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BuzzFeed Exclusive-Lena Dunham: Why I Chose to Speak Out

BuzzFeed Exclusive-Lena Dunham: Why I Chose to Speak Out

Lena Dunham writes an essay for BuzzFeed responding to the controversy over a passage from her memoir describing a sexual assault during her college years.

It has been almost a decade since I was sexually assaulted. It took me 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. 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. As indicated in the beginning of the book, I made the choice to keep certain identities private, changing names and some descriptive details. 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.

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.

Like so many women who have been sexually assaulted, I did not report the incident to my college or to the police. Even when I visited my gynecologist complaining of pain, afraid I had contracted a sexually transmitted disease, I could only mumble through a description of that night. After all, I had been drunk and high, which only compounded my confusion and shame. And I was afraid. I was afraid that no one would believe me. I was afraid other potential partners would consider me damaged goods. I was afraid I was overreacting. I was afraid it was my fault. I was afraid he would be angry. Eight years later, I know just how classic these fears are. They are the reason that the majority of college women who are assaulted will never report it.

Survivors have the right to tell their stories, to take back control after the ultimate loss of control. There is no right way to survive rape and there is no right way to be a victim. What survivors need more than anything is to be supported, whether they choose to pursue a criminal investigation or to rebuild their world on their own terms. You can help by never defining a survivor by what has been taken from her. You can help by saying I believe you.

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