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The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge

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Rape & sexual abuse

  • The Duchess of Cornwall talks to a visitor during a visit to the Rape and Sexual Abuse Support Centre (RASASC) in London
  • The Duchess of Cornwall listens to speakers during the Barnado's/The Times sponsored event, Help Cut Children Free From Sexual Exploitation at Canary Wharf
  • The Duchess of Cornwall makes a short address to guests, before a reception in support of victims of rape and sexual abuse at Clarence House

Supporting victims of rape and sexual abuse

Over the past few years, The Duchess of Cornwall has travelled the country meeting victims of sexual violence and listening to personal accounts of their experiences during visits to Rape Crisis and Sexual Assault Referral Centres around the UK. 

These visits, which began with the Rape and Sexual Assault Support Centre in Croydon in 2009, have provided Her Royal Highness with an opportunity to learn about the services and support provided by professionals who work in this area, many of whom offer a lifeline to vulnerable people who have been victims of rape and sexual abuse.

Hearing experiences first-hand from victims has left The Duchess with a real desire to raise awareness about the issues facing those affected. Her Royal Highness gave a keynote speech at Clarence House earlier this year in which she reflected:

“I have spoken to so many of these victims whose bravery in speaking out and sharing their stories has been truly humbling this, as many of you here know is, both for the speaker and for the listener, a harrowing experience.”

In cooperation with a network of organisations, Her Royal Highness is working towards ending the social taboo that surrounds this complex and emotive issue.

Photos

  • The Duchess of Cornwall meets staff at the Sexual Exploitation of Children on the Streets Centre in Middlesbrough, run by Barnardo's

    The Duchess of Cornwall meets staff at the Sexual Exploitation of Children on the Streets Centre in Middlesbrough, run by Barnardo's

  • The Duchess of Cornwall talks to Mia James during a reception in support of victims of rape and sexual abuse at Clarence House

    The Duchess of Cornwall talks to Mia James during a reception in support of victims of rape and sexual abuse at Clarence House

  • The Duchess of Cornwall talks to a visitor during a visit to the Rape and Sexual Abuse Support Centre (RASASC) in London

    The Duchess of Cornwall talks to a visitor during a visit to the Rape and Sexual Abuse Support Centre (RASASC) in London

  • The Duchess of Cornwall and the Mayor of London, Boris Johnson, during their visit to the West London Rape Crisis Centre

    The Duchess of Cornwall and the Mayor of London, Boris Johnson, during their visit to the West London Rape Crisis Centre

Reception at Clarence House ”“ a united front

In February 2013, The Duchess convened a reception at Clarence House bringing together key decision makers, including senior political figures, representatives from the police and health services, campaigners and those with practical experience of supporting victims of rape and sexual abuse.

This was the first time that such a wide range of stakeholders from across the United Kingdom had come together to discuss issues relating to sexual violence, and recent high profile news reports provided a topical context for the discussions.

During the reception, Her Royal Highness acknowledged the “remarkable work” done by those who provide rape crisis services across the United Kingdom. 

The aim of the reception was to encourage collaboration, share expertise and generate discussion on how best to address the key concerns, particularly the number of victims still not reporting attacks.

A stark reminder of the scale of this issue is contained within the Government’s latest report providing an overview of sexual offending in England and Wales, published in January 2013, to which The Duchess referred:

“This challenging and emotive subject has been brought to the fore in recent months with some shocking news stories ”“ although it is by no means a ‘new’ story. The findings of the government’s recent report into sexual offending revealed once again that the number of victims reporting these crimes is only a tiny proportion of the total and even fewer of these cases end with a conviction.”

Rape survivor Mia James attended the reception to share her experiences. After meeting Her Royal Highness, Mia said: 

“It’s a case of wanting to get the message out as to what it’s all about, and I’m really happy we’ve got the Duchess doing that. I want people to stop sweeping us under the carpet. I want this to be something not associated with the word taboo. With someone as high profile as the Duchess, survivors will feel more comfortable coming out with their stories. They can report it and know there is no stigma attached.”

The reception was also attended by Theresa May, the Home Secretary, and Keir Starmer QC, the Director of Public Prosecutions who spoke of Her Royal Highness’ contribution:

“It’s fantastic she’s shown such a level of commitment to this important area. Bringing these people together is a very significant step. We’re working together more than we were ”“ but we need to continue to do so.”

Washbags - a pilot project

In addition to a commitment to raising awareness, Her Royal Highness has spoken with many victims and support staff about practical ways of offering help. 

Following visits to a number of sexual assault referral centres (SARCs), The Duchess initiated a pilot scheme to provide victims of sexual violence with a washbag of toiletries which could be used after forensic examinations.

The washbags are currently being distributed through The Havens, London’s three Sexual Assault Referral Centres, as part of the pilot project, which include donations from major businesses. 

Jo Delaforce, Matron at the Camberwell Haven in South London, commented on the initiative:

“I think it will make a big difference. Our clients who have been examined have the choice of having a shower or they can go home and have a wash, but obviously they haven’t come with anything.”

Public engagements and related issues

Since 2009, The Duchess has visited 14 Rape Crisis and Sexual Assault Referral Centres around the UK. This includes Rape Crisis Centres in Croydon, West London, East London, Exeter, Guildford, Essex and Cornwall, and Sexual Assault Referral Centres in London, Brentwood, Derbyshire, Portsmouth, Antrim and Cardiff.

In 2011, Her Royal Highness hosted a reception at Clarence House for SOIT officers (those trained in Sexual Offences Investigative Techniques) from the Metropolitan Police’s Sapphire Unit, having previously visited one of the units at Kilburn Police Station in 2010.

On 23rd January 2014, The Duchess visited the Haven in Camberwell, one of three in London. Her Royal Highness's first visit to the Havens was at Paddington in February 2010.

Her Royal Highness has also visited a number of projects working with victims of rape and sexual abuse during official visits overseas including: the Potter's House in Johannesburg, South Africa; Haus Ruth women's refuge in Papua New Guinea; Asha Sadan residential home in Mumbai, India; Women in Need in Colombo, Sri Lanka; and she met representatives of the Alice Housing domestic violence project during a visit to Nova Scotia, Canada in May 2014.

Barnardo’s and Child Sexual Exploitation

In her capacity as President of Barnardo’s, The Duchess attended a Barnardo’s and Times Event ”“ ‘Help Cut Children Free from Sexual Exploitation’ in October 2011 and has visited three Barnardo’s services working in this area: the Young Women’s Project in London (2010); the Amazon Project in Birmingham (2011) and the Barnardo’s SECOS (Sexually Exploited Children on the Streets) Project in Middlesbrough (May 2013).

  • Rape Crisis England and Wales (RCEW)

    Rape Crisis England and Wales (RCEW)

    Rape Crisis (England and Wales) campaigns continuously to raise awareness of sexual violence.

    Visit the website
  • The Havens

    The Havens

    The Havens are specialist centres in London for people who have been raped or sexually assaulted.

    Visit the website
  • Barnardo's

    Barnardo's

    Barnardo’s is the largest provider of child sexual exploitation support services in the UK. The Duchess of Cornwall is President of the charity.

    Visit the website

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