The tragic Chantelle and Gray domestic abuse story in Eastenders is great for promoting awareness
Updated: Mar 29
It is good that the popular BBC soap Eastenders has tackled domestic abuse and violence head on with the storyline of Chantelle and Gray. It is a tragic account of domestic violence and abuse that culminates with the shocking murder of Chantelle at the hands of her husband Gray. For months the storyline for has carefully developed, and like so many domestic abuse and violence cases it started with smaller issues such as a lack of trust, elements of paranoia, controlling behaviour, coercive behaviour and criminal damage, leading onto physical assaults and stalking, interspersed with promises to change and periods of relative normality, until the behaviour returns worse each time, ultimately spiralling into a tragic situation where Chantelle tries to break free with the children but is murdered.
No doubt many watching the soap will say Chantelle should have left Gray ages ago, she shouldn’t have put up with his behaviour, she should have told her family or friends that live so close to her on the Square, she should have gone to the Police, but Eastenders were right to show it this way, as too often those involved in domestic abuse and violence don’t make the best decisions, their judgement is clouded by mixed emotions and they don’t have the benefit of hindsight. Both victims and perpetrators struggle to see the true picture of what is happening, and once in that spiral too many just don’t know how to break the cycle. Factors such as children, money, status, reputation, keeping up appearances, pride, guilt, self-blaming, mental health, low self-confidence and a fear of the unknown can paralyse a victim from taking positive steps and a perpetrator can fail to change while consumed by feeling of paranoia, anger, guilty, shame and control.
Domestic issues become exacerbated when, as with Gray and Chantelle, there is a inequality within the relationship, Gray has a reputable job as a solicitor, a profession he could easily lose if Chantelle took her complaints to the Police, that would affect the family income and their young children and their home, Chantelle perhaps felt she wouldn’t be believed because of his status in the community, and likely hoped the abuse would end as she loved him.
For Chantelle it took too long for her to get to the point of taking positive action, and when she did the action she took wasn’t the best option and left her vulnerable to being pulled back in by Gray which then led to her tragic death. Now more than ever there are many resources for those that want help with domestic abuse and violence, and nobody should suffer in silence, both victims and suspects can make positive changes.
Gray needed to face up to his demons, he needed therapy to change his thinking and actions, his unjustified paranoia, anger and controlling behaviour was corrosive to the marriage. Early on Gray did promise to get help but after one or two sessions it quickly faded away, perhaps it was too painful to be faced up to the reality of his behaviour, he stopped going and his abusive behaviour soon resurfaced.
Chantelle ideally would’ve confided in a close friend or family member who could’ve had a positive impact on her decision making. A diary would have been beneficial for Chantelle to see the pattern of behaviour, it also would’ve provided a chronology of evidence if she went to the police or the courts for help. Knowledge is always powerful, knowing her options and rights would have empowered Chantelle to make better decisions for herself and her children when required.
Hopefully the storyline promotes discussion about domestic abuse and violence, especially in this current time when covid restrictions continue and domestic abuse continues to rise.
No doubt the storyline will continue to run, especially as in many domestic abuse and violence cases there were no eye witnesses to Chantelle’s final moments, Gray is likely to claim it was an accident and the police and CPS will have to work hard to piece together a case against him. It is then that all the little bits of evidence for and against become so important. As viewers we know what happened, but in reality it not what you know but what can be proven or disproven that counts for a conviction or acquittal.
If you or anyone you know needs legal advice about domestic abuse and violence then I am here to help. I am an experienced and sympathetic solicitor that is completely independent and offer an entirely confidential service.