Lockdown has created a domestic abuse timebomb, the Duchess of Cornwall has warned.
In an exclusive interview with the Daily Mail, Camilla stressed that ‘no one knows what goes on behind anyone’s front door’ and said she feared the true extent of the problem would be ‘pretty horrific’.
Campaigners said from the moment lockdown measures were announced in March that cases of domestic violence were likely to rise as victims found themselves trapped at home with their abusers, often in stressful situations.
In an exclusive interview with the Daily Mail, Camilla stressed that ‘no one knows what goes on behind anyone’s front door’ and said she feared the true extent of the problem would be ‘pretty horrific’. The duchess is pictured with SafeLives pioneers Rachel Williams (left) and Celia Peachey (right) in February
Camilla’s delight at patron role
The Duchess of Cornwall has said she is ‘delighted’ to have been appointed the vice patron of ABF The Soldiers’ Charity, which provides a lifetime of support to soldiers and their families.
It coincides with Armed Forces Day on Saturday, which celebrates the work of all military personnel, and the 75th anniversary of VE Day.
The Queen has been the patron of ABF The Soldiers’ Charity since 1953 and will remain in this position.
On her appointment, Camilla said: ‘We owe a huge debt of gratitude to all those in the Armed Forces, who steadfastly serve our country.
‘I am therefore delighted to become vice patron of ABF The Soldiers’ Charity, an organisation of which Her Majesty is patron, which does such wonderful work to support soldiers, veterans and their immediate families.’
In April the Metropolitan Police said its officers were arresting an average of 100 people a day for domestic violence offences, with charges and cautions up 24 per cent from the previous year.
And last month it was reported that the number of women killed every week nationally by domestic abuse has risen from two to three since lockdown began, with 24 domestic abuse-related homicides in the first seven weeks alone.
But the duchess believes these figures are ‘just the tip of the iceberg’, as new statistics released to the Mail suggest that two-thirds of victims have been too scared to seek help during the pandemic.
She said: ‘At the moment they don’t really know [the extent of it] until the lockdown completely eases and people are able to find out the true figures. I don’t think we will know much until the next two or three months [but] it’s going to be pretty horrific.
‘Can you imagine being locked up with somebody who is abusing you, probably with children, in a very, very small flat somewhere? How do you escape?
‘You probably can’t get to a phone, you can’t talk to anybody, if you go out people aren’t going to want you rushing into their house because they are in lockdown. It must have been absolutely horrific. Completely trapped. Victims will have felt they just had to put up with it.’
Speaking during her first ever phone interview, Camilla said she had been shocked by Safe Lives’ research showing that two-thirds of women had not sought help since Covid-19 restrictions. Most said they felt it was too difficult in terms of their personal safety or that they were dispirited as they had been previously let down by professionals [File photo]
The duchess was speaking to the Mail in her new role as patron of the charity Safe Lives, which is dedicated to ending domestic abuse in the UK; her role will be officially announced today.
Camilla, 72, first attended a meeting organised by the charity with survivors of domestic violence, and family and friends of those who had lost their lives to it, in 2016. The Mail was invited as well.
We told how Camilla shed a tear as she listened to the stories of the women, including Rachel Williams, who was blasted in the legs by her estranged husband who could not bear the thought of not being able to control her; and Celia Peachey, whose shy mother, Maria Stubbings, was strangled to death with her dog’s lead by her new partner.
In April the Metropolitan Police said its officers were arresting an average of 100 people a day for domestic violence offences, with charges and cautions up 24 per cent from the previous year [File photo]
At that meeting the duchess admitted that she had no idea that two million women report cases of domestic abuse each year and promised she would do anything she could to help.
She has made good on her vow, visiting help groups and safe houses around the world, as well as organising keynote events to highlight the issue.
This February she hosted a reception for Safe Lives at Clarence House, where she again met Mrs Williams and Miss Peachey.
Now she has become Safe Lives’ patron and hopes to use her position to try to end domestic abuse ‘for good’.
Speaking during her first ever phone interview, Camilla said she had been shocked by Safe Lives’ research showing that two-thirds of women had not sought help since Covid-19 restrictions.
Most said they felt it was too difficult in terms of their personal safety or that they were dispirited as they had been previously let down by professionals.
One said: ‘My partner’s temper and stress has increased a lot since lockdown and I’m the only thing he can take it out on at the moment.’
Asked if there was more the authorities could do, Camilla said: ‘Only about one in five people who are abused go to the police for help. They are much more likely to go to friends and neighbours and families. But that has been so much harder during lockdown.
‘That’s why Safe Lives have just launched their Reach In campaign, to encourage people to look out for one another. So if they suspect something is amiss with someone they can offer help.
‘The whole thing has been shrouded in silence for so long which means it has been a taboo subject, that people have felt they haven’t been able to talk about it.
‘I want to get people talking about it and get the message to people who have been abused that it’s not their fault. I just want them to know that they are not alone; there is help available. And to get out there and talk about it. There will be people ready to listen.’
Suzanne Jacob, chief executive of Safe Lives, said: ‘Survivors are told for years sometimes that they aren’t valued, they aren’t liked, they are worthless. And for somebody who is a member of the Royal Family to come out and overturn that is huge, absolutely huge.’
For further details of Safe Lives’ #ReachIn campaign to encourage family, friends and neighbours to offer help to victims of domestic abuse, visit safelives.org.uk
And she warns of sexting danger to girls
Schools should take a more significant role in educating young people about coercive control and the dangers to girls of ‘sexting’, Camilla said.
Since 2015, controlling behaviour – extreme psychological and emotional abuse – has been an offence punishable by up to five years in jail.
But there are concerns that young people – mostly girls – are being encouraged to send sexually revealing pictures or explicit messages via text, known as ‘sexting’, as a means of controlling them.
Schools should take a more significant role in educating young people about coercive control and the dangers to girls of ‘sexting’, Camilla said [File photo]
Surveys suggest that as many as one in seven girls have sent ‘sexts’.
The duchess told the Daily Mail: ‘I think young people don’t really understand what’s going on. We’ve got to teach them what healthy and loving relationships look like. I think it is very important to have talks in schools about it.’
The Safe Lives charity said it planned significant work over the coming year on young people and how to enjoy healthy, respectful relationships.
Camilla says she wants to ‘lift the shroud of this silence’ around domestic abuse
On a separate call, the Duchess of Cornwall said she hoped to ‘lift the shroud of silence’ surrounding domestic abuse.
She told a Women of the World online festival discussion: ‘It’s not a nice subject to talk about and I think that’s been one of its problems,
‘It’s been a taboo subject for so long that people just haven’t talked about it.
‘As I’ve said before, silence is corrosive because it leaves the victims feeling both shame and blame.
On a separate call, the Duchess of Cornwall said she hoped to ‘lift the shroud of silence’ surrounding domestic abuse
‘I wanted to lift the shroud of this silence, and get more women, children and men to talk about their experiences.’
Brexit campaigner Gina Miller, who has previously spoken about being an abuse survivor, was also on the online zoom call with the duchess.
The 24-hour online festival hosted by Wow, of which Camilla is president, will bring contributors together from around the world, including civil rights activist Angela Davis, campaigner Gina Miller and actor Sir Patrick Stewart.
They will discuss six themes on issues that impact girls and women, which include education, justice, climate, heath, the economy and violence, as well as the coronavirus pandemic.