Camilla urges domestic violence victims to speak out

Rebecca Taylor
Royal Correspondent
Camilla meets survivors at a SafeLives reception. (Getty Images)

The Duchess of Cornwall has revealed she has friends who were victims of domestic violence, as she urged others to talk about their experiences.

Camilla hosted a reception at Clarence House to mark the 15th anniversary of the Safe Lives charity, on Wednesday evening, and met survivors and families of domestic abuse.

Speaking to the Daily Mail, she said: “It affects everybody. 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. Go and get help. Talk to them, just get up and talk about your experiences. They will help.”

Camilla, Duchess of Cornwall with CEO of SafeLives Suzanne Jacob and guests at the reception. (Getty Images)

During the evening, Camilla met pioneers of the charity, including Rachel Williams, who has written a book about her experiences at the hands of her abusive husband.

In 2016, the duchess was moved to tears after hearing Ms Williams’ story. She suffered 18 years of abuse before her husband shot her after she filed for divorce.

Ms Williams’ teenage son committed suicide a few days after she was discharged from hospital.

Ms Williams, from Newport, said: “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.”

Camilla gave a speech in which she mentioned her first encounter with survivors in 2016. (Getty Images)

Celia Peachey, whose mother was murdered by an ex-partner with a history of violence and domestic abuse, spoke to Camilla, and said afterwards: “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’.”

The duchess recalled her first meeting with SafeLives survivors in 2016, which led to her further involvement with the charity, before telling the Daily Mail of those in her friendship circles who suffered.

In a speech to those gathered, Camilla said of the 2016 meeting: “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.”

Camilla, Duchess of Cornwall with CEO of SafeLives Suzanne Jacob (L), Duncan Shrubsole and Jennifer Steele at the reception. (Getty Images)
Camilla talks to CEO of SafeLives Suzanne Jacob (L), SafeLives employees Michelle Phillips, Melani Morgan and Susie Hay. (Getty Images)

She later said: “You know people, I know people that it has happened to. But I don’t think we ever believed it was that bad.”

SafeLives has launched a Valentine’s campaign to coincide with its 15th anniversary, celebrating the collective strength of male and female survivors of abuse.

The charity was founded by Baroness Diana Barran at her kitchen table in 2005, who set up what she called 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.