Each one of us has a part to play, to do everything in our power to raise awareness, to ‘reach in’ to others, and to support, and be inspired by, those very brave survivors.
The Queen's (then The Duchess of Cornwall) message to mark the UN Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women in 2020.
Rape and Sexual Abuse
The Queen has worked to highlight organisations supporting victims of Rape and Sexual Assault for over ten years, undertaking numerous visits to learn more about the issues, meet survivors, and highlight the invaluable contribution made by the people and organisations working in this area. In 2013, The then Duchess of Cornwall held a Reception at Clarence House bringing together an important group of national stakeholders and key decision-makers. This was the first time in the UK that such a wide range of organisations had been drawn together specifically to discuss rape and sexual abuse.
Launched in 2013, Her Majesty also developed a scheme to provide Sexual Assault Referral Centres (SARCs) with wash bags, which are given to those referred to the centres. Following a successful pilot in London of 750 bags, the scheme has since grown to a national distribution of over 10,000 wash bags, provided by Boots, delivered annually to 50 SARCs across the UK.
Internationally, The Queen has visited centres in many countries, including the USA, India (Asha Sadan in Mumbai) and the Balkans. In 2014, Her Majesty met actress Angelina Jolie and the then UK Foreign Secretary, William Hague, to discuss their work on ending sexual violence in conflict. During a tour of the Balkans in 2016, The Queen spoke to women who were raped during the Kosovan conflict, and who shared their harrowing stories.
On a tour of India in November 2017, Her Majesty attended a Meeting on Violence Against Women and Girls at the Residence of the British High Commissioner to the Republic of India. In 2021, Her Majesty, as Duchess of Cornwall, became Patron of the Mirabel Centre – Nigeria’s first Sexual Assault Referral Centre.
In October 2021, The Queen attended the Shameless! Festival Reception in London, hosted by WOW and Birkbeck's SHaME Project, where she gave a speech about the stigma and shame that survivors often face:
Rapists are not born, they are constructed. And it takes an entire community – male and female – to dismantle the lies, words and actions that foster a culture in which sexual assault is seen as normal, and in which it shames the victim.
For several years, The Queen has also highlighted the work of domestic abuse charities and the work they do to support victims and survivors, both in the UK and overseas, with the aim of breaking the taboo around the subject. Her Majesty, as Duchess of Cornwall, became Patron of the UK charity, SafeLives, in February 2021 and launched their photography exhibition ‘I Am’: Portraits of Survivors of Domestic Abuse in Manchester, which showcased survivors of domestic abuse.
Her Majesty has also visited Refuge and Women's Aid in the UK, and in 2022 hosted a Reception at Clarence House to mark the 50th anniversary of Refuge.
Internationally, The Queen has attended roundtable discussions on domestic abuse – in Australia in 2015 and as part of the Women’s Forum at CHOGM in London in 2018. In 2019, Her Majesty (as The Duchess of Cornwall) joined a discussion on domestic violence at the Headquarters of Shine in New Zealand – a charity dedicated to making homes violence free.
Towards the start of lockdown, domestic abuse helplines saw a significant surge in calls, and Her Majesty shared a message of support for victims, with links to useful helplines and practical advice.
In June 2020, The Queen joined a video discussion about Domestic Abuse, as part of the WOW Global 24 Festival in June. This followed Her Majesty’s participation in the WOW London festival on 6th March where she gave a keynote address on Domestic Abuse: Everyone’s Problem, and launched the hashtag #EveryonesProblem.
Her Majesty also held a virtual conversation with SafeLives in February 2021 to raise awareness of the “Ask for ANI” initiative amongst victims of domestic abuse. Following lockdown, The Queen visited the newly opened Safe Spaces at Boots – designated consultation rooms within pharmacies where victims can contact specialist domestic abuse services for support and advice.
The Queen also spoke about domestic abuse as one of her key themes when she guest edited the Emma Barnett Show on BBC Radio 5Live in July 2020. This led to a further conversation in February 2022, which was recorded with Emma and Diana Parkes, for BBC Radio 4’s Woman’s Hour and BBC Breakfast. Mrs Parkes’ daughter Joanna was brutally murdered by her husband in 2010, and the conversation focused on the ever growing prevalence of domestic abuse and the means by which it can be tackled.
Ongoing work as Queen
Her Majesty's focus on this area of her work has continued in earnest since The King's Accession. In November 2022, she hosted a reception at Buckingham Palace bringing together individuals and organisations who are working in the Violence Against Women space.
During the reception, The Queen gave a speech in which she talked of the growing issue of violence against women globally, and the hope which many of those attending offered survivors and future generations of women and girls.
We are uniting today to confront, rightly, what has rightly been called a global pandemic of violence against women. Faced with such challenges, it can be hard to know what practical steps we can take to even begin to make a difference.
In February 2023, to mark the charity's 19th anniversary, The Queen visited the STORM Family Centre, which supports people affected by domestic violence and offers services to young and older people within the community.
STORM Family Centre is a Domestic Violence charity that also has a focus on Youth Work and general wellbeing; the acronym S.T.O.R.M stands for: Support, Trust, Opportunity, Rebuilding and Motivation.
During Their Majesties' State Visit to Kenya in November 2023, Her Majesty visited The Situation Room in Mombasa.
The organisation has linked more than 1,000 survivors of gender-based violence to various support services, including legal services to help ensure that justice is served.