Lena Dunham pens essay about surviving sexual assault
Lena Dunham describes being sexually assaulted by an Oberlin College peer in her nonfiction book, Not That Kind of Girl—and in an essay for Buzzfeed, she writes about why she chose to share that story.
“I was inspired by all the brave women who are now coming forward with their own experiences, despite the many risks associated with speaking out,” Dunham wrote. Those risks, she goes on to say, include facing people who demand “an unassailable narrative” when “the event itself is hazy, fragmented, and unspeakable.”
Dunham touches on the unreliability of memory in her book, where she admits to having trouble remembering every detail of the assault but is sure of one thing: “I never gave him permission to be rough, to stick himself inside me without a barrier between us. I never gave him permission,” she wrote in a chapter titled “Barry.”
Her Buzzfeed essay was published the same day that the book’s publisher, Random House, issued a statement regarding the “Barry” pseudonym: As it turns out, there is an actual Barry who also went to Oberlin College—and whose reputation, he claims, has suffered because “Barry” is not clearly listed as a pseudonym in Not That Kind Of Girl, except for on the book’s copyright page.
In a statement released Tuesday, Random House said they regret “the confusion” and are altering future print editions and current digital editions of the book to more explicitly state that “Barry” is a pseudonym. Dunham confirms that “Barry” is a pseudonym in the first paragraph of the Buzzfeed essay, adding that she is “sorry about all he has experienced.”
The point of the essay isn’t to clear Barry’s name though, but to explore why she shared her experience and why it’s good for victims to continue sharing their experiences. “Survivors have the right to tell their stories, to take back control after the ultimate loss of control,” she wrote. “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.”
Read the entire essay over at Buzzfeed.