By Sonia Elks and Emma Batha
LONDON, Nov 13 (Thomson Reuters Foundation) - The estranged wife of a British politician who bombarded two women with sexual messages has been selected to stand for his seat in next month's general election, launching an appeal on Wednesday to female victims of abuse.
Kate Griffiths said she had declined to accept an offer of political support from her husband Andrew Griffiths after she successfully stood to replace him in the central England seat of Burton for Prime Minister Boris Johnson's Conservative party.
Griffiths, a former minister for small business, quit the government in July last year after reports he sent more than 2,000 explicit messages to two constituents.
He was cleared of wrongdoing by a parliamentary watchdog this year that found no evidence he sent the messages while engaged in parliamentary activities, but he decided to stand down from frontline politics.
Kate Griffiths said the difficulties of the last 18 months had taught her resilience.
"My recent personal experiences have given me a much better understanding of domestic abuse issues that can affect women and men from all backgrounds," she said in a statement.
"I will be a strong voice for abuse survivors."
Nearly 2 million people - mostly women - suffer domestic abuse each year in Britain, the government has estimated.
Griffiths said she was in the process of finalising her divorce.
"I want to make it clear that I have not sought, nor do I accept Andrew's offer of political support," she said.
Britain's Dec. 12 election comes at a time of severe divisions in Britain over Brexit, and with women MPs saying they are facing unprecedented levels of abuse.
More than a dozen women MPs have said they will not stand in the election, some citing abuse as the reason. Others have said they will avoid campaigning alone at night due to safety fears.
Two-thirds of female MPs said progress on tackling violence against women in politics had impacted their willingness to stand for re-election, according to a survey last month for parliament's Women and Equalities Committee.
Women make up fewer than a third of UK parliamentarians, according to an index compiled by the Inter-Parliamentary Union.
(Reporting by Sonia Elks @sonia elks and Emma Batha @emmabatha; Editing by Belinda Goldsmith. Please credit the Thomson Reuters Foundation, the charitable arm of Thomson Reuters, that covers humanitarian news, women's and LGBT+ rights, human trafficking, property rights, and climate change. Visit http://news.trust.org)
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