Camilla relaunches wash bag initiative for victims of sexual assault

Her Majesty initally launched the project in 2013

Queen Camilla carried out a special engagement at Buckingham Palace last week, with some very special guests, seeking to recognise those who support survivors of sexual assault, as well as to relaunch her Wash Bags Project.

The Wash Bags Project was initiated by Camilla back in 2013, having heard the stories of rape and sexual abuse survivors during her visits to the Sexual Assault Referral Centres. The scheme provides a bag of toiletries, donated by Boots, to people who have been affected by rape and sexual abuse following a forensic examination, as a small gesture of comfort during a difficult time.

Camilla marked the relaunch of her wash bag initiative. (Royal Family)

For the first time since its creation, the project has now seen In Kind Direct come on board as the distribution partner for this initiative, alongside Boots, which continues to provide the wash bags and contents. In Kind Direct is a charity founded in 1996, by Charles as Prince of Wales.

The Queen welcomed a cohort of famous guests to today’s reception, including celebrities and politicians alike. Those in attendance were Zara McDermott, Carrie Johnson, Cherie Blair, Health Secretary Victoria Atkins, Home Secretary James Cleverly, former Prime Minister Theresa May and MP Jess Phillips.

Other guests ranged from staff from SARCs, service users and representatives from key organisations, including charities, police forces and health services, as well as high-profile individuals who have used their platforms to campaign on violence against women.

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Welcoming guests, Camilla said that each person there had ‘a powerful story to tell’ whether they ‘work in this country or overseas; whether you are based in a refuge, a Sexual Assault Referral Centre, a charity, Parliament, or, most important of all, you are a survivor’.

Her Majesty stated that guests stories and experiences ‘are vital tools as we seek to bring about change: to forge a world in which people, whoever and wherever they are, do not live in fear of being abused’ and added how ‘speaking about the experience is one of the key ways to survive it. By sharing with one another today, we can strengthen our alliance against sexual abuse in all its forms’.

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Highlighting why all the guests had gathered today, Camilla said that the ‘aim of the wash bags was to create something that would be ‘a crumb of comfort’ to those finding themselves in a ‘horrendous position’. The Queen also shared the shocking statistic that ‘every year in England and Wales alone, nearly 800,000 women and 275,000 men suffer attempted or actual sexual assault – although the true figures are likely to be much higher’ due to societal and cultural reasons in which people don’t report sexual assaults.

Speaking about how important it is to listen to survivors, Camilla has had the ‘privilege’ of ‘meeting and receiving letters from numerous people who, sadly, have experienced sexual assault. Some have visited SARCs and been given a wash bag when the ordeal of the forensic examination was over’.

Her Majesty then quoted a letter that she had been sent and ‘received generous permission’ to quote from it, with the lady writing about her ‘very brave daughter’, whom Camilla called Jane for confidentiality reasons.

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‘Two years ago, Jane attended a SARC, with her mother and sister, for a full forensic examination just hours after being attacked. This was described by her mother as “a horrible, if necessary, event. We were preparing to leave and were all feeling very low and subdued.

“Jane’s personal contact then returned with a wonderful bag of toiletries and items to pamper and relax her. This simple act completely changed the atmosphere and lifted our moods. It was such a lovely and completely unexpected gesture, which reminded my daughters and I of the kindness of strangers at a very dark time”.’

Camilla posing with guests at today’s reception. (Royal Family)

Her Majesty simply put it that the letter moved her ‘deeply’, with the phrase ‘the kindness of strangers at a very dark time’ becoming the ‘guiding principle of everything that you all do: reaching out a hand of friendship to people who have been de-humanised in the most brutal way; giving comfort to those who are traumatised; and offering hope that physical and emotional healing are possible, as Jane can vouch for’.

Camilla concluded her speech by thanking guests and for sharing their stories and kindness and ‘for not remaining strangers to those enduring the darkest of times’.

‘Most of all, thank you for standing up and committing yourselves to bringing an end to these heinous crimes – forever’.

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