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Duchess of Cornwall vows to 'do anything' to help domestic abuse survivors

Camilla became patron of SafeLives in 2020

Emily Nash

Sitting in front of a roaring fire at a desk adorned with elephant trinkets and a vase of pink tulips, the warm-hearted Duchess of Cornwall told survivors of domestic abuse that she will do "anything to help" them.

And she praised a new safe haven scheme for those suffering or at risk as "pure brilliance".

Caring Camilla offered her support during a call with SafeLives pioneer Rachel Williams, whose heartbreaking story moved her to tears the first time they met. 

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WATCH: Duchess Camilla praises 'brilliance' of pharmacy safe haven initiative for abuse victims

She told Rachel and Suzanne Jacob, CEO of the charity of which she is patron: "My heart is well and truly in it, so I'd really like to do anything to help all these wonderful people."

The Duchess, who along with the Prince of Wales has received her first coronavirus vaccination, heard about the Government’s Ask for ANI scheme, now operational at more than 2,500 Boots stores and more than 200 independent pharmacies across the UK.

Anyone at risk or suffering from abuse can discreetly use the codeword "ANI" – Assistance Needed Immediately – at the counter and a trained worker will take them to a private space where they can call the police, access domestic abuse helplines or just think about their next step. 

Since its launch on January 14, nearly one person a day has used the service.

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The Duchess visiting Boots Piccadilly store last July

Told how Rachel and other survivors had come up with the idea, Camilla said: "It's pure brilliance, it's so simple and yet it's so effective."

Suzanne replied: "One of the women who has used the scheme already had been in an abusive situation for 20 years and now she’s in a place of safety. It’s a really simple thing, but it can change people's lives."

Rachel suffered 18 years of abuse until 2011, when her husband shot her after she filed for divorce. He committed suicide and tragically, their 16-year-old son Jack also took his own life six weeks later. 

She went on to found Stand Up to Domestic Abuse and since last June alone, has supported 388 survivors through the Freedom Programme, including women across the globe.

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The Duchess speaking with Rachel and Suzanne during the call

The Duchess told her: "You have been such a wonderful spokesman because you've suffered this terrible abuse, yet you're prepared to get up and talk about it and I think that is what is needed. I think you ought to have an army of Rachels really."

Rachel replied: "I don't think my husband would be very happy about that your Royal Highness!"

"What, one is quite enough?" laughed Camilla.

MORE: Duchess of Cornwall's heartfelt message during 'extremely challenging time'

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The Duchess said she will do "anything to help" domestic abuse survivors

Rachel later told HELLO!: "The Duchess is really passionate, she is genuinely interested in what's happening with domestic abuse currently. 

"She's really got a heart for helping to stamp this out once and for all."

In a message to survivors, she added: "There is help out there, you are not alone. There is life after domestic abuse and violence. Reach out because there is always somebody waiting to reach in."

Suzanne described the Duchess as "phenomenally committed", adding: "All the way through the pandemic she has been so proactive in asking us at Safe Lives, 'Tell me what I can be doing, I want to help'. 

"She wrote a letter a little while ago to frontline practitioners to say I'm with you, I support you, I'm absolutely behind you in everything you're doing and I know you're exhausted but we're thinking of you.

"She is very determined and her sense of that being possible, that we will end domestic abuse for everyone for good, is really motivating. It makes a huge difference."

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