The Duchess of Cornwall has given her backing to survivors of domestic abuse in a heartfelt message to a conference on the issue. In a letter supporting the Stand Up To Domestic Abuse conference, Camilla has written about the "shocking prevalence of domestic violence which affects so many people in this country and leaves some in fear of their lives".
The Duchess spoke out after being approached by organiser Rachel Williams, who she first met through her work with charity SafeLives. Rachel suffered 18 years of violence at the hands of her husband Darren, who shot and beat her before committing suicide after she filed for divorce in 2011. Unable to cope, their 16-year-old son Jack took his own life a few weeks later.
Camilla with Rachel Williams, author of The Devil at Home
In her message for the 13 September event at the Celtic Manor Resort in Wales, the Duchess says Rachel's "harrowing story made a deep impression on me". She adds: "It is a testament to her courage that she was able to write her book The Devil at Home to spread the word about the reality of living with domestic abuse."
Wales's first survivor-led conference will bring together people who suffered abuse and organisations such as the police and social services, as well as speakers including actor Michael Sheen, a long-time supporter of Rachel after meeting over Twitter. The Duchess writes: "I'm sure [the survivors'] stories will remind everyone that there is still much to be done, but I hope that the conference will also inspire positive steps to tackle [the abuse]."
Camilla visited SafeLives in 2016
Camilla has made fighting domestic abuse a key focus of her work both at home and abroad, organising a reception at Clarence House in 2016 on the subject. She was pictured in tears after meeting Rachel and other survivors at SafeLives earlier that year.
The two women were reunited at a panel discussion on the issue at the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting in London last year. Speaking to HELLO!, Rachel said: "Having the Duchess's support is so important because it brings it up another level. She is really encouraging me to get my voice out there, which in turn gives a platform for those who have not had their story heard before, which is why I'm doing the conference. There is no shame for the victim and survivor. The shame lies at the perpetrator's feet."