This article includes discussion of domestic abuse, including coercive control, that some readers may find distressing.


Emma Atkins has spoken out about her Emmerdale alter ego Charity Dingle's suspicions over Tom King (James Chase), citing the character's history as a survivor of abuse.

Tom has been inflicting physical, emotional and psychological abuse on his new wife Belle (Eden Taylor-Draper) for several months, and her close relative Charity is set to be the first person to spot the sinister signs.

Speaking to and other press, Atkins pointed out that of all the Dingles, it's right that Charity is the one to recognise Tom's controlling behaviour, given Charity's own experiences after being sexually abused and controlled by police officer Mark Bails (Rocky Marshall) when she was a teenager.

"As me, I felt that if anyone was going to recognise those signs of abuse, it probably would be Charity, because she's lived and breathed it in her past," Atkins shared.

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Expanding on what first makes Charity clock Tom's behaviour, she added: "I start to notice behavioural changes in Belle; she seems a lot more closed off, she doesn't want to really socialise with any of her friends or family, and she's at home a lot with Tom and whenever she's out in the street she's always with Tom."

Charity, just out of shot, watches Belle with concern in Emmerdale
Charity worries for Belle. ITV

"Charity's like 'you're never on you're own, Belle. I just feel like it would be nice to maybe have dinner with you, just the two of us.' I think she starts to let her know that she's picking up this vibe that something potentially might be wrong. But she knows at first she's got to play this very subtle, gentle game. She teases little things out of Belle, but not enough to really know," she continued.

"At this point, her suspicions of Tom's behaviour [are] ramping up, so there's even more reason: he keeps changing his mind; Belle's running around after him but she's like a frightened housewife, and her behaviour is just very staccato and he's saying jump, and she's saying how high, kind of mentality.

"Nobody seems to be seeing it except Charity, so she says to the girls, 'help me - technically, for want of a better word - kidnap Belle from the house, and pretend that we're doing it for a girly night to cheer Lydia up.'"

But their girly night soon goes horribly wrong, as Atkins revealed. "You can tell [Belle] wants to open up and I think at that point that's where the audience will be saying 'come on, you've got all your Dingle girlfriends around you'. This is where she should be in her safe space.

"And then, mid-girly night, the phone goes, Tom's ringing her mobile. She goes out to take the call, and Charity follows Belle out and goes 'he's round the corner, why is he calling you? You're on a girly night, he shouldn't be disturbing you.' So again, more behaviour, she's only gone out for a few hours.

"Charity's overzealous with her: 'Belle, just tell me if he's not right for you!' She goes inward and all the girls say, 'see what you've done, maybe you're the one with the issue.'

"I think the audience will be really frustrated by that. In a good way, because it shows you just how this sort of stuff does go on every day in people's domestic lives, they're living that hell. It's strong stuff, I spend a lot of my time screaming at Tom [when watching the show]. It's difficult to watch sometimes, I must say."

Belle cowers as angry Tom points at her in Emmerdale
Tom and Belle in Emmerdale. ITV

It also seems that Charity's own history sadly works against her in the eyes of the other Dingles. "She starts to rouse suspicion in them, but I think not enough," said the star. "And due to the fact that Charity has been through such series of traumatic events over the past couple of years, I think they're just a bit wary.

"Also, Charity's currently in therapy, so they're wondering if she's maybe a bit too sensitive and raw to have a fully-fledged view on it, a fully-rounded feeling about it. They're thinking this could be an overreaction and we could all end up looking really stupid, and we've thrown Belle under the bus."

Despite the night going so wrong, Atkins is full of praise for both co-star Taylor-Draper and the episode in question. "It's a really good episode. They take her off, straight into the Woolpack backroom, and that begins a fabulous episode where Eden is incredible."

As for Tom, the actress promises that Emmerdale fans will be happy with Charity's meddling – if frustrated over her methods!

"She's onto him, and I think that's going to excite the audience in a way, because everybody's saying 'when is he going to get found out?' So I think they'll enjoy the fact that someone's onto him, finally!"

Emmerdale has been working with Refuge and New Beginnings Peer Support for the Tom and Belle storyline. You can access free and confidential support from Refuge's 24-hour National Domestic Abuse Helpline on 0808 2000 247 and digital support via live chat Monday-Friday 3-10pm via

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Emmerdale airs Monday to Friday at 7:30pm on ITV1. Stream on ITVX.


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