Blaming women for rape and sexual assault insults all of us

Victim-blaming news presenter describes drinking alcohol and wearing short skirts as ‘provocative’ to rape.

This morning (20th January 2017) Sky News presenter Stephen Dixon commented that women drinking alcohol and wearing short skirts were ‘provoking’ their own rapes.

The news segment was exploring a report- ‘Sounds Familiar’- published today by the Fawcett Society. The report’s findings help to explain why misogyny is so widespread, why violence against women and girls remains commonplace, and why the gender pay gap remains so hard to close.

On the show, Dixon asks: “Is it s dreadful thing to say that if women are out in short skirts and drunk that they don’t need to take any personal responsibility…”, before concluding that women who are drinking and wearing short skirts are “out provoking someone”, which implies womens’ responsibility for own assaults.

Guest Sarah Churchwell, Chair of Public Understanding of the Humanities at the University of East Anglia, quickly responded: “It is not provocative to drink, and it is not provocative to wear what women choose to wear”.

Rachel Krys, from the End Violence Against Women coalition commented:

“The myth that women are responsible for protecting their safety against the actions of abusive and violent men is particularly dangerous.

When we engage in this sort of victim-blaming, such as suggesting that how much alcohol a woman drinks or what she wears bears any relation to whether she is deserving of a sexual assault, we remove the responsibility from the perpetrator. That is incredibly alarming.

These messages, which women hear all the time, act as a strong deterrent for reporting assaults. Women understandably become concerned that they will not be believed, or will be blamed for their own attack.

This reporter should set a tone much higher than the victim-blaming attitudes which support and perpetuate violence against women.”

Sounds Familiar analyses data from a survey which asked: “if a woman goes out late at night, wearing a short skirt, gets drunk and is then the victim of a sexual assault, is she totally or partly to blame?”.

Alarmingly, Fawcett’s analysis reveals that 38% of all men and 34% of all women said that she is totally or partly to blame.

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