The Countess of Wessex has revealed how daughter, Lady Louise, is interested in her preventing sexual violence work, and that she talks to her 17-year-old daughter about what she is doing.
Sophie was interviewed by BBC Radio 5 Live ahead of International Day for the Elimination of Sexual Violence in Conflict this weekend, where she discussed the ongoing prevalence of rape and sexual violence as weapons of war, and the importance of raising awareness and supporting survivors.
The Countess also discussed grief and the Royal Family’s loss of the Duke of Edinburgh.
"Every life is important. Every survivor is terribly important."
Sophie, Countess of Wessex tells @TVNaga01 she was in "floods of tears" hearing the story of one survivor of rape in warfare.
— BBC Radio 5 Live (@bbc5live) June 16, 2021
On the agenda of sexual violence, The Queen’s daughter-in-law said she wanted to be a voice for those without one, commenting that ‘every story’ she hears about someone’s experience lives with her.
Sophie also called for the use of sexual violence as a weapon of war to be discussed in schools.
“It’s used to terrorise, and to eradicate, and to deliberately impregnate women. It’s actually one of the most pernicious weapons of war that exists and people have to atone for it and that has to start at the top.
“I see no reason why not to teach it in schools, because it is a reality. Your natural understanding of what war is about . . . is guns and rockets, and people arguing about territory,” the Royal said.
“It’s much more complicated than that. These days it’s not only about territory, it’s about minerals and all sorts of things and access — and I think it’s important to put war into context as to what really happens, without frightening people and making it too unpalatable.
“It would be important to actually cover that as an actual issue. How appropriate it would be, I don’t know, I’m not an educationalist, but I do think in terms of understanding there are multiple weapons that are used in war, and it’s not all about guns and bullets and there are other types of warfare being used, have been used.”
Appearing to touch on the #MeToo movement and wider awareness surrounding violence against women in society more generally, the Countess commented: “I think the more conversations that take place, and the more confident girls and young women are to talk about these things and to call it out and to call out any kind of behaviour they’re not happy with, hopefully that might give them more confidence.
“The more people come forward, the more momentum it will hold.”
With two children of her own, the Royal spoke of how she deals with such a sensitive topic with them. “My children are different ages and different sexes, you have to measure how you talk about these things. My daughter, [Lady Louise] she’s 17, and she’s very aware of this kind of thing. Her school have a lot of debates about all sorts of things whether it be to do with feminism or ethnic equality.
“They are constantly talking about these things. She’s quite aware of the work I do with women, peacebuilders, and also the conflict-related sexual violence pieces as well.
“We chat about it quite a lot and particularly, if I’ve been on a trip somewhere she wants to know where I’ve been and what I’ve been doing. She has a natural curiosity about it and it’s easier to have that conversation with her.”
With her son, James, however, she said it was more difficult: “He’s 13 going on 14. It’s slightly harder to have that conversation about my work. He’s at that age where he’s much more aware of girls around him and everything.
“But interestingly he’s quite conscious of this whole issue of inappropriate behaviour between girls and boys. He does seem quite aware of it, and I think that’s partly to do with schools and partly what they chat about on social media.
“I think it’s about having honest, open conversations as a family, but also hopefully in school settings as well.”
In an address at a virtual UN event for the Elimination of Sexual Violence in Conflict in June 2020, Sophie said sexual violence in the home or during conflicts is likely to have ‘risen substantially’ during the pandemic.
The interview saw her reaffirm her commitment to champion the Women, Peace and Security agenda and the UK’s Preventing Sexual Violence in Conflict Initiative.