The Duchess of Cornwall hopes the taboo over domestic abuse is weakening thanks to "brave women" speaking up

By Simon Perry
June 26, 2020 07:01 PM
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Camilla, Duchess of Cornwall
Clarence House Communications

Camilla, Duchess of Cornwall says not talking about domestic abuse is “corrosive,” as she hopes to lift the “shroud of silence” on the issue.

Camilla, 72, joins a global online discussion on Saturday during the Women Of the World Global 24-hour festival. It coincides with the announcement that she has become patron of SafeLives – a non-profit dedicated to ending domestic abuse that the royal has visited many times over the last four years.

“It’s not a nice subject to talk about and I think that’s been one of its problems. It’s been a taboo subject for so long that people just haven’t talked about it,” Camilla says during the online discussion with WOW Founder Jude Kelly and Suzanne Jacob, the Chief Executive of SafeLives.

“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. And it is happening in a slow way, but it is such a traumatic experience that I think it becomes sort of locked into a compartment inside them, and it’s very difficult to find the key to unlocking.”

Camilla, Duchess of Cornwall and husband Prince Charles
Samir Hussein/WireImage

Camilla, who has been a longtime advocate on the issue, adds, “The more brave women I see getting up and speaking about their experiences . . . is inspiring others.”

She also opened up about her first visit to SafeLives, and how it will “always stick in my memory.” Hearing the women tell their stories, even the “toughest men” in the room had tears in their eyes, Camilla candidly recalls. “We were all pretending to have a cold and blowing our noses. The experience was so moving.”

Camilla, who spent much of the last three months of the coronavirus pandemic isolating in Scotland with husband Prince Charles, 71, fears that the crisis will be hiding another emergency in domestic abuse as victims have been forced to stay at home with abusive partners or family members.

“I fear the numbers are going to be horrific,” she says.

Camilla, Duchess of Cornwall on an earlier video call
Roald Dahl Story Company

New SafeLives’ data from a survey of victims and survivors of domestic abuse asked respondents to rate their safety from 0 to 10 (0=not safe at all, 10=safe). Twenty-four percent of respondents rated themselves at 5 out of 10, while 29 percent rated their safety below 5.

Suzanne Jacob, says she is “fiercely proud and hugely honored “ to have Camilla as patron. “The way that she speaks to people directly and really listens, unravels some of the harm, the terrible harm that abusive people do to the people they are supposed to love the most."

"They tell them that they don’t matter, that nobody cares about them, that nobody will believe them, and Her Royal Highness is making it absolutely clear that that is not true. That anybody who lives with an experience of domestic abuse is valuable, is going to be listened to," she says.

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The WOW Global 24 event, hosted by the WOW Foundation, is bringing together contributors from around the world to discuss six themes: education, justice, climate, health, the economy and violence. Delegates will also reflect on the impact the pandemic is having on women and girls.

SafeLives Pioneer Naomi Donald, who has met the duchess on two occasions this year said, “I was honored to have met and spoke with The Duchess of Cornwall on two occasions with SafeLives where she praised me and others for the work we do in the fight against Domestic Abuse on all levels. She was very down to earth and is truly passionate about making sure Domestic Abuse is #EveryonesProblem.”