Wearing a short skirt should not provoke rape: An open letter to Sky News

Sky News’ Stephen Dixon said ‘I’d be responsible if I was out provoking someone’


Dear Sky News,

Let’s just have a little chat about whatever the hell that was that went down on your Sunrise show.

On Friday morning, on your Sky News Sunrise, Stephen Dixon and Nazaneen Ghaffar raised the issue of provocative dressing, whilst discussing new research from the Fawcett Society on sexism.

Dixon noted the statistic that 38 per cent of all men and 34 per cent 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?”

Following on from that, he notes “I’d be responsible if I was out provoking someone.”

Next, weather woman Nazaneen Ghaffar asks “why are they wearing short skirts when they go out – for what reason would you wear a short skirt?”

Sarah Churchwell, who is a professor of American Literature at the University of London, looks dumfounded, and insulted. We’re with you Sarah.

This all comes at a rather poignant time considering Donald Trump has been sworn in as the President of the United States. Yesterday a series of Women’s Marches occurred in colossal numbers to express their disgust for Trump, and their fight for women’s rights against sexual assault, and other issues such as reproductive rights. Trump is now the President of the United States, despite the fact he is currently being taken to court for sexual assault allegations. Let us not forget his poetic slogan, “grab ’em by the pussy”. How comforting to know that there really aren’t severe consequences for the person who sexual assaults you at all, that they could even go on to attain one of the most hegemonic positions in the world.

But what Trump’s presidency highlights is that somehow it is becoming the aim of our society to relieve the rapist of any fault, distort the perception, and to coerce the victim into accepting some part of the blame in their ordeal, even to the extent that they wanted it to happen based on their own actions. Because why else would a woman show off her body.

This incident has caused masses of backlash and criticism – which in many ways is comforting, knowing that this is not the collective opinion. Yet this view is not just being discussed within the privacy of Dixon and Ghaffar’s homes – it is being broadcasted on a national platform. Your programme, Sky News, is widely subscribed to and therefore has a vast sphere of influence.

The truth is that sexual assault doesn’t care about your new bodycon dress from Missguided, nor does it care about your jeans and jumper. It doesn’t make its decision on the basis of that vodka lemonade you’re about to drink, or what time of day you are choosing to walk home in. We have been offered many safety precautions of this matter; cover up, never walk alone – but what advice do you offer when these attacks still occur despite your safety precautions?

It baffles me that presenters of your show even had the audacity to suggest there was a two sided debate concerning the causation of sexual assaults. Rape and sexual assault is an epidemic felt all over the world which targets victims of all ages and gender – it does not discriminate. The only way to tackle this is to vocalise, fight against, and educate. Clearly the boundaries of consent are blurred, but these mixed signals are only exhibited within the minds of those who choose to rape, not through the decisions of the victims.

So, Sky News, please do not attempt to simplify, or insult the intelligence of rape victims in suggesting they provoke these attacks.