Sophie, the Countess of Wessex, recently admitted that she was heartbroken and went to some "very dark places" after hearing "terrible stories" of sexual assault survivors.

In a recent appearance in a London School of Economics webinar, the British royal said she often broke into tears while she was working to raise awareness about the issue. The 56-year-old said: "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 added.

The Countess thanked healthcare staff for their key role in the UK’s vaccination rollout and their efforts during the pandemic.

Yesterday’s @HubLincolnshire conference gave NHS workers in the county a chance to share experiences and challenges faced over the past year.

— The Royal Family (@RoyalFamily) January 21, 2021

The webinar was attended by Visaka Dharmadasa, a Sri Lankan peace activist, Abir Haj Ibrahim, co-founder of Mobaderoon - a network of activists that train community development projects and civil society organisations in Syria, and Sanam Naraghi-Anderlini, director of the London School of Economics centre for Women, Peace and Security.

In 2014, Sophie founded the Women's Network Forum, a unique network of cross-industry leaders whose goal is the advancement of gender balance and equality, by influencing business leaders, inspiring the next generation, and sharing best practice. In the webinar, she highlighted the importance of local "women peacebuilders" in trying to resolve conflicts.

"I think we just have to listen more and engage with more local people and it's very difficult because obviously the international world gets involved with conflict resolution. But I think local resolution (has) really got such a more important part to play and sometimes I think it is underplayed, and isn't given the air that it perhaps should have," the mother-of-two said.

Sophie recently celebrated her 56th birthday and was greeted by her mother-in-law Queen Elizabeth II among others. The royal family's official Instagram page shared a snapshot of Sophie dressed all in white, along with the caption: "Wishing The Countess of Wessex a very happy birthday today!" The caption also included a balloon and a cake emoji.

Queen at 90
Sophie, Countess of Wessex Ben Stansall/AFP