The more domestic violence is spoken about, the “more people out there will really know what’s happening” to those who suffer abuse, the Duchess of Cornwall has said.
Camilla was speaking at MK-Act, a women’s refuge in Milton Keynes, where she toured the facilities and met with residents and staff.
Following an afternoon tea reception on Wednesday, the duchess said: “I just wanted to thank you all for the wonderful work you do. I know how difficult it is at times.
“I know these women and children couldn’t survive without all your help.
“So thank you very, very (much), you do a fantastic job.
“I know it’s a very difficult subject, but the more it’s spoken about the more people out there will really know what’s happening.”
MK-Act is a domestic violence and abuse charity which has been working with women and families in Milton Keynes for 40 years.
The purpose-built facility, including 28 one and two bedroom flats, provides accommodation for women and their children who are escaping abusive environments.
They also offer intervention services.
The charity works with 100 families per day and in 2018 they supported 1,500 families across all their services, their chief executive Sue Burke said.
During the visit Camilla met privately with two residents to hear their stories and also toured one of the flats belonging to a woman who asked to be called Sam, who had recently come to the refuge.
The duchess asked Sam if she was “nice and safe and happy” at MK-Act, to which Sam said she was “very happy”.
Camilla delivered a hamper of Highgrove treats, such as biscuits, chocolate and tea to some of the children and women at the residence, saying: “There is something for everyone in here.”
She was inundated with cards and art from the children, who are aged between three months and 14 years old.
One boy gave the duchess a green paper handbag which matched the one she had brought with her.
MK-Act is accredited by Women’s Aid and receives funding from government grants and the Milton Keynes council to support its services.
Funding for women’s refuges is being cut, and in 2016/17 one in five referrals to a refuge were denied due to a lack of space, according to Women’s Aid 2017 Annual Survey.
Sara D’Arcy, a spokeswoman for the charity, said: “The abuser often silences them, so to be able to speak to royalty is incredibly empowering for survivors.
“For the women today it will let them know what their abuser said is not true, their voices do matter.”
During the reception Camilla met Carole Loxton, the founder of MK-Act.
Mrs Loxton began the charity 40 years ago when she took a woman and her four children into her own home.
She said the duchess “genuinely had an interest” in the women at MK-Act.
“I think it is wonderful to see the women’s aid so publicly recognised and I felt that the duchess genuinely had an interest and that was so important to me, that it wasn’t just another walk-around trip,” Mrs Loxton said.
She added seeing the development of the charity over the years “brought her to tears”.
Mrs Loxton said: “The safety here is wonderful, the space, the dignity that the women are allowed because they have their own places and the support.
“But mostly for me, I came back here only about a month ago having left years ago… what I saw here brought me to tears.
“To come back here and see this, it was like seeing your adult child exceed your wildest dreams.”