The Duchess of Cornwall has revealed she advised a parent whose daughter was the victim of domestic abuse, telling them: “It’s OK you can talk about it”.
Camilla’s spoke about her support for the unnamed person when she met survivors of abusive partners during a Clarence House reception celebrating the 15th anniversary of the charity SafeLives.
The charity provides a range of services for those who have endured domestic abuse and works with other organisations with the ultimate aim of eradicating the issue.
The duchess chatted to SafeLives pioneers Rachel Williams, who has written a book about her harrowing experiences at the hands of an abusive husband, and Celia Peachey, whose mother was murdered by an ex-partner with a history of violence and domestic abuse.
Ms Peachey said after chatting to Camilla: “She said someone opened up to her about their daughter being in that position and she was able to say to them ‘it’s OK you can talk about. It’s safe and it’s important that you do’.”
During a 2016 visit to SafeLives Camilla heard the traumatic stories of survivors and was left in tears by Ms Williams’ experiences.
She suffered 18 years of abuse before her husband shot her after she filed for divorce, and Ms Williams’ teenage son committed suicide a few days after she was discharged from hospital.
Ms Peachey added: “What I’ve sensed is that she can relate to people because having experienced more awareness around the topic now, you can have a response and be reassuring, comforting, all of that because you understand some of the complex dynamics.
“Before SafeLives she said it wasn’t in her awareness and now she has an understanding she can use to help other people when they feel they have something to share on that topic.”
In a speech to guests, Camilla said how her first encounter with survivors at SafeLives in 2016 had sparked her interest in the issue.
She said: “That memorable day fired my interest in domestic abuse. I did know of people who had suffered from it, but I was both shocked and horrified by just how many thousands of people across the world live with it.
“I had the privilege of hearing incredibly brave women – some of whom are here today – standing up to tell their stories. Harrowing stories that reduced many of us listeners to tears.
“But with each story that is told, the taboo around domestic abuse weakens and the silence that surrounds it is broken, so other sufferers can know that there is hope for them and they are not alone.”
In an interview with the Daily Mail, Camilla described the 2016 visit as “one of the most harrowing experiences I’ve ever, ever had”.
“I thought to myself, this is going on, what are we doing about it?,” she said. “You know people, I know people that it has happened to. But I don’t think we ever believed it was that bad.”
Urging victims to “go and get help”, she added: “It doesn’t matter who you are. That would be my message to people: whoever you are, wherever you are from, there are organisations that can help you. Talk to them, just get up and talk about your experiences. They will help.”
Last year Camilla wrote a letter of support for the first ever Stand Up to Domestic Abuse Conference, organised by Ms Williams as the first survivor-led conference on domestic violence in Wales.
Ms Williams, from Newport, South Wales, added: “This reinforces that people are listening and to have somebody like the duchess on board is amazing. We all do our little bit to raise awareness, but to have somebody in the royal arena to shout about our cause as well is fantastic.
“People don’t realise that the biggest killer of women aged 16-44 is not cancer, it’s domestic abuse.”
SafeLives’ 15th anniversary coincides with the charity’s Valentine’s Campaign, #ImASurvivor, which features Ms Williams and other survivors and celebrates their collective strength and resilience.
The duchess also met SafeLives chief executive Suzanne Jacob and the recently appointed Domestic Abuse Commissioner, Nicole Jacobs, as well as frontline staff and professionals who work in partnership with the UK-wide charity.
SafeLives was founded by Baroness Diana Barran at her kitchen table in 2005. It established the best friend rule – if your best friend was experiencing domestic abuse, what would you want for them?
Last year, more than 65,000 adults at risk of serious harm or murder and more than 85,000 children were helped through dedicated multi-agency support designed by SafeLives and delivered with partners.
And nearly 11,000 professionals working on the frontline received training through SafeLives.
Ms Jacob said: “To have such incredible support from somebody with the profile and platform that the duchess does when she has got so many demands on her time – the fact that she is really committed to this as a topic and to us as an organisation means a great deal to us and to the many survivors and frontline workers, because they see and hear and feel that viscerally, that she cares about them.”