How 'amazing' and 'restless' Queen Camilla is campaigning to end domestic abuse
The CEO of Her Majesty's patronage SafeLives discusses Camilla's tireless support
While many high-profile figures may shy away from talking about issues like domestic abuse, Queen Camilla wants to keep the conversation at the forefront of people's minds.
Back in 2016, in a tiny room at the London office of SafeLives, the then Duchess of Cornwall had a meeting which had a profound impact on her.
She was moved to tears as she heard harrowing testimonies from five women who had suffered domestic abuse or seen friends or family members suffer.
"I was one of the people standing outside [the room] and I think when the door opened, we were quite taken aback because it was so obvious that something highly personal, highly sensitive and really affecting had happened in the room," SafeLives CEO Suzanne Jacob tells me.
After that first meeting, Camilla vowed she would do anything within her power "to help", and since then she has continued to highlight an issue which is still considered taboo.
SafeLives was founded by Baroness Diana Barran at her kitchen table in 2005, and the charity provides a range of services for those who have endured domestic abuse and works with other organisations with the ultimate aim of eradicating the issue.
In recent years, the Queen has supported the charity's #ReachIn community campaign and marked its 15th anniversary with a Clarence House reception in February 2020.
‘What can I do to help?’
Just months later, at the height of the Covid pandemic, Camilla was announced as SafeLives patron.
"When the Covid outbreak started, I had a phone call from her private office to say the Duchess would like to know what can she do. And that was where the conversation went immediately, there was no other consideration.” says Suzanne.
"There was so much going on at that point, the world had turned upside down in a second, and domestic abuse is not a topic that everybody wants to talk about. Even now we come across people who would prefer not to talk about it because they think it's a bit taboo.
"The fact that the Duchess [realised the pandemic] was going to make the situation worse for so many people who are already in a really frightening situation, and also wanted to help, was just amazing."
Camilla later penned an article for The Guardian in which she urged people to "reach in" and help loved ones who are victims of abuse as cases soared during lockdown.
"I've heard from so many people they had the sense that she was thinking of them when things really couldn't get any worse – and that's a really powerful thing to have achieved," Suzanne says.
In 2021, the then Duchess praised the "brilliance" of Ask for Ani (Action Needed Immediately) – a codeword scheme that enables victims of domestic abuse discreetly to ask for immediate help in participating pharmacies and job centres.
And last year she viewed the moving I AM project in Manchester which featured a series of portraits of domestic abuse survivors.
Keeping the conversation going
Following her husband Charles's accession to the throne, the Queen's first solo engagement with her new royal title saw her meet domestic abuse workers and survivors at Chelsea and Westminster Hospital.
Through her work, Camilla has built up a very personal and close connection with some of the survivors she has met over the years.
"I think one of the most wonderful things about having had a chance to work with the Queen is that there's a sort of restlessness to her," says Suzanne. "I think she's always looking for ways to [bring about] change. And so the level of energy that she brings personally, and then that of her team around her, is fantastic."
It’s just as well Her Majesty is so energetic given all her patronages!
For more information about SafeLives and how you can support the charity, visit safelives.org.uk