Ladies and gentlemen, it is a huge pleasure to welcome you all to Clarence House today to mark the 15th anniversary of SafeLives. I’ve really enjoyed speaking to you all this afternoon and hearing about your connections to this remarkable charity, whether as staff members, supporters, partners or survivors. Each one of you is making an enormous difference as we seek, in the words of SafeLives, to end domestic abuse, for good.
It seems particularly appropriate to be celebrating your 15th anniversary in my home, as SafeLives was, at the start, very much a home-grown initiative. Your inspirational founder, Diana Barran, started this charity from her kitchen table, with no guarantee that it would prove to be the success it is today. She had, quite simply, asked, what was the biggest human problem that was the hardest to raise money for. The answer was domestic abuse… SafeLives was born…
Those early days, gathered round the kitchen table in Somerset, must have been very daunting. But a wonderfully simple principle was found to apply to this difficult task – the ‘best friend’ rule. The point being, if your best friend was experiencing domestic abuse, what would you want for her?
Your conclusion was a single person to talk to, who could be an advocate for the different statutory agencies: the police, the courts and so on. Over the past 15 years, SafeLives has grown beyond all recognition. But your ‘best friend’ rule still applies. Last year alone, your work supported more than 65,000 adults and 85,000 children, ensuring, through your friendship, that their voices were heard and their lives were made safer.
I visited SafeLives for the first time in 2016 and, as I have said on numerous occasions, that memorable day fired my interest in domestic abuse. I did know of people who had suffered from it, but I was both shocked, and horrified by just how many thousands of people across the world live with it. I had the privilege of hearing incredibly brave women (some of whom are here today) standing up to tell their stories. Harrowing stories that reduced many of us listeners to tears. But with each story that is told, 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.
Now Ladies and Gentlemen, as you mark this anniversary and look to the future, 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 for ever. Thank you all.