Reality TV star Zara McDermott has spoken of her efforts to end the scourge of “revenge porn” as the Duchess of Cornwall celebrated the work of domestic abuse campaigners.
Camilla hosted a Clarence House reception to mark the 50th anniversary of the charity Refuge, and said the milestone should galvanise “us all towards a world where women and children can live in safety, free from fear”.
The duchess, who welcomed activists, politicians, and charity workers to her home, said: “Although society’s attitudes towards the crime, the perpetrators and the victims have changed enormously over the last 50 years, your work, sadly, is as necessary as ever.
“We know that one in four women in England and Wales will, at some point, experience domestic abuse. Thankfully, you continue to make history and to save lives, working with many thousands of women every day.”
Home Secretary Priti Patel, Culture Secretary Nadine Dorries and Jess Phillips, shadow minister for domestic violence and safeguarding, were among the guests alongside activist Erica Osakwe, who has campaigned with other organisations to extend the length of time domestic abuse victims have to report a crime.
McDermott, who has presented a BBC documentary on the subject of revenge porn, said she was left devastated when her naked photos went viral after being posted online following her appearance on reality TV show Love Island in 2018.
The 24-year-old, who has worked with the charity Refuge, said after chatting to the duchess: “I felt it was important to share my story to help others who may have been in the same situation.
“A couple of years ago the term revenge porn wasn’t known at all, but now an increasing number of people are aware of it and the absolute destruction it can bring.
“The landscape is changing and the increase of technology, whether it’s camera phones, social media or access to apps, is actually quite concerning when in the wrong hands.
“What I have tried to convey with my work with Refuge is that we all need to be aware of what we are sharing, how we are sharing it and who we are sharing it with.”
The TV star later said on her Instagram account she had told the duchess “all about the work I have done, and will continue to do for young people”.
“What a privilege to have your work recognised by a member of the Royal family, and to be able to share your aspirations for the future with them. I am so so so incredibly grateful,” she added.
Refuge has long campaigned on the issue of revenge porn and welcomed the Government’s decision to make the threat of sharing intimate images a crime.
A survey commissioned by the charity found that one in 14 adults in England and Wales have experienced threats to share intimate images or videos – equivalent to 4.4 million.
The organisation has also used its 50th anniversary to raise awareness about the rise in tech abuse, a fast-growing form of domestic abuse.
Earlier in the day, at an emergency accommodation refuge, the duchess privately met women who have recently fled their abusive partners to learn first hand about the work needed to support vulnerable women.
Refuge, which provides specialist services and campaigning to end domestic abuse, said 43% of its service users reported financial abuse in 2021.
During the past five years the number of women supported by Refuge who said their perpetrator was refusing to contribute to the household costs increased by 632%, and the number who said their perpetrator was refusing to pay child maintenance rose by 1,123%.
Hetti Barkworth-Nanton, chair of Refuge, thanked the duchess for her support and said: “When the first refuge opened in 1971, domestic abuse was thought of as being largely about black eyes and broken bones.
“Now, it is much wider, and can include abuse via technology as well as economic abuse. These statistics show the sheer scale of economic abuse, with almost half the women Refuge supported in 2021 experiencing this form of abuse.”