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The Duchess visits a rape and sexual abuse support centre in London

26th November 2009

The Duchess of Cornwall spoke to victims of sexual violence today during a visit to a support centre in London.

Staff at the Rape and Sexual Abuse Support Centre (RASASC) in Croydon, South London gave The Duchess a warm welcome as she toured the small site, taking time to sit and talk with clients.

The centre, which opened in 1985, offers a range of services including counselling and advocacy for women and girls who have been raped or experienced another form of sexual violence.

The Duchess met the centre's legal and counselling teams before being shown the helpline facilities.

In August, Mayor Boris Johnson announced the centre would receive £260,000 from the Greater London Authority over the next three years to help double the number of staff manning its helpline, train more counsellors and increase its preventative work with young people.

The centre is one of a network across England and Wales supported by the Rape Crisis charity, though is currently the only one of its kind in London.

The Duchess was told that one Government crime survey had shown one in four women had experienced rape, attempted rape or sexual abuse.

Talking to clients, The Duchess said: "It is so brilliant to have somewhere like this. I didn't realise this is the only one in London. If you think of the number of women in London that might need help, we need a few more centres like this.

She said: "I'm really grateful to you for coming and talking about this, it can't have been easy, I think you are all incredible.

"It is great to have somewhere like this to go and talk with each other. It must make a real difference to your lives."

One woman who was raped seven years ago and found the centre by chance after hearing about it on a television programme, credited it with being her "complete lifeline".

She said: "I don't think if this hadn't been here I would be here. I couldn't work, I found it hard to function or be around men, I would be on alert. I was a basket case.

"I had one-to-one counselling for a year, it has given me the strength to continue and get out into the world."

Another woman who was attacked while walking at night contacted the centre after seeing a leaflet at her doctor's surgery.

She said: "In the group there are things we all experience and you think, 'I am normal'.

"A lot of cases go unreported, but after the court case that is when you have to pick up the pieces. When my attacker was sentenced suddenly everybody disappeared. I thought 'What do I do now?"

Yvonne Traynor, RASASC Chief Executive added: "The only way to recover from sexual violence is through talking therapy, counselling, group therapy and self-esteem workshops.

"Everyone feels safe here, there is a nice feeling about this place. Clients can trust us, it's confidential and absolutely vital."