Queen comforts tearful victim of domestic violence on visit to refuge

Queen comforts tearful victim of domestic violence on visit to refuge

Queen Camilla comforts tearful victim of domestic violence who had been brought to the UK through a forced marriage as she visits a women’s refuge

  • The Ashiana Network supports women who have experienced domestic abuse
  • READ MORE: Camilla proves she’s the Queen of good cheer as she serves up bangers and mash (with a broccoli crown!) and pets reindeers alonside Santa at Clarence House party for seriously ill children

The Queen comforted a weeping victim of domestic violence who had been brought to the UK through a forced marriage as she visited a refuge today.

Camilla, 76, listened intently as the woman in her early 20s, who cannot be identified, told the royal her story, instinctively reaching out her hand to reassure her as she faltered and wiped her eyes.

The moving moment came during a visit to a home operated by the Ashiana Network, which operates a number of women’s refugees based in London supporting South Asian, Middle Eastern and Turkish women who have experienced domestic and sexual violence, forced marriage, honour-based violence, financial abuse and coercive control.

The exact location of the building cannot be revealed due to the vulnerability of the women it houses.

The Queen called the women she met ‘wonderful, brave ladies’ and told them: ‘I’m absolutely delighted to have been able to come here to see you. 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.’ 

Queen Camilla comforted a weeping victim at the Ashiana women’s refuge in London earlier today 

Her low-key visit to one of the network’s crisis accommodation houses came after she learnt about their work on a visit to the East End of London earlier this year and asked to see it in action first hand.

The engagement could not be publicised in advance and the queen’s car drew up with minimum security detail, the royal stepping down in a business-like pin-stripped suit and her team knocking on the carefully guarded door.

Inside she was greeted by Shaminder Ubhi, director of Ashiana for 27 years.

She explained to the Queen, who has campaigned on the issue of preventing violence against women for more than a decade and is patron of the Safe Lives charity, how they helped traumatised women fleeing often complex circumstances – alone, not speaking the language and vulnerable through their immigration status – for between six months and several years.

Camilla peppered their conversations with questions about their work and the wrap-around service they offer, which includes everything from accommodation to trauma specialists, for women as young as 16.

After a private look at one woman’s room upstairs, she sat down with four women – three current residents and one ex-resident – to talk about their experiences. One lady was from Turkey, two from Pakistan and a third from 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.’ 

One young woman told how she had arrived at the centre in a state extreme distress, constantly sobbing. 

Her Majesty listened intently during a visit to the Ashiana Network, which supports South Asian, Turkish, and Middle Eastern women

Camilla chatted with Shaminder Ubhi (pictured right), the director of Ashiana for the past 27 years

Camilla and the director of Ashiana, Shaminder Ubhi, smiled for a picture at the end of the visit 

She had fled a violent forced marriage and taken refuge with relatives for a week but couldn’t get any help from her local council, so was referred to Ashiana.

‘I was very young when I came here, just 18. I had just been in the UK for two months and couldn’t speak a word of English. I had nothing, just the one dress I wore. 

‘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.

‘They have given you confidence to get on with life. It’s a wonderful story to hear, to hear about your success ,’ agreed Camilla.

Her Majesty and the director of Ashiana, Shaminder Ubhi, listen to former refugees and how the Ashiana Network helped them to overcome their problems  

The Queen comforted a weeping lady, and said: ‘I think you are brave, I think you are all very brave to tell your stories’

The 76-year-old royal donned a sophisticated navy pinstripe blazer and a matching skirt for the occasion 

One girl, who arrived in the centre in January this year, explained how not only her husband but her in-laws treated her ‘very bad, very very bad’.

‘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.’

Upon her arrival, Camilla greeted the director of Ashiana women’s refuge with a firm handshake 

The royal opted for a natural yet elegant makeup look for the visit, complete with a classic nude lipstick 

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.

Camilla kindly comforted an anonymous victim of domestic abuse as she revealed her tragic past 

‘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.’

Another young lady wept as she spoke through an interpreter about her experience, saying: ‘The police told me about this place. When I came here in March I was totally broken hearted, I couldn’t talk to anyone, my confidence was so low. I had been in the UK since January. ‘ 

Smiling and laughing through her tears she added: ‘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. ‘ 

The royal looked smart in navy attire for the trip, which she matched with her Van Cleef bracelet 

Camilla appeared engaged as she chatted with the former victims of domestic and sexual abuse 

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 she left the queen posed with the survivors, as well as staff.

She told them: ‘I see a lot of side of domestic abuse but to see such young girls here, 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.

‘I am so delighted I went to Brick Lane and heard about it. Here I am and I say to all of you, what a marvellous job you do and to all these brilliant ladies who have gone through such trauma but come out the other end. Unfortunately there will be more stories to come. They are very moving.’

‘We need to clone you.’

She was gifted a mosaic mirror made by some of the women at the refuse.

Ashiana Network was established in 1989 and became an independent charity in 1994 Ends 

The Queen has been a champion of preventing violence against women for more than a decade, including becoming Patron of the UK charity, SafeLives, as Duchess of Cornwall in February 2021.

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