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Camilla references brutal deaths of Sarah Everard and Sabina Nessa in major speech

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The Duchess of Cornwall delivered a deeply impassioned speech on violence against women last night.

Highlighting the brutal deaths of Sarah Everard and Sabina Nessa among others, Camilla said a ‘culture of silence’ and feelings of shame led many women to conceal their abuse.

And she demanded: ‘How many more women must be harassed, raped or murdered?’

The duchess also said it was crucial for women ‘to get the men in our lives involved in this movement’.

She explained that without the whole of society taking the issue seriously, violence against women would continue to be ‘just one of those things, part and parcel of being born female’.

The Prime Minister’s wife, Carrie Johnson, 33, was in the audience at last night’s event. She arrived at the Wellcome Trust in London ten minutes before the duchess and could be seen practising her curtsy before the royal arrived.

As Camilla walked in, elegant in a black dress and Women of the World (WOW) Foundation badge, she made a beeline for the Prime Minister’s wife.  She looked and gestured to pregnant Mrs Johnson’s bump and said: ‘How’s this coming along?’ Mrs Johnson then laughed.

Royal aides said the duchess had personally invited the mother-to-be to the reception.

During her speech, Camilla said: ‘We do not, in any way, hold all men responsible for sexual violence. But we do need them all on board to tackle it. After all, 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.’ 

The duchess made her speech hours after Couzens lodged an official appeal against the whole-life tariff handed to him in September for Ms Everard’s rape and murder in March.    

The Duchess of Cornwall tonight asked how many women will be 'harassed, raped or murdered' as she highlighted in a major speech the brutal deaths of Sarah Everard, Sabina Nessa and others in recent months. The 74-year-old was speaking at a reception at the Welcome Trust in London to launch the Shameless! Festival, a collaboration between Women of the World (WOW) Foundation and Birbeck's SHaME project. Among the listeners was Carrie Johnson, the wife of the Prime Minister

The Duchess of Cornwall tonight asked how many women will be ‘harassed, raped or murdered’ as she highlighted in a major speech the brutal deaths of Sarah Everard, Sabina Nessa and others in recent months. The 74-year-old was speaking at a reception at the Welcome Trust in London to launch the Shameless! Festival, a collaboration between Women of the World (WOW) Foundation and Birbeck’s SHaME project. Among the listeners was Carrie Johnson, the wife of the Prime Minister

Camilla highlighted the brutal murders of women including Sarah Everard

She also referred to the death of Sabina Nessa as she spoke at a reception in London to launch the Shameless! Festival, a collaboration between Women of the World (WOW) Foundation and Birbeck's SHaME project

Camilla highlighted the brutal murders of women including Ms Everard (left) and Ms Nessa in recent months as she spoke at a reception in London to launch the Shameless! Festival, a collaboration between Women of the World (WOW) Foundation and Birbeck’s SHaME project

The 74-year-old royal was speaking at a reception to launch the Shameless! Festival.

The festival, which will take place next month, will bring together activism and art to confront and change attitudes towards sexual violence.

Camilla has made the issue of sexual and domestic abuse against women a cornerstone of her public work since her early days as a member of the Royal Family.

She even devised an initiative to provide rape victims with free wash bags containing essential toiletries to use after invasive forensic examinations.  

During her speech, Camilla referenced several female victims of violent crime including Sarah Everard – murdered by serving police officer Wayne Couzens; Sabina Nessa – the primary school teacher killed minutes from home; Geetika Goyal – who was stabbed to death by her husband; Wenjing Lin – a schoolgirl found dead at home with a man due to stand trial for murder next month; and Bennylyn Burke – a mother who was stabbed and beaten to death. 

The duchess said: ‘This country has been appalled and saddened by the loss of women to violence this year…

‘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. 

‘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.’ 

Speaking of the recent deaths which have shocked Britons, she said: 'This country has been appalled and saddened by the loss of women to violence this year. 'On average, one women is killed by a man every three days. Sarah Everard, Sabina Nessa, Wenjing Lin, Geetika Goyal and Bennylyn Burke are names which, with all the others, must never be forgotten'

Speaking of the recent deaths which have shocked Britons, she said: ‘This country has been appalled and saddened by the loss of women to violence this year. ‘On average, one women is killed by a man every three days. Sarah Everard, Sabina Nessa, Wenjing Lin, Geetika Goyal and Bennylyn Burke are names which, with all the others, must never be forgotten’

Ms Johnson arrived at the Wellcome Trust in London ten minutes before the duchess and could be seen practicing her curtesy before she arrived

Ms Johnson arrived at the Wellcome Trust in London ten minutes before the duchess and could be seen practicing her curtesy before she arrived

Royal aides said the duchess had personally invited Carrie, who is expecting her second child later this year, to the reception

Royal aides said the duchess had personally invited Carrie, who is expecting her second child later this year, to the reception 

Shameless! Festival will be a collaboration between WOW and the Sexual Harms and Medical Encounters (SHaME) project at Birkbeck, University of London.

Last night Camilla referred to a visit to WOW’s own festival shortly before the first lockdown last year, where its founder, Jude Kelly, asked her audience to put up their hands if they could imagine a world in which violence against women did not exist.

Camilla recalled: ‘The reaction was mixed. Some hands flew up, some remained firmly planted in laps, most of us glanced at each other, rather taken aback.

‘Dared we even dream of a world without rape and sexual abuse? Or were we too indoctrinated into believing that violence against women is normal, just ‘one of those things’, part and parcel of being born female?’

Turning to the ‘immense’ challenges facing the country over this issue, the duchess highlighted The Crime Survey for England and Wales which shows that 144,000 women were victims of rape or attempted rape in the last year, equating to roughly 16 of the most serious sexual offences every hour. 

The duchess also said the problem extended to sexual harassment more generally. 

She said: ‘On the same day that Wayne Couzens was arrested, a survey was published stating that 86 per cent of young women in the UK have been sexually harassed in a public space,’ she said. 

‘This included women who had been followed and coerced into sexual activity – all while in a public space. Even more shockingly, of these young women, 96 per cent did not report the incidents.

As Camilla walked in, elegant in a back dress and WOW badge, she made a beeline for the Prime Minister's wife. 'Hello Carrie, very nice to see you,' the duchess smiled

As Camilla walked in, elegant in a back dress and WOW badge, she made a beeline for the Prime Minister’s wife. ‘Hello Carrie, very nice to see you,’ the duchess smiled

She then looked and gestured to pregnant Mrs Johnson's bump and said: 'How's this coming along?'

She then looked and gestured to pregnant Mrs Johnson’s bump and said: ‘How’s this coming along?’

The pair also exchanged kisses as they greeted each other before Camilla gave her powerful speech

The pair also exchanged kisses as they greeted each other before Camilla gave her powerful speech

‘It is, as almost all women know, a deeply disturbing experience to be sexually harassed. Yet somehow, a culture of silence has grown up, in which women conceal their experiences of such offences. Why?

‘There are, of course, many explanations. But there is one significant reason on which we are focussing today. Shame.

‘Shame is one of the most powerful emotions felt after a sexual violation. 

‘The victim feels invaded and dirty; weakened by having been put in a position of helplessness by someone stronger – possibly by someone whom she previously trusted. 

‘Often, this sense of shame causes the victim to blame herself, mistakenly take responsibility for the crime, and want to hide away from others.

‘And yet she has done nothing wrong.’ But in a hopeful note Camilla said there was still ‘hope’ that a world free from violence against women could be created.

‘And she urged other women to support survivors to be ‘shame-less’ and not to take on ‘misplaced feelings of stigma’.

‘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 said.

People gathering to lay flowers and pay their respects at the vigil held for Ms Everard on Clapham Common shortly after her murder in March

People gathering to lay flowers and pay their respects at the vigil held for Ms Everard on Clapham Common shortly after her murder in March

Ms Goyal (above) was stabbed to death in Leicester

Schoolgirl Ms Lyn was stabbed at her family's takeaway restaurant in South Wales and Ms Burke was killed along with her daughter in Dundee

Ms Goyal (left) was stabbed to death in Leicester; schoolgirl Ms Lyn was stabbed at her family’s takeaway restaurant in South Wales and Ms Burke was killed along with her daughter in Dundee

She concluded by calling women across the country to get their husbands, boyfriends, fathers and brothers to take up the cause.

‘So let us all leave here today and try and get the men in our lives to participate in building a ‘shame-less’ society,’ she said.

‘Because how many more women must be harassed, raped or murdered before we truly unite to forge a violence-free world?’ 

Ms Burke was killed along with her daughter in Dundee

Ms Burke was killed along with her daughter in Dundee

As Camilla arrived for the event in an elegant in a back dress and WOW badge, she made a beeline for the Prime Minister’s wife. ‘Hello Carrie, very nice to see you,’ the duchess smiled.

She then looked and gestured to pregnant Mrs Johnson’s bump and said: ‘How’s this coming along?’

Mrs Johnson giggled but her reply couldn’t be heard.

Royal aides said the duchess had personally invited Carrie, who is expecting her second child later this year, to the reception.

At the start of the event, Camilla took to the stage alongside the CEO of WOW, Jude Kelly, and former Australian Prime Minister, Julia Gillard, now chair of the Wellcome Trust.

She had the audience – and Carrie Johnstone in stitches – as she thanked Mrs Johnstone for attending and joked that she felt she should call her The First Lady.

When Mrs Johnston laughed – so hard that she knocked an empty wine glass over – Mrs Gillard jokingly apologised and said that in Australia they have a ‘First Bloke’.

‘Thank you very much for that,’ Mrs Johnson smiled. 

Camilla’s powerful speech against sexual violence

‘This country has been appalled and saddened by the loss of women to violence this year. On average, one woman is killed by a man every three days.

‘Sarah Everard, Sabina Nessa, Wenjing Lin, Geetika Goyal and Bennylyn Burke are names which, with all the others, must never be forgotten. 

‘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. She said: ‘if Sarah had died because of an illness, she would have been cared for.

‘We could have looked after her and been with her. If she had died because of an accident, people would have tried to help, there would have been kindness.

‘But there is no comfort to be had, no consoling thought in the way Sarah died. In her last hours she was faced with brutality and terror, alone with someone intent on doing her harm.’

‘The thought of it is unbearable, I am haunted by the horror of it. I know that all of you 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 about the end of violence against women.

‘The challenges are immense, the crime survey of England and Wales shows that 144,000 women were victims of rape or attempted rape in the last year for which figures were available. This equates to roughly 16 of the most serious sexual offences every hour. Sixteen every hour.

‘On the same day that Wayne Couzens was arrested, a survey was published stating that 86 per cent of young women in the UK have been sexually harassed in a public place. This included women who had been followed and coerced into sexual activity, all while in a public place.

‘Even more shockingly, of these young women 96 per cent of them did not report the incidents. It is as almost all women know, a deeply disturbing experience to be sexually harassed, yet somehow a culture of silence has grown up, in which these women conceal their experiences of such offences.

‘Why? There are of course many explanations. But there is one significant reason, on which we are focusing today: Shame. Shame is one of the most powerful emotions felt after sexual violation.

‘The victims feel invaded and dirty, weakened by having been put into a position of helplessness by someone stronger, possibly by someone whom she previously trusted.

‘Often the sense of shame causes the victim to blame herself, mistakenly take responsibility for the crime and want to hide away from others. And yet, she has done nothing wrong.

‘I said these challenges are immense, however the forthcoming festival gives us hope that they can be overcome.

‘There are I believe two important steps that we can take as we aim to create the world from violence against women that Jude has pointed us towards.

‘Firstly, we have shame-less, together, today let us resolve to support survivors to be shameless and not take on misplaced feelings of stigma.

‘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.

‘Secondly, we need to get the men in our lives involved in this movement. We do not in any way hold all men responsible for sexual violence but we do need them all aboard to tackle it.

‘After all, 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.

‘So lets all leave here today and try and get the men in our lives to participate in building a shameless society.

‘Because, how many more women must be harassed raped or murdered before we truly unite to forge a violence-free world? Thank you all very much.’



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