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Duchess of Cornwall launches national campaign to assist survivors of rape and sexual abuse

The Duchess of Cornwall visited the headquarters of Boots UK in Beeston, Nottingham on Tuesday to see the national launch of an initiative she founded to provide wash bags to survivors of rape and sexual assault. These bags contain essential products such as toothpaste, toothbrush, shampoo, shower gel, make-up, deodorant and hand cream.

The Duchess first visited a Rape Crisis and Sexual Assault Referral Centre in 2009. Since then, she has been a huge supporter to those who have suffered such violation through no fault of their own. She was touched by the stories she heard and felt inspired to do something; to make the survivors feel that there was someone who cared for them.

She said during her speech: “I want to thank you all for your contribution to the Wash Bag Project – a project that we started to think about five years ago when I first came aware of quite how horrific the consequences are of rape and sexual abuse.

“I wanted to find a practical way of helping women, girls and men who have been left traumatised through no fault of their own to have some comfort.

“Thanks to Boots sponsoring this scheme – it has enabled all 49 Sexual Referral Centres (SARCs) in this country to be supplying these wash bags. So thanks for your immense generosity and showing your support.”

During Tuesday’s event, the Duchess met with 100 volunteers who have spent days filling 12,000 wash bags which will be delivered to the 49 RCSARCs throughout the UK for the Wash Bag Project for the next three years. They will be distributed the survivors of rape and sexual assault after they’ve had a forensic examination.

Speaking further about the project, the Duchess continued: “It’s rather been like an elephant’s pregnancy – it has taken years to get here. I can’t believe that it has actually happened.”

The Nottingham Sexual Assault and Referral centre has seen 685 survivors of rape and sexual abuse; 10% of these are males. In this March alone, the centre has assisted 30 people.

Deborah Hooton runs the Nottingham service. She told the Nottingham Post: “It is important they come in early after an assault and don’t wash so they do not wash away the evidence. Come to us, have an examination and then this is where the wash bags will come in.

“It is a traumatic experience and to offer them this care bag with nice things in it shows we care, Boots care and the Royal Highness cares.”

@ClarenceHouse/Twitter

Elizabeth Fagan, senior vice president and managing director of Boots, said: “This is an important initiative, which will support people at a time of great need. Our colleagues have worked closely with Clarence House and SARCs and we have selected a range of products for the bags which have been chosen to support the care as well as the emotional and physical wellbeing of the victims at a time of crisis.”

Ornella Barra is the co-chief operating officer for Walgreens Boots Alliance, said: “I am very excited to be here today to launch a very exciting new initiative. Let me take a chance to say to all of you a big thank you for all you have done.”

The Duchess also met with Boots employees who have also volunteered their time to packing bags with products donated by the pharmisudical company. One of whom is Caitriona Bradley, 32, who works as a Boots project manager. She spent a day volunteering to ensure that 18 palettes of wash bags were packed. She said: “It is a good cause. It is nice to give back to the community. I think the centres do great work. For any victim to know there is someone out there to help them is great.”

Another volunteer, Tom Hickmore, 28, is a buyer for Boots who also volunteered his time, added: “I think it is the giving back – the little work we do can go so far.

Simone Wells, 30, works in supply and development, who also volunteered her time said: “I hope the bag will give them some security and well-being and they feel they are being looked after and cared for.”

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