It's up to all men to end sexual violence, says Duchess of Cornwall in wake of Sarah Everard murder

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The Duchess is campaigning to lift the shame and stigma surrounding violence against women, – Chris Jackson/PA

The Duchess of Cornwall has called on all men to tackle a “deeply disturbing” culture of sexual harassment in the wake of Sarah Everard’s murder, saying “rapists are not born but constructed”.

The Duchess, who is campaigning to lift the shame and stigma surrounding violence against women, condemned the notion that harassment was “part and parcel of being female” and “just one of those things”.

In her most pointed and passionate speech to date, the Duchess spoke of the “unimaginable torment” of the women killed by men, and the families left behind. She called for their names, including Sarah Everard, to be remembered.

Almost all women knew the “deeply disturbing experience” of being sexually harassed, she said, asking: “How many more women must be harassed, raped or murdered before we truly unite to forge a violence-free world?”

The Duchess appeared on Wednesday night to open the Shameless! Festival, a collaboration between the Women of the World festival, of which she is patron, and the Birkbeck, University of London SHaME (Sexual Harms and Medical Encounters) research project.

Guests at the event, held at the Wellcome Collection in London, included Carrie Johnson, the Prime Minister’s wife.

Mrs Johnson, who was invited to attend the event by the Duchess, curtsied as Camilla greeted her warmly with a kiss on each cheek. She had been seen practising the manoeuvre before the Duchess arrived.

“We need to get the men in our lives involved in this movement,” the Duchess told the audience.

“We do not, in any way, hold all men responsible for sexual violence. But we do need them all on board to tackle it.

“After all, rapists are not born, they are constructed.

“And it takes an entire community – male and female – to dismantle the lies, words and actions that foster a culture in which sexual assault is seen as normal, and in which it shames the victim.

“So let us all leave here and try to get the men in our lives to participate in building a ‘shameless’ society.”

The Duchess read part of the moving victim impact statement from the mother of Sarah Everard and paid tribute to ‘all these precious lives that have been brutally ended’ – Family Handout/PA

Saying Britain had been “appalled and saddened” by the loss of women to violence already this year, she read part of the moving victim impact statement from Sarah Everard’s mother and paid tribute to “all these precious lives that have been brutally ended”.

“Sarah Everard, Sabina Nessa, Wenjing Lin, Geetika Goyal and Bennylyn Burke are names which, with all the others, must never be forgotten,” she said.

“Each one of these women endured unimaginable torment – and their loved ones who are left behind continue to suffer in the wake of their deaths.”

The Duchess specifically named Wayne Couzens, the Met police officer jailed for Ms Everard’s murder, noting that a survey published on the day of his arrest found 86 per cent of young women in the UK have been sexually harassed in public, and 96 per cent did not report it.

“It is, as almost all women know, a deeply disturbing experience to be sexually harassed,” she added, arguing “shame” had become a common reaction to such trauma.

“The victim feels invaded and dirty; weakened by having been put in a position of helplessness by someone stronger – possibly by someone whom she previously trusted,” she said.

“Often, this sense of shame causes the victim to blame herself, mistakenly take responsibility for the crime, and want to hide away from others. And yet she has done nothing wrong.”

She called on the public to “support survivors to be ‘shameless’ and not to take on misplaced feelings of stigma”.

The Shameless! Festival will be held at Battersea Arts Centre on November 27, using art and activism to change attitudes towards sexual violence.

The Duchess’ campaigning on violence against women and sexual assault has previously included launching the Wash Bag Project, providing toiletries to restore some dignity for those undergoing forensic examinations following an attack.

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