The Duchess of Cornwall has paid tribute to those whose lives have been “brutally ended” as she called for action to prevent violence against women.
Camilla acknowledged a number of women who have died in violent circumstances, including Sarah Everard, at a reception for the Shameless! Festival at the Wellcome Collection in London.
While urging for their names to “never be forgotten”, she recalled a victim impact statement read out in court by Sarah Everard’s mother, Susan, describing it as “searing”.
The duchess said: “Each one of these women endured unimaginable torment – and their loved ones who are left behind continue to suffer in the wake of their deaths.
“On September 30, Sarah Everard’s mother stood before her daughter’s killer to give her searing victim impact statement.”
After quoting from the statement, the duchess added: “I know that all of you here today join me in paying tribute to all these precious lives that have been brutally ended, and in renewing our commitment to do everything we can to bring about the end of violence against women.”
On the same day Sarah Everard’s killer, Wayne Couzens, was arrested, a survey was published stating that 86% of young women in the UK have been sexually harassed in a public space, Camilla said.
She added that a crime survey for England and Wales showed that 144,000 women were victims of rape or attempted rape in the last year, which equates to roughly 16 every hour.
Camilla said she hoped the upcoming Shameless! Festival – a collaboration between the WOW (Women of the World) Foundation, of which she is president, and Birkbeck, University of London’s SHaME (Sexual Harms and Medical Encounters) project – would help create the world free from violence against women.
“Together, today, let us resolve to support survivors to be ‘shameless’ and not to take on misplaced feelings of stigma,” she said.
“Through speaking up about our experiences, we break the wall of silence that allows perpetrators to go unpunished and increases the feeling of isolation that so many survivors describe.”
She also urged for men to get involved in the movement, saying they need to be “on board” to tackle violence against women.
“Because how many more women must be harassed, raped or murdered before we truly unite to forge a violence-free world?” Camilla asked.
Ahead of the reception, Camilla met with Jude Kelly, founder and director of the WOW Foundation, and Julia Gillard, chairwoman of Wellcome, which is supporting the festival.
Other guests at the event included Carrie Johnson, members of the WOW Foundation and representatives of Birkbeck’s SHaME project.
Mrs Johnson, who is understood to have been personally invited to the event by the duchess, was seen practising her curtesy ahead of Camilla’s arrival.
Camilla, who was wearing a black dress and a WOW badge, greeted Mrs Johnson when she arrived and said: “Hello Carrie, very nice to see you.”
At the start of the event, Camilla took to the stage alongside Ms Kelly and former Australian prime minister, Julia Gillard, now chair of the Wellcome Trust.
Mrs Gillard made the audience laugh by asking if she should refer to Mrs Johnson as the “First Lady”, to which the Prime Minister’s wife replied “Absolutely not!” and laughed.
A glass of wine was seen knocked over behind Mrs Johnson at the same moment. Mrs Gillard jokingly apologised and said that in Australia they have a “First Bloke”. “Thank you very much for that,” Mrs Johnson said and smiled.
The Shameless! Festival will take place at Battersea Arts Centre on November 27, where it aims to “bring together activism and art to confront and change attitudes towards sexual violence”.
Camilla has previously been an advocate for preventing and addressing the issue of sexual violence and harassment.
In 2017, she worked with Boots to launch the Wash Bag Project, a scheme that provides a wash bag of toiletries to sexual abuse survivors across the UK.
In March last year, she spoke about domestic violence at the Women of the World Festival and recorded a video message for the United Nation’s Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women in November.
In September, the duchess was named patron of the Mirabel Sexual Assault Centre in Lagos.
Such an honour to join HRH The Duchess of Cornwall at tonight’s @WOWisGlobal event ahead of this month’s Shameless! Festival against sexual violence: https://t.co/vP0jLnbttZ pic.twitter.com/rWK4NapFzC
— Carrie Johnson (@carrielbjohnson) October 27, 2021
Ms Kelly said the event was “quite joyful” as some people at the event felt they were “liberated” due to having a safe space to discuss their traumas.
Outlining her thoughts on the duchess’ speech, she told PA: “I think it’s great that she’s refusing to moderate the message. Because it’s too urgent to be coy or diplomatic.
“It’s great to see her right at the front of the subject matter. I’ve known her for a long time now and she wants to know the hard stuff from the survivors she met.”
She added that she also spoke to Mrs Johnson during the event.
“She said ‘Anything I can do to help, call on me anytime.’ It [the event] really had moved her,” Ms Kelly added.
Labour MP for Walthamstow Stella Creasy, who also was at the event, told PA: “I think this is such a powerful, potent, and timely festival that they’re organising.
“I was blown away by what the Duchess of Cornwall said. I think it shows that there is a revolution taking place where women are not going to take it anymore. I think this festival could be a powerful part of that.”
She added that the job now falls on people like her to “continue that momentum through Parliament.”
“I’ll certainly be trying to recruit the Duchess of Cornwall to make misogyny a hate crime on what she said tonight – she makes a powerful case for it,” she added.