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Thursday, 19 April 2018

Duchess of Cornwall highlights 'corrosive silence' around domestic abuse

Written by Laura Elston

The Duchess of Cornwall has issued a rallying call in the fight against domestic abuse.

At the closing session of the Commonwealth Women's Forum, Camilla addressed the "corrosive silence" surrounding the problem.

"In a room this size, with over 300 women here, we know that some of you will also have suffered or perhaps be suffering domestic abuse, and all too often in silence," the duchess said.

"I hope very much that today might mark a moment when we start to pull back that shroud of silence."

The event was part of the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting week in London.

The duchess added: "Domestic abuse remains a hidden problem in our society.

"It is characterised by silence - silence from those who suffer, silence from those around them and silence from those who perpetrate abuse.

"This silence is corrosive: it leaves women, children - and men - carrying the burden of shame; it prevents them from speaking out about their abuse and it prevents them from getting help. And at its worst, it can be fatal."

Camilla, who has long campaigned on the issue of domestic abuse and sexual violence, also joined a round table discussion on how employers can support women facing abuse, offer practical help and create places of safety.

The duchess heard from survivors including Rachel Williams, who faced 18 years of domestic abuse, and was shot by her estranged husband Darren Williams when he burst into her Newport hair salon and opened fire.

Hours later he committed suicide. Ms Williams' 16-year-old Jack then killed himself six weeks later.

Reading a moving letter written by her employer, Ms Williams told how staff at the hair salon also lived in fear of her controlling husband.

"We've got to give the confidence to employers, and colleagues as well, to be able to make a disclosure knowing they will be safe too," she said.

Jude Kelly, founder of Women of the World festival, told the closing session how Camilla was quizzed at the Commonwealth Games in Australia by one young woman she met, who asked boldly: "If you don't mind me asking Ma'am, what's the purpose of your life?"

She said the Duchess replied: "My purpose is to listen to other people's stories and knowing I have some power, I can take people's stories and make other people listen to them too."

Copyright (c) Press Association Ltd. 2018, All Rights Reserved. Picture (c) Jeremy Selwyn / PA Wire.