The CEO of Portsmouth-based charity Aurora New Dawn has signed an open letter from academics, activists and charities working to end sexual abuse, rejecting funding offered by Tommy Robinson as part of his European Election campaign. Sarah Cheverton reports.
Founder of the English Defence League, Tommy Robinson (real name Stephen Yaxley-Lennon), is currently campaigning to become an independent MEP for the north-west and recently announced that if elected, he would not keep his earnings (a reported monthly salary of ‘about £7,500 before tax’). Instead, he pledged in a YouTube video on 25th April to donate his salary to child victims of sexual grooming.
Youtube recently placed restrictions on Tommy Robinson’s channel, including preventing him from broadcasting live and from appearing in the platform’s recommendations lists.
However, members of the End Violence Against Women (EVAW) coalition published an open letter rejecting funding from Robinson and accusing him of ‘exploiting the pain of survivors and their families to fuel racist hate for his own gain.’
Portsmouth-based charity Aurora New Dawn, which works with victims and survivors of domestic violence, sexual abuse and stalking, was one of more than 40 charities and women to sign the letter, alongside Women’s Aid, the Women and Girls Network and Rape Crisis South London, Surrey and Sussex.
Aurora New Dawn founder and CEO Shonagh Dillon told S&C, ‘As a member of the End Violence Against Women Coalition, when they wrote to me to ask if we would be signatories on this letter I didn’t hesitate to add my name.
‘The violence against women’s sector has been hit hard by the austerity agenda nationally but even with those devastating cuts, I have no qualms in rejecting potential monies from a far right extremist who is no ally to women and girls.’
The open letter can be read in full below, including a full list of signatories.
Dear Media Editors, Community Leaders, MPs, Activists, Friends,
‘Tommy Robinson’, a man convicted of assault, rioting and fraud, a thug with a long history of making racist statements, has made a career out of causing trouble and division. He is now standing as an MEP candidate in the North West.
Tommy Robinson has made claims that, if elected, he will offer his salary to the child victims of what he terms ‘Muslim rape gangs’. We, as organisations and individuals fighting tirelessly against the abuse of women and girls, as survivors of abuse and their families, and as people who care about our communities, do not want your money, Tommy.
We are calling on the people of the North West to reject Tommy Robinson’s hatred, to register to vote, and to turn out against him in the upcoming European Elections. He has no place as our elected representative.
Those who have suffered sexual and physical abuse were failed by those who should have protected them. But Tommy Robinson is no ally for the children he claims to stand up for. Tommy doesn’t care about the rights of women and girls – he is exploiting the pain of survivors and their families to fuel racist hate for his own gain. He is a misogynist and has recklessly put victims at risk for his own moment of media spotlight.
Tommy Robinson’s factually incorrect messages about ‘grooming’, and his attempt to portray himself as a champion of the cause, are an insult to survivors of abuse.
They are also a profound insult to the women who have spent their whole lives building support services for survivors and working to ensure some cases finally got to court. Where were you during that work Tommy Robinson? The far right were never any part of this work.
We do not want a convicted thug and racist who does not truly care about abuse survivors on our ballot papers and we reject you Tommy Robinson.
Sarah Green & Rachel Krys, Co-Directors, End Violence Against Women Coalition
Gurpreet Virdee, Co-Director, Women and Girls Network
Stella Dadzie, British Educationalist, activist, written and historian
Shonagh Dillon, Founder and CEO, Aurora New Dawn
Pragna Patel, Director, Southall Black Sisters
Mary-Ann Stephenson, Director, The Women’s Budget Group
Maggie Parks OBE, Chief Executive, The Women’s Centre Cornwall
Diana Nammi, Executive Director, Iranian & Kurdish Women’s Rights Organisation
Amna Abdul- Children and Young People’s Lead, National Women’s Aid
Women’s March London
Akeela Ahmed MBE, founder, She Speaks We Hear
Aisha Ali-Khan, founder, Women United
Dr Shola Mos-Shogbamimu, Lawyer and founder, Women in Leadership publication
Rachel Krengel, Intersectional Feminist Activist
Carys Afoko, founder, Level Up
Harriet Wistrich, Director, Centre for Women’s Justice
Marai Larasi MBE, Executive Director, Imkaan
Baljit Banga, Director, London Black Women’s Project
Christine McNaught, CEO, FWT Centre for women
Naana Otoo-Oyortey, Executive Director, FORWARD
Yvonne Traynor, CEO, Rape Crisis South London / Surrey & Sussex
Dr Miranda Horvath, Middlesex University.
Natasha Walter, Feminist Activist and Author – Living Dolls
Gemma Snowball, DHR & Team Development Manager, Standing Together Against Domestic Violence
Rebecca Vagi, Housing Manager, Standing Together Against Domestic Violence
Miranda Pio, Programme Manager and Policy Lead, Standing Together Against Domestic Violence
Professor Aisha K. Gill, Professor of Criminology & Co-Chair of EVAW
Aisha Graham-Sharif, Intersectional Feminist Activist
Philomina Azu, Intersectional feminist activist
Forida Khatoun, Equalities Campaigner
Shazia Shamim, Equalities Campaigner
Monsura Mahmoud, Equalities Campaigner
Shaista Aziz, Cllr Rose Hill and Iffley, Oxford
Professor Marianne Hester, University of Bristol
Professor Liz Kelly CBE, London Metropolitan University
Yasmin Rehman, Human Rights Activist
Dr Fiona Vera-Grey, School of Law, Durham University
Jo Todd, CEO, RESPECT
Sara Kirkpatrick, RESPECT
Rasheda Ashanti Malcolm, Author and Domestic Abuse Specialist
Rachel Adamson, Director, Zero Tolerance
RMT Women’s Advisory Group
This letter was originally published on Aurora New Dawn’s website.