Duchess of Cornwall challenges society as she declares domestic violence 'everyone's problem'

Camilla called for people to challenge society to tackle domestic violence. (Getty Images)

The Duchess of Cornwall has declared domestic violence as “everyone’s problem” as she spoke about how society sexualises young girls ahead of International Women’s Day.

Camilla was speaking at the launch of the Women of the World (WOW) festival, of which she is president, at the Southbank Centre in London.

She gave a powerful speech highlighting how much violence against women happens inside the home, and calling for men and women to challenge the “cultural, economic and political context in which we all experience the world”.

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She said: “Three-quarters of violence against women happens in a place where a woman should feel safest – her own home. And just imagine: one in four women in this country will suffer domestic violence in their lifetime. One in four.   

“I find it almost impossible to think that any friend of mine might be living under that horrific threat, without my knowing it, but that is the power of coercive control and violence in the home. It is characterised by silence – silence from those that suffer – silence from those around them, and silence from those who perpetrate abuse.  

“This silence is corrosive; it leaves women, children and men carrying the burden of shame. It prevents them from speaking out about the abuse and it prevents them from getting help. And at its worst it can be fatal.”

The duchess, who appeared at the event alone as her husband took on engagements in Cornwall, said she welcomed new laws on coercive control but that they would not be enough on their own to make changes.

She continued: “It is not only men who abuse and It is not only women who are abused. Let’s not forget that this is a complicated issue. And we need to acknowledge that society also plays a part.

“Maybe it’s too simplistic to say that it fosters a culture of violence and early sexualization. But the society in which we live is the backdrop for our behaviour. 

“Young people don’t set out to become abusers. We need to teach our young men and women what healthy and loving relationships are, and that it is never ‘OK’ to treat anyone with less than respect.”

Calling for action, she said the campaign to end “this heinous crime” “needs the voices of men as well as women” as she launched her first hashtag.

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Camilla at the opening of the festival, of which she is president. (Getty Images)
(L to R) Naomi Donald, Celia Peachey, Suzanne Jacob, Gina Miller, Camilla, Duchess of Cornwall, Commissioner of the Metropolitan Police Service Cressida Dick, Sheila Gewolb and Daniella Jenkins. (Getty Images)

She said: “I’m also here as a woman in her seventies, who (as a somewhat ancient technophobe) is not always familiar with some of the jargon younger people use today, but I do know about ‘hashtags’!  

“And now I am using my very first one#everyonesproblem.”

Camilla has spent many years working with domestic violence charities and victims, in particular with Safe Lives.

She hosted a reception in Clarence House in February after which she urged victims to speak out and said she knew of people who had suffered abuse herself.

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Ahead of Friday’s event, the duchess met domestic abuse survivors and campaigners, as well as Metropolitan Police Commissioner Dame Cressida Dick, who was attending to support the event.