It’s up to all men to end sexual violence, says Duchess of Cornwall in wake of Sarah Everard murder

  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.
·6-min read
In this article:
  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.
Duchess of Cornwall - Peter Nichols/REUTERS
Duchess of Cornwall - Peter Nichols/REUTERS

The Duchess of Cornwall has called on all men to tackle a “deeply disturbing” culture of sexual harassment in the wake of Sarah Everard’s murder, saying “rapists are not born but constructed”.

The Duchess, who is campaigning to lift the shame and stigma surrounding violence against women, condemned the notion that harassment was “part and parcel of being female” and “just one of those things”.

Watch: Duchess of Cornwall pays tribute to women lost to violence

In her most pointed and passionate speech to date, the Duchess spoke of the “unimaginable torment” of the women killed by men, and the families left behind. She called for their names, including Sarah Everard, to be remembered.

Almost all women knew the “deeply disturbing experience” of being sexually harassed, she said, asking: “How many more women must be harassed, raped or murdered before we truly unite to forge a violence-free world?”

Duchess of Cornwall - Peter Nichols/REUTERS
Duchess of Cornwall - Peter Nichols/REUTERS

The Duchess appeared on Wednesday night to open the Shameless! Festival, a collaboration between the Women of the World festival, of which she is patron, and the Birkbeck, University of London SHaME (Sexual Harms and Medical Encounters) research project.

Guests at the event, held at the Wellcome Collection in London, included Carrie Johnson, the Prime Minister’s wife.

Mrs Johnson, who was invited to attend the event by the Duchess, curtsied as Camilla greeted her warmly with a kiss on each cheek. She had been seen practising the manoeuvre before the Duchess arrived.

'Rapists are not born, they are constructed'

“We need to get the men in our lives involved in this movement,” the Duchess told the audience.

“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.

“So let us all leave here and try to get the men in our lives to participate in building a ‘shameless’ society.”

The Duchess read part of the moving victim impact statement from the mother of Sarah Everard and paid tribute to ‘all these precious lives that have been brutally ended’ - Family Handout/PA
The Duchess read part of the moving victim impact statement from the mother of Sarah Everard and paid tribute to ‘all these precious lives that have been brutally ended’ - Family Handout/PA

Saying Britain had been “appalled and saddened” by the loss of women to violence already this year, she read part of the moving victim impact statement from Sarah Everard’s mother and paid tribute to “all these precious lives that have been brutally ended”.

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

“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.”

Watch: Officers from Metropolitan Police, Sussex, Dorset and Avon and Somerset facing disciplinary action over WhatsApp messages about Sarah Everard's killer Wayne Couzens

The Duchess specifically named Wayne Couzens, the Met police officer jailed for Ms Everard’s murder, noting that a survey published on the day of his arrest found 86 per cent of young women in the UK have been sexually harassed in public, and 96 per cent did not report it.

“It is, as almost all women know, a deeply disturbing experience to be sexually harassed,” she added, arguing “shame” had become a common reaction to such trauma.

“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,” she said.

Julia Gillard - REUTERS/Peter Nichols/Pool/REUTERS/Peter Nichols/Pool
Julia Gillard - REUTERS/Peter Nichols/Pool/REUTERS/Peter Nichols/Pool

“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.”

She called on the public to “support survivors to be ‘shameless’ and not to take on misplaced feelings of stigma”.

The Shameless! Festival will be held at Battersea Arts Centre on November 27, using art and activism to change attitudes towards sexual violence.

The Duchess’ campaigning on violence against women and sexual assault has previously included launching the Wash Bag Project, providing toiletries to restore some dignity for those undergoing forensic examinations following an attack.

100th poppy appeal launched 

Separately, Prince Charles and Camilla have launched the 100th poppy appeal, asking the nation to buy a poppy because it is "as relevant today as it ever was".

Charles and the Duchess of Cornwall met 10 volunteer collectors from the Royal British Legion - one for each decade of the appeal - at Clarence House on Tuesday to mark the start of this year's campaign to raise funds and awareness for the RBL.

Prince CHarles - Victoria Jones/PA
Prince CHarles - Victoria Jones/PA

The Prince said: "In November 1921, the Royal British Legion's first Poppy Appeal took place and the nation adopted the annual tradition of placing a small red flower on their clothing to signify respect and support for the Armed Forces community, their service and their sacrifice.

"The significance of the poppy is as relevant today as it ever was while our Armed Forces continue to be engaged in operations overseas and often in the most demanding of circumstances.

"The simple act of wearing a poppy is only made possible because of volunteer Poppy Appeal collectors who share a common goal - to recognise the unique contribution of the Armed Forces community."

Queen holds first telephone meeting with Prime Minister in three weeks

The Queen has held her first weekly meeting with Boris Johnson in three weeks as she continues to carry out light duties.

They spoke over the phone following the Queen's announcement she would not be travelling to Scotland for the UN climate change conference Cop26.

"The Rt Hon Boris Johnson MP (Prime Minister and First Lord of the Treasury) had an audience of The Queen via telephone this evening," said an entry in Wednesday's Court Circular, the official record of royal engagements.

Britain's Queen Elizabeth appears on a screen via video link from Windsor Castle - Pool/Reuters
Britain's Queen Elizabeth appears on a screen via video link from Windsor Castle - Pool/Reuters


There are no details in the Court Circular of Mr Johnson having an audience with the Queen last week when she was advised to rest, and cancelled a two-day trip to Northern Ireland.

The Prime Minister was on holiday the preceding week, and the last official note of a telephone meeting between the pair was on October 6.

The 95-year-old monarch was due to travel to Scotland for the high-profile Cop26 evening engagement on Monday, but she will now record a video address for delegates.

It is understood the Queen very much wants the conference to be a success and result in meaningful action from the participating nations.

The Queen faced preliminary tests in hospital on October 20 during her first overnight stay at a medical facility in eight years, and has twice used a walking stick in recent weeks.

She returned to work on Tuesday, carrying out virtual audiences from Windsor Castle, her first official engagements in seven days, after she was ordered to rest by doctors - and later that day spoke with Chancellor Rishi Sunak ahead of the Budget.

 

Our goal is to create a safe and engaging place for users to connect over interests and passions. In order to improve our community experience, we are temporarily suspending article commenting