HRH Duchess of Cornwall Camilla
Her Royal Highness visited the Rape and Sexual Abuse Support Centre (RASASC) for an hour on Thursday 13th February 2014 to celebrate the Centre supporting survivors for over 21 years.
70 volunteers and 7 part-time staff, offer a range of services such as helplines, individual counselling, family support counselling, group counselling and Independent Sexual Violence Advisors.
The Duchess met the staff and a number of and the Trustees were able to highlight funding issues that continually face the organisation. The Duchess also met with Anne Milton MP and RASASC Patron, the Lord Lieutenant of Surrey Dame Sarah Goad and the Mayor of Guildford Diana Lockyer-Nibbs.
The Duchess had a private meeting with a female survivor in her 50s. She spoke of her childhood experiences and the emotional and mental health problems that it brought as she progressed through her teenage years and into womanhood. Without the help of counselling she felt that she would never have recovered. She did not discuss this with anyone for over 20 years and skirted around her problems and pretended to be “normal”. It was a huge emotional step for her to speak to The Duchess. The Duchess was grateful that she survivor was brave enough to speak to her.
The Rape and Sexual Abuse Support Centre worked with the South East Service Ambulance service to improve their service for victims and The Duchess was very impressed by the improvements that have been made for survivors by RASASC.
The Duchess was given a demonstration of an “Ambu Wrap kit” that is now used in all the ambulances. Originally, all male ambulance crews may have been sent to deal with a female victim. Now the service will always try and send a female crew or a partial female crew. Also, the victim would have been asked to remove their clothing as evidence and be offered a paper suit to wear, which just increased their trauma. The outcome of this joint working was the development of a special blanket/wrap to cover the victim and their clothing. This wrap has a special internal fabric that traps DNA and fluid evidence. The wrap provides the victim with security and preserves their modesty. In addition the kit contains special stretcher covers that also trap DNA, this enables evidence to be collected and the vehicle can go straight back out on the road, rather than being taken out of action as a scene of crime until the stretchers can be swabbed.
Sonja Freebody, Head of Fundraising and Communications, said “We were delighted that The Duchess Camilla visited our Centre. We have known that she has an interest in supporting survivors of rape and sexual abuse and has previously started a special wash-bag scheme. Everyone at RASASC was grateful that she had time to spend with us to widen her knowledge and understanding of the issues that rape survivors face and how it impacts on families, jobs and well-being. The visit was a great success and the volunteers really enjoyed it.”