Countess of Wessex admits sexual violence work sees her go to ‘some very dark places’ mentally

The Countess of Wessex joined a seminar from the London School of Economics discussing promoting peace after conflicts this week, and during the event spoke with activists and experts about sexual violence in war zones. She admitted that the serious nature of the work has seen her go to ‘very dark places’ mentally.

Sophie spoke about the severity of the stories she has previously heard and how she ‘wept’ for survivors of sexual abuse in a webinar on Tuesday 19th.

“I always think you can be in a room with one or two women or a group of women. Particularly those who have been a survivors of sexual violence and to hear their stories when you’ve got tears dripping off your chin.”

The Countess of Wessex took part in the discussion alongside peace activist Visaka Dharmadasa, Abir Haj Ibrahim (co-founder of Mobaderoon – activists that train community development projects and civil society organisations in Syria) and Sanam Naraghi-Anderlini, director of the London School of Economics centre for Women, Peace and Security. (LSE/FACEBOOK)

“You just can’t help but weep with them because they are terrible these stories and the four of us we know these stories we hear them so often and it doesn’t matter where you are in the world,” the Royal commented. “They are dreadful.”

The Countess was speaking from Bagshot Park a few miles from Windsor, and admitted to going to ‘some dark places’ after meeting victims of sexual abuse due to the traumatic nature of it.

“I try not to share intimate details as it’s traumatising to hear about it and so it’s not my story to tell. It is purely their story to tell. But I support them and it’s heartbreaking.”

Sophie added: “It really is heartbreaking and I’ve gone to some very dark places, you know, internally. But I’m not living it and therefore if they can survive, if they can put one foot in front of the other, then for goodness’ sake of course I can.”

The mother of two stated that every story she hears fuels her passion to raise more awareness of the subject. “I certainly feel that with every story that I am told, it is pushing me forward to try help them [victims of abuse] and support them, to de-stigmatise the issue of conflict related sexual violence.”

“To try and raise the awareness that sex, rape and torture is used as a weapon of war, because I think so often and I can’t speak for everybody but if you live in the western world. You don’t realise and you don’t know that this is happening.

“It is genuinely used as a weapon and most people don’t know about it. So we have to, I feel very obligated to tell people how that this is happening.”

Sophie, who recently celebrated her 56th birthday, commented on highlighting the importance of women peace builders. “I think we just have to listen more and engage with more local people and it’s very difficult because obviously the international world gets involved with conflict resolution.”

“But I think local resolution has really got such a more important part to play and sometimes I think it is underplayed, and isn’t given the air that it perhaps should have.”

Sophie has long been an advocate for preventing sexual violence in war zones, and has worked on campaigning for women rights for a number of years. In 2014, the Countess founded the Women’s Network Forum, which she chairs. The organisation aims to bring together a range of senior figures to promote gender equality in the workplace.

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