Since the publication of her book Not That Kind Of Girl: A Young Woman Tells You What She’s “Learned,” Lena Dunham has drawn criticism – for her openness about sex, for “molesting” her younger sister, and now, for her own rape. Today Dunham addressed the media-fueled controversy, from criticizing her drinking habits to trying to dig up her attacker, in an essay on Buzzfeed.As described on The Wrap, Dunahm wrote in Not That Kind Of Girl how a man she calls Barry inserted his fingers in her vagina at one point without consent and later, during a particularly rough sexual encounter, removed his condom twice also without consent.Dunham described Barry as a fellow student at Oberlin College. Her very specific description of Barrry has been found to resemble an actual student named Barry who attended Oberlin during that time and lawyers are now aflutter over the fact Barry’s name was not put in quotation marks, signifying a pseudonym. Dunham has apologized for that in her Buzzfeed essay (“To be very clear [Barry is] not the name of the man who assaulted me”), but this whole thing has still overshadowed the more important issue: that she was a victim of sexual violence.In her BuzzFeed essay, Dunham writes how perhaps if the narrative was different, she (and so many others) would have reported their life-changing attacks. Survivors especially suffer as a result of this mistrust we place on victims who may have been in an altered state of consciousness during their assault (Dunham was drunk and high). Survivors become “re-victimized by a system that demands they prove their purity and innocence,” she wrote.More of her thoughts on living as a rape survivor in the national spotlight below.Dunham says she embraces the realities of public life, which entail media scrutiny. This case is extreme:
“I have had my character and credibility questioned at every turn. I have been attacked online with violent and misogynistic language. Reporters have attempted to uncover the identity of my attacker despite my sincerest attempts to protect this information. My work has been torn apart in an attempt to prove I am a liar, or worse, a deviant myself.”
She details the need to challenge misconceptions about rape:
“I have a certain empathy for the journalists who asked me questions like whether I regret how much I drank that night or what my attacker would say if he was asked about me. These ignorant lines of inquiry serve to further flawed narratives about rape, but these people are reacting to the same set of social signals that we all are — signals telling us that preventing assault is a woman’s job, that rape is only rape when a stranger drags you into a dark alley with a knife at your throat, that our stories are never true, and that lying about rape is a way for women to enact revenge on innocent men. These misconceptions about rape are rampant, destructive and precisely the thing that prevents survivors from seeking the support that they need and deserve.”
The essay nods to the UVA crisis of recent weeks.
“Prevention and response on campuses is only a small part of the problem with how we as a nation are handling sexual assault. But it’s a good place to start.”
Finally, Dunham has simple, powerful advice for helping a rape survivor: “You can help by saying I believe you.”