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The Duchess of Cornwall opens a new centre for victims of sexual assault in Essex

24th October 2011

A woman who was sexually abused by her brother said it meant "a great deal" to her to be able to share her story with The Duchess of Cornwall during a meeting in Essex. The Duchess met women and girls who have been abused during a visit to the South Essex Rape and Incest Crisis Centre (SERICC) in Grays, Essex. During her time at the centre Her Royal Highness met 44-year-old Sandra, who was abused by her eldest brother. She said: "I was physically abused by my eldest brother. He was violent with the sexual abuse. "He had a daughter and when she started to get to the same age that I was (when he abused me), I couldn't live with myself if he did anything to her so I wanted it reported. "I went to see my GP and then I got in touch with SERICC who helped me to report it." Her brother was later sent to prison. The Duchess spent an hour meeting staff, councillors and women and girls who use the  centre during her visit. Sheila Coates, director of SERICC, said: "The fact that she has visited us helps raise the profile of sexual violence. "It's really important that more people understand the impact of sexual violence on lives." During her visit to the Essex Dog Training Centre, The Duchess met children suffering from cynophobia, a morbid fear of dogs. The centre runs free, ten-week courses to help treat children with the phobia and aims to have them interacting with dogs by the last session. It is thought to be the only place in Europe to offer a course of this kind. Roy Dyer, chief instructor at the training centre, said: "All the children she met today have now overcome their fear and they were walking dogs on leads, touching them and brushing them. She met every child, every one of the 15 dogs and every single parent there." She also saw a dog obedience and agility class in action and was treated to a performance from the Essex Dog Display Team which is based at the centre. Mr Dyer said: "She was extremely complimentary about the whole thing. She said she wished she lived closer to the centre because she would most certainly bring her new dog here." The Duchess is a well-known dog lover and rescued a Jack Russell from Battersea Dogs Home last August. Later, Her Royal Highness visited Writtle College which specialises in agriculture, animal sciences and equestrianism. The Duchess attended a lecture on aquariums given by Dr Carlos De Luna, a senior lecturer in animal science, and met horticultural and floristry students in the Centenary Garden. Her Royal Highness was also given a tour of the Titchmarsh Centre for Animal Studies which was opened in September by college patron Alan Titchmarsh. Inside The Duchess saw the chinchilla pen, the fish room and the dog grooming unit, where she petted dogs Kitty and Barney. She also had the opportunity to meet two members of the mounted police, Sergeant Chris Downes and Pc Paul Mills, who are based at the College.