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Camilla vows to break ‘taboo’ over discussing domestic abuse

The duchess has become patron at SafeLives, a domestic abuse charity.

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The Duchess of Cornwall is officially taking on the role of patron at SafeLives, a domestic abuse charity (Eamonn McCormack/PA)

The Duchess of Cornwall is officially taking on the role of patron at SafeLives, a domestic abuse charity (Eamonn McCormack/PA)

The Duchess of Cornwall is officially taking on the role of patron at SafeLives, a domestic abuse charity (Eamonn McCormack/PA)

The Duchess of Cornwall has told how listening to the “horrific” stories of survivors of domestic abuse motivated her to help tackle the “taboo” around discussing the issue.

In a pre-recorded discussion for the Women Of The World (Wow) online festival, Camilla said she wanted to “lift the shroud of silence”.

She said she became particularly motivated to address the problem later in life after meeting and listening to women while on her official royal duties.

“I’m in my 70s now, so I grew up in a time, in the ’50s and ’60s, when the landscape and the attitudes were very different,” she said in the video that was streamed online on Saturday evening.

“A huge amount has changed since then, particularly for women.

“I think then I didn’t really notice it so much, because it was just part of the lifestyle.”

The duchess said she had since listened to “countless women” all over the world.

“It made me see at first hand the inequalities that disproportionately still affect women and girls.

“And this was particularly apparent in the areas of domestic abuse and sexual assault, two issues that I care very deeply about.”

The duchess said she had known men and women who had also suffered, and speaking to them had left her “more and more shocked by what was going on”.

Camilla said she was “proud” to become patron at SafeLives, a domestic abuse charity which she has worked closely with in the last four years.

She recalled attending a charity meeting to listen to women’s experiences of domestic abuse, after which “there wasn’t a dry eye in the place”.

I just want all these people to know that they are not alone and that there is help there. There's help out thereDuchess of Cornwall

“The experience was so moving,” the duchess said, adding: “That was the moment when I thought ‘goodness I’ve got to do something to help these people’.

“I remember talking to one of the mothers who’d lost her daughter in the most horrific circumstances and I said ‘look, I don’t know what I can do to help but I promise I’m going to do everything I can try and bring this out into the open’.”

She added: “It can affect anybody… from any strata of society, it doesn’t matter who you are.

“I just want all these people to know that they are not alone and that there is help there. There’s help out there.”

The duchess also expressed fear that the coronavirus pandemic would have a “horrific” impact on domestic abuse.

Also taking part in the discussion, Suzanne Jacob, chief executive at SafeLives, warned that the full impact of the pandemic was still unknown.

She said: “The full picture is probably not going to emerge for quite some time to come.

“We know that people have slipped out of view even more than usual during lockdown, and that’s children as well as adults, which is a really frightening prospect.”

The duchess said progress was being made and called for the issue of domestic abuse to be more openly discussed, with more training of volunteers and teaching of young people about “healthy and loving relationships”.

“Whatever happens I’m going to keep banging the drum until people listen to me, until there’s a hole in it,” she vowed.

“The more people, the more brave women I’ve seen, getting up and speaking about their experiences inspires others,” she also commented.

The duchess added: “It’s been a taboo subject for so long that people just haven’t talked about it.

“As I’ve said before, silence is corrosive because it leaves the victims feeling both shame and blame.

“I wanted to lift the shroud of this silence, and get more women, children and men to talk about their experiences.”

A 24-hour online festival hosted by Wow, of which Camilla is president, was due to run from midday on Saturday, aiming to bring contributors together from around the world, including civil rights activist Angela Davis, campaigner Gina Miller and actor Sir Patrick Stewart.

They will discuss issues that have an impact on girls and women, including education, justice, climate, health, the economy and violence, as well as the coronavirus pandemic.

PA