• Saturday, February 24, 2024

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Queen Camilla supports domestic violence victim at women’s refuge

The Queen visited a shelter on Wednesday (6) managed by the Ashiana Network, an organisation that oversees various women’s refuges in London

By: Kimberly Rodrigues

During her visit to a refuge, the Queen offered solace to a young victim of domestic violence who had been brought to the UK through a forced marriage.

Camilla, 76, listened attentively to the woman in her early 20s, offering comfort by gently reaching out her hand as the woman shared her emotional story, wiping away tears, The Daily Mail reported.

The poignant interaction unfolded during the Queen’s visit on Wednesday (6), to a shelter managed by the Ashiana Network, an organisation that oversees various women’s refuges in London.

These refuges offer support to South Asian, Middle Eastern, and Turkish women who have endured domestic and sexual violence, forced marriages, honour-based violence, financial abuse, and coercive control.

The exact location of the refuge remains undisclosed to protect the safety and anonymity of the residents.

During her visit, the Queen praised the women she encountered as “wonderful, brave ladies,” expressing her delight at being able to meet them.

She commended their progress, stating, “It’s a case of seeing is believing. To see how far you have come in your journey to become fine, confident women is an inspiration.”

The Queen’s understated visit to one of the network’s crisis accommodation houses followed her interest in their work during a prior visit to the East End of London earlier in the year.

Eager to witness their efforts firsthand, she made the unpublicised engagement, arriving with minimal security measures.

Upon entering, Shaminder Ubhi, the director of Ashiana for 27 years, warmly greeted the Queen.

She detailed their efforts to aid traumatised women escaping complex situations, often arriving alone, unfamiliar with the language, and vulnerable due to their immigration status. Their support spans from six months to several years.

Camilla engaged in discussions about their operations and the comprehensive services provided, ranging from accommodation to trauma specialists, catering to women as young as 16.

After privately inspecting one of the women’s rooms upstairs, she sat down with a group comprising three current residents and one former resident, engaging them in discussions about their diverse experiences. The attendees hailed from Turkey, Pakistan, and India.

Encouraging them to tell their stories, Camilla said, “One lady told me that if it hadn’t had been for you [Ashiana] I don’t know where I would have been. Please tell me your stories, I want to hear them.”

A young woman recounted her arrival at the centre, overwhelmed by extreme distress and constant tears.

Fleeing a violent forced marriage, she sought refuge with relatives but found no support from her local council, leading her to Ashiana.

She said she was just 18 when she arrived in the UK, unable to speak English with nothing but the dress on her back.

“I didn’t know how to tap a card on the bus. I couldn’t sleep, I couldn’t do anything. I was scared, I had depression. Now I am living my best life, I have my own place. I am studying, I want to become a social worker. I am a strong lady now,” she said.

Camilla expressed admiration for her newfound confidence and success. Another girl, arriving in January, shared her harrowing experiences with a husband and in-laws who treated her terribly.

“All your lives have been turned round just by this very special place,” Camilla said.

“The problem is that there probably are not enough of them. There must be so many young people like you in this country.

“You are one of the lucky ones who have found this place. There are many others out there who are still searching for help.”

One lady from Turkey wept as she told the Queen how she was still receiving help five years later from her trauma but was bereft as her young daughter remained in her home country.

Touching her arm gently, Camilla told her, “I think you are brave, I think you are all very brave to tell your stories.”

“I am so sorry, the lady said. Everyone is very good to me here but I am a mother, my daughter……”

“You’ve got to be strong; you are very strong. That’s why you have got as far as you have. You are so strong. You need to keep on. All of you. You are wonderful girls supporting each other,” the Queen said.

“I can never explain to you how these people have helped me, how this house has helped me,” the woman replied.

“I think it’s so wonderful you are here but obviously there is a huge need for more places,” Camilla added.

“You are now able to help other young people who come over and need help and show how they can turn their lives around.”

A young lady, speaking through an interpreter, shed tears as she shared her story stating the police told her about this place. She shared that when she came to Ashiana in March, she was totally broken-hearted and could not talk to anyone. She said she had low confidence and had been in the UK since January.

Despite her tears, she smiled and laughed as she continued, “Now I feel so much more confident. This place is like home. Everyone is so supportive. I couldn’t speak a word of English and was totally alone; now I can and have family.

“These women are my family. Before, I wasn’t allowed to go out anywhere, and now I am so much more independent.”

Camilla said, “That makes us all so happy to hear that. You have been through such a terrible time but things are getting better and you have a bright future. Thank you very much for telling me your story.”

Before leaving, the queen posed for a photo with the survivors and staff. Addressing them, she remarked that she had observed different facets of domestic abuse but expressed astonishment at the extraordinary nature of the refuge, especially with the presence of such young girls.

Reflecting on their transformative journey, she said, “I have never actually visited quite such a brilliant place. It’s remarkable. Coming here without anything but a knapsack on their back and turning their lives around. Thank you for doing all you do.”

Delighted by her visit to Brick Lane and learning about the refuge, Camilla commended the incredible work of the staff and the resilience of the women who have overcome such distressing experiences.

Expressing the inevitability of more such stories, she said, “Unfortunately there will be more stories to come. They are very moving.”

As a gift, the Queen received a mosaic mirror crafted by the women at the refuge.

Established in 1989 and gaining independent charity status in 1994, the Ashiana Network’s mission continues.
The Queen has been an advocate for preventing violence against women for over a decade and became the Patron of the UK charity SafeLives in February 2021, during her time as Duchess of Cornwall.

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