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Spotlight: The Duchess of Cornwall’s work towards ending domestic violence

Camilla, Duchess of Cornwall
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There’s no greater royal champion for survivors of domestic violence than The Duchess of Cornwall. It’s been a cornerstone of her work, highlighting causes, charities and organisations around the issue of domestic violence, and Camilla has always spoken compassionately and competently about raising awareness and helping survivors.

With her recent speech at the Women of the World Festival on 6 March, we wanted to spotlight the important work Camilla has been undertaking for over a decade.

“Charity begins at home. But so does domestic violence.” With those words, Camilla began one of the most powerful speeches of her royal life.

“Through my work, I have talked to many women who have lived with coercive control and domestic violence and, thankfully, come out at the other end as the victors, not the victims. They are some of the bravest people I have ever met. Their stories are harrowing and have reduced even the toughest of their listeners to tears. That is why it is so vital that these survivors should no longer feel any shame or any blame.”

On Friday, Camilla launched a hashtag campaign, #EveryonesProblem, at the Women of the World Festival to highlight how domestic violence can affect anyone, how it doesn’t see barriers. She urged Twitter users to use the hashtag and spread the word.

“Domestic abuse is everyone’s problem and the solution must be, too.”

Camilla credits SafeLives, a UK charity that works with organisations across the country to change the response to domestic violence, with igniting her interest in this issue. Earlier this year at a reception at Clarence House marking the charity’s 15th anniversary, Camilla said, of a visit she paid to the charity in 2016, “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.”

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Through her work, she regularly visits charities and organisations working to end domestic violence. She meets with survivors. She helps launch campaigns. She may have only launched her first hashtag campaign last week, but she created and launched an important campaign in 2013: the Wash Bag Initiative. It evolved into the Wash Bag Project in 2017 following its success.

The Wash Bag Project “provides a wash bag of toiletries to people who have been affected by rape and sexual abuse,” per a Clarence House article at the time.

Camilla visited Boots UK, the project’s partner, to meet volunteers who had packaged over 12,000 bags for survivors of sexual abuse. The bags are provided to Sexual Assault Referral Centre clients who need comfort after forensic examinations.

“Each bag contains a range of toiletries for the victims to use when showering and getting dressed, offering a small gesture which provides some degree of comfort and familiarity at what is a very sensitive and often dehumanising time,” Boots UK said in a press release.

Camilla had the idea for the project after meeting survivors and learning “how quite horrific the consequences of rape and sexual abuse are.” She had been working on the project for a number of years prior to its launch in 2017.

“It is really positive that Her Royal Highness The Duchess of Cornwall is taking great interest in SARCs as this is raising the profile of SARCs and will encourage those in need of our services to access them,” said Deborah Hooten, Service Manager of the Nottinghamshire Sexual Assault Referral Centre of the project.

And it’s not just UK-based charities and organisations that Camilla supports: on all royal visits, Camilla visits at least one domestic violence organisation. In 2019, she received a refuge diamond pin from the Battered Women’s Trust in Christchurch, New Zealand, for her work in supporting families affected by domestic violence.

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During their historic visit to Cuba in 2019, Camilla visited with the Federation of Cuban Women to hear about how the country supports and protects survivors of domestic violence and their families. She also learned how Cuba enacted equal pay and boasts the second-highest number of women in Parliament in the world.

“In Cuba, women have the same rights as men,” Mayra Diaz Garcia, the Federation’s Prevention Officer told reporters following Camilla’s visit.

“We are so glad the Duchess has come to see all we have achieved here and we hope that can be replicated by women who live in difficult conditions around the world.”

In Athens, Greece, during a visit in 2018, Camilla visited a women’s shelter and heard “the stories of women who have been affected by issues including domestic abuse and violence,” per Clarence House. The following year in St Vincent she attended a roundtable discussion on “violence against women with survivors and organisations who work to combat the issue.”

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In Germany last year, Camilla visited the Outpatient Clinic for the Protection against Violence to learn how the clinic provides examinations “of injuries sustained by victims” and how “injuries are documented and forensic evidence is gathered, stored on-site and can be used at any point in the future.”

In Bahrain in 2016, Camilla visited the Dar Al Aman Women’s Refuge to meet women who help survivors of domestic violence escape their abusers. In a recap of their visit on the Prince of Wales’s official website, Refuge Director Huda Ebrahim Al Mahmood said, “We are not giving up – us women never give up. We are trying and trying hard to help people as much as we can.”

In Dubai in 2018, Camilla visited the Dubai Foundation for Women and Children to hear how the organisation protects survivors and families against both domestic violence and human trafficking.

Camilla has been a tireless advocate on behalf of survivors, charities and organisations. She asked on Friday, “What can be done? We must bring this taboo subject out in the open and talk about it.”

Through her words and her actions, one thing is clear: no royal is talking louder than Camilla.

About author

Jess is a communications professional and freelance writer who lives in Halifax and has a passion for all things royal, particularly the British Royal Family.