A Sky News presenter has faced a torrent of criticism for appearing to suggest that women who are drunk and wearing short skirts should take “personal responsiblity” if they are sexually assaulted.
Speaking on Sky News’ Sunrise, Stephen Dixon raised the issue while discussing new research from the Fawcett Society on sexism.
He highlighted the statistic that 38% of all men and 34% of all women believe that if a woman goes out late at night, wearing a short skirt, gets drunk and is then the victim of a sexual assault, she is totally or partially to blame.
Dixon then asked: “Is it a dreadful thing to say if women are out in short skirts and drunk that they don’t need to take any personal responsibility?”
Sarah Churchwell, a professor of American literature at the University of London, responded: “Let me ask you a question. You’re walking down the street and you get punched in the face. Are you responsible for having left your house?”
Dixon answered: “I’d be responsible if I was out provoking someone.”
Outraged, Churchwell explained to him: “It is not provocative to drink. It is not provocative to wear what women choose to wear. It’s not about provoking behaviour. They are choosing what they wish to wear.”
Weather presenter Nazaneen Ghaffar told Churchwell that she believed women wore short skirts because they wanted “to look sexy”.
Churchwell replied: “Sure but that doesn’t mean you need to be sexually assaulted. It doesn’t mean you provoked it. It doesn’t mean you deserved it. It’s about not blaming victims. It’s about recognising that when somebody is assaulted, the person responsible for that assault is the person who committed the assault not the person who was assaulted. It’s a very, very simple proposition.
“It’s only when we’re talking about sexual assault that we ever suggest that the person who was assaulted was responsible for having been assaulted and I do think that’s objectionable.”
In a now-deleted tweet, Dixon doubled down on his comments:
He also tweeted:
A Sky News spokesperson said: “In his capacity as presenter, Stephen was playing devil’s advocate during a discussion of the controversial findings of the Fawcett report. He was not reflecting a personal view.”
Dixon’s comments were strongly condemned by many, including Lily Allen and Green Party co-leader Caroline Lucas...
Churchwell was widely praised for her response - although she herself admitted she had struggled to keep calm during the discussion:
And she also referenced the timing of the debate: