope that by raising awareness we can ultimately save lives. I am so grateful to all the team and my lovely cast members for being so supportive, I’ll miss Albert Square."
"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," added Toby Alexander-Smith, who plays Gray.
"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."
"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," said Teresa Parker, head of communications at Women's Aid.
"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."
Lisa King, director of communications and external relations at Refuge, also thanked EastEnders for their close collaboration "over many months on this important storyline".
She continued: "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.
"We urge anyone who has been affected by Chantelle’s story to contact Refuge's National Domestic Abuse Helpline (0808 2000 247, www.nationaldahelpline.org.uk). No-one should live in fear – you are not alone."
EastEnders returns with new episodes on Monday, September 7 at 8.05pm on BBC One.
Readers who are affected by the issues raised in this story are encouraged to contact Refuge (www.refuge.org.uk) or Women's Aid (www.womensaid.org.uk). The 24-hour, freephone National Domestic Abuse Helpline can be reached on 0808 2000 247. The US National Domestic Violence Hotline is 1-800-799-SAFE (7233).
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