Lena Dunham Defends Writing on a Past Sexual Assault

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Lena Dunham has opened up about why she wrote in her recent memoir about being sexually assaulted while in college.

In a lengthy statement published Tuesday by BuzzFeed, Dunham hits back at accusations that she described the man she claims assaulted her in a way that could be matched a male student who also attended Oberlin College. The student has denied he raped Dunham; her publisher plans to alter Not That Kind of Girl to specify that “Barry” is a pseudonym.

In her statement, the Girls writer and actress explains she was inspired by other sexual-assault survivors to share her story, while also addressing the recent accusations:

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. I did not wish to be contacted by him or to open a criminal investigation. I am 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.

Dunham, who wrote that she was drunk and high during her assault, also addressed her frustration when she receives questions that relate her intoxication to the incident:

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.

Dunham’s decision to share her story was praised when it was released in September, in the midst of an ongoing national dialogue on campus sexual assault. Her writing had previously met controversy when a conservative group accused her of sexually abusing her younger sister.


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