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The duchess revealed that someone close to her confided in her about their own experience with domestic abuse

By Conchita Margaret Widjojo
February 13, 2020 11:40 AM
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Camilla, Duchess of Cornwall speaks during a reception to acknowledge the 15th anniversary of domestic abuse charity SafeLives at Clarence House on February 12, 2020 in London, England
Credit: Eamonn M. McCormack/Getty

Camilla, Duchess of Cornwall is opening up about an important issue that has affected those close to her: domestic violence.

After hosting a reception for the 15th anniversary of SafeLives, a U.K.-based organization dedicated to ending domestic abuse, at Clarence House on Wednesday, Camilla, 72, revealed that her own friends have suffered from domestic violence — and that she’s been greatly touched by the stories she’s heard.

“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 organizations that can help you,” Prince Charles‘ wife told the Daily Mail. “Go and get help. Talk to them, just get up and talk about your experiences. They will help.”

The duchess revealed that someone close to her confided in her about their own experience with domestic abuse.

“I recently had somebody I know well, whose daughter was married and living in a foreign country,” Camilla shared. “I said to her one day ‘You’re not looking quite right, what’s wrong?’

“She said, ‘I have this terrible problem with my daughter. I can’t believe it as I have never experienced anything like this before. She’s got this strange husband who is exercising coercive control which is undermining her confidence, getting rid of her friends, alienating her family. I just don’t know what to do about it.’

“The fact I knew a little bit about it meant I was able to put her in touch with people who could help,” Camilla continued.

“You know, if it hadn’t been for Safe Lives on that day I would never be doing what I am doing now. It changes you. And for that I will forever be grateful.”

Camilla, Duchess of Cornwall (2nd L) is greeted by CEO of SafeLives Suzanne Jacob (L) and SafeLives Pioneers Celia Peachey and Rachel Williams during a reception to acknowledge the 15th anniversary of domestic abuse charity SafeLives at Clarence House on February 12, 2020 in London, England
Camilla, Duchess of Cornwall
| Credit: Eamonn M. McCormack/Getty

“I have known people I suspected it was happening to but they wouldn’t actually talk about it. People didn’t talk about it then. People feel guilty, they feel ashamed, they think it must be their fault,” Camilla said. “And I think you have got to convince people that it’s not their fault.”

The Duchess of Cornwall has been a passionate advocate for ending domestic violence in the U.K., as well as overseas for over a decade. The royal first heard about SafeLives in 2016, when she attended a meeting with six survivors who revealed their own personal battles with abuse, bringing the duchess to tears.

“I had the privilege of hearing incredibly brave women standing up to tell their stories – harrowing stories that reduced many of us listeners to tears,” Camilla said of her experience in 2016. “But with each story, 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.”

She adds, “You give us all hope that those survivors can live their lives in peace, and be victors, not victims of these horrendous crimes, hopefully ensuring that domestic abuse can be made a crime of the past.”

Camilla, Duchess of Cornwall meets CEO of SafeLives Suzanne Jacob (L), Duncan Shrubsole and Jennifer Steele during a reception to acknowledge the 15th anniversary of domestic abuse charity SafeLives at Clarence House on February 12, 2020 in London, England
Camilla, Duchess of Cornwall
| Credit: Eamonn M. McCormack/Getty

“There are over two million reports of domestic abuse each year, and at least two women are killed each week in the U.K. by current or former partners, the Mail reports.

The duchess also revealed she found it difficult to listen to the stories from the six women back in 2016. One of which include a woman named Rachel Williams, who survived a gunshot to her legs followed by battery by her husband.

“You have got to get them to get up and talk about it and talk to other people about it. Then their confidence improves. To actually leave your home and somebody you have probably been with a long time is very brave,” she said.

Camilla, Duchess of Cornwall is greeted by CEO of SafeLives Suzanne Jacob as she hosts a reception to acknowledge the 15th anniversary of domestic abuse charity SafeLives at Clarence House on February 12, 2020 in London, England
Camilla, Duchess of Cornwall and SafeLives CEO Suzanne Jacobs
| Credit: Eamonn M. McCormack/Getty

Williams, who was at the Safe Lives event at Clarence House met with Camilla again, saying that her story “opened [Camilla’s] eyes,” and led her to advise young girls in relationships that it was “alright to talk about this.”

“It’s an issue that should be spoken about and we should be shining a spotlight on the perpetrators of abuse and saying it’s not alright and calling them out,” Williams 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.”

Camilla, Duchess of Cornwall hosts a reception to acknowledge the 15th anniversary of domestic abuse charity SafeLives at Clarence House on February 12, 2020 in London, England
Camilla, Duchess of Cornwall
| Credit: Eamonn M. McCormack/Getty

During that initial 2016 meeting, the duchess also met with Celia Peachey, whose mother Maria Stubbings was strangled to death with her dog’s leash by her boyfriend, and Hetti Barkworth-Nanton, the best friend of Joanna Simpson, who was killed by her violently manipulative husband, Robert Brown, a British Airways captain.

Joanna Simpson’s story is the one that brought chills to the duchess, as she cried upon hearing what had unfolded.

Camilla, Duchess of Cornwall poses with CEO of SafeLives Suzanne Jacob and guests of a reception to acknowledge the 15th anniversary of domestic abuse charity SafeLives at Clarence House on February 12, 2020 in London, England
Camilla, Duchess of Cornwall hosts the 15th anniversary of SafeLives at Clarence House
| Credit: Eamonn M. McCormack/Getty

“I remember distinctly the lady whose friend was killed by the airline pilot, whose children came back in and he battered her to death. I don’t think I’ve ever forgotten it. It gives me nightmares still,” Camilla told the Daily Mail. “I remember looking at you and we both had tears in our eyes.”

“The statistics are horrendous and, of course, it’s never been talked about. It’s been a taboo subject for so many years. Nobody has actually dared to stand up and say “Look this has happened to me”. But that day those ladies did, and I will never, ever forget that,” Camilla said.

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SafeLives recently released its Valentine’s campaign, which brings survivors together to share positive affirmations of self-love, as the day can bring “painful memories” for some people. The website also states the campaign wants to reinforce that “there is life after domestic abuse, and the most important relationship in your life is the one with yourself.”