During a newscast on Sky News today, anchor Stephen Dixon was reporting on new findings by the Fawcett Society, which gathers data on women's equality and rights in the U.K. In the segment, which was posted to BuzzFeed, Dixon and his fellow anchors were discussing new findings that state "1 in 3 women and 1 in 5 men believe drunk women wearing short skirts are partly to blame if they are sexually assaulted." It's a sobering statistic, but Dixon's comments were what drew outrage from many viewers. "Is it a dreadful thing to say that if women are out in short skirts and drunk that they don’t need to take any personal responsibility?" Dixon asked. When Dixon was confronted by one of the show's guests, asking if he deserved to be punched every time he left the house, Dixon responded: "I'd be responsible if I was out provoking somebody." A spokesperson from End Violence Against Women told BuzzFeed that Dixon's statement was a dangerous one and something that could perpetuate women underreporting sexual assault cases. "This reporter should set a tone much higher than the victim-blaming attitudes which support and perpetuate violence against women," the spokesperson said. "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." What's more, Dixon wouldn't back down from his opinion. After many viewers confronted him via Twitter, the anchor responded by asking why sexual assault survivors didn't take a little of the responsibility for their attacks.
Later, a Sky News representative 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." While that may be true for what happened on-air, it doesn't explain why Dixon felt the need to defend his views on social media after the broadcast. Sam Smethers, chief executive of the Fawcett Society, reiterated the importance of reporting sexual assault and putting the responsibility where it belonged: "The only person responsible if a woman is attacked is her attacker," Smethers said. "We need a media that reports violence against women and girls responsibly, not one where they just reinforce these hostile attitudes. It is this kind of thing that can deter women from reporting attacks and can let men feel they can act with impunity."