Countess of Wessex reveals she has been to 'some very dark places' working with sexual violence victims

Victoria Ward
·2-min read
The Countess of Wesssex - POOL New
The Countess of Wesssex - POOL New

The Countess of Wessex has revealed she has gone to “some very dark places” whilst working with sexual violence victims.

Sophie, who turned 56 on Wednesday, described with searing honesty the “tears dripping off your chin” during a London School of Economics webinar discussing promoting peace after conflicts.

The mother-of-two committed herself to supporting the UK’s work helping victims of rape, sexual violence and exploitation in war in 2019, travelling to counties affected by conflict including South Sudan and Sierra Leone.

She has also been working in other fields to promote women, having founded the Women’s Network Forum in 2014 which she chairs, and bringing together a cross-industry group of senior figures to promote gender balance and equality in the workplace.

And despite working hard under the radar for many years, the Countess is taking an increasingly prominent role in the absence of the Duke and Duchess of Sussex.

Speaking of meeting survivors of sexual violence, she told the online event on Tuesday: “To hear their stories, you know when you’ve got tears dripping off your chin, I mean you just, you can’t help but weep with them because they are so terrible, these stories.”

“It really is heartbreaking and I’ve gone to some very dark places, you know, internally.

“But I’m not living it and therefore if they can survive, if they can put one foot in front of the other, then for goodness’ sake of course I can.”

The Countess took part in the panel discussion alongside women peacebuilders Visaka Dharmadasa and Abir Haj Ibrahim. It was chaired by Sanam Naraghi-Anderlini, director for Women, Peace and Security at the London School of Economics.

They discussed how they had become involved in such work, how it had been affected by Covid-19 and the importance of listening to and sharing the stories of women peacebuilders, to raise awareness of their efforts.

Last year, the Countess wrote about this work for an article in the Telegraph in which she accepted that it might be hard to see it as a priority when it seemed such a far cry from life in the UK.

But she said that supporting women peacebuilders was one of the most uplifting things she did “There are no magic wands when it comes to negotiating peace,” she wrote.

“Any and every negotiation will be fraught and difficult, requiring enormous patience and effort from all sides, open minds, a willingness to concede, but above all the desire to find peace. Including women in the process is essential and means a greater chance of sustained peace. Who wouldn't want that?”