Lena Dunham on Why She Spoke out about Her Rape

December 10, 2014

Lena Dunham has penned an essay in which she explains why she wrote in her memoir, ‘Not that Kind of Girl,’ about having been raped years ago while still a student at Oberlin College. In the aftermath of the book’s publication, her story, such as she has shared it, has been subject to intense scrutiny and attempts by some to discredit it.

That the 28-year-old creator and star of HBO’s ‘Girls’ has had to take to Buzzfeed to write an essay defend herself for what she has written in her memoir is sadly telling of our society and culture. One would imagine that a memoir should stand on its own merit and that the multi-hyphenate might be able to peaceably go about her book tour and continue her admirable career.

But that has not been the case. She has faced such a barrage of criticism. Had she written about having been mugged or robbed, it’s safe to say we would not be witnessing this for these crimes do not carry the stigma that rape and other sex crimes still do, even after all of these decades of supposed enlightenment.

Lena Dunham noted that it was it was “almost a decade” since she was sexually assaulted and explained that it took “a long time to fully acknowledge what had happened and even longer to discuss it publicly, in the form of an essay in my book Not That Kind of Girl.”

She went on to explain, “When I finally decided to share my story, it had ambiguities and gray areas, because that’s what I experienced, because that’s what so many of us have experienced.”

She alluded to the forceful manner in which some news outlets have attempted to discredit the story in general, and had gone to far as to track down an individual named Barry who had been at Oberlin contemporaneously with her.

Echoing the statement released by her publisher, she said, “To be very clear, “Barry” is a pseudonym, not the name of the man who assaulted me, and any resemblance to a person with this name is an unfortunate and surreal coincidence. I am sorry about all he has experienced.”

Lena Dunham goes on to make the crucial point that has been largely lost in this zealous pursuit to discredit her. She said, “Speaking out was never about exposing the man who assaulted me. Rather, it was about exposing my shame, letting it dry out in the sun.”

Sadly it is the uproar and the criticism that’s been leveled at Dunham that keeps others, both male and female, from speaking out about sexual assault, even years after the incidents.

She also made it clear that she “did not wish to be contacted by him or to open a criminal investigation” explaining that she was “in a loving and peaceful place in my life and I am not willing to sacrifice any more of it for this person I do not know, aside from one night I will never forget. That is my choice.”

She spoke of how the experience of sharing her story, and the reactions she has received have affected her, saying, “Since coming out as a survivor I have gone from an intellectual sense of the ways in which victims are doubted and debased to a bone-deep understanding of this reality.”

She went on to say, “I hope to apply that understanding to art and advocacy. I am deeply grateful for the support I have received. I am deeply grateful that this dialogue is taking place. I am angry but I am not alone.

The entire essay is at Buzzfeed — here — and well worth reading. There are times when the 140 characters of Twitter do not suffice for expression, and even a television interview or a written statement will not suffice. Lena Dunham has laid it all out in print, and, one hopes that her eloquent and detailed response might have some positive impact. Our society and culture have much, much, much to learn from this. And, to paraphrase Aristotle’s famous expression, not just learn, but apply.

Pictures: PR Photos

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