Actress Lena Dunham is defending an account of a sexual assault she experienced in college that was included in her memoir, after questions were raised about whether she described her attacker in a way that implicated an innocent former classmate.
In an essay for Buzzfeed published late Tuesday, Dunham alluded to a report from Breitbart News that cast doubt on her alleged sexual assault by a popular Republican student on Oberlin College’s largely liberal campus.
“I have had my character and credibility questioned at every turn,” she wrote. “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. My friends and family have been contacted. Articles have heralded ‘Lena Dunham’s shocking confession.’ I have been made to feel, on multiple occasions, as though I am to blame for what happened.”
Dunham’s publisher, Random House, said this week that it would tweak future editions of “Not That Kind Of Girl” to clarify that “Barry,” the student who Dunham says raped her, was a pseudonym and not the student’s actual name. There was a student named Barry who attended Oberlin at the same time as Dunham and was a well-known Republican, but through his lawyer that Barry said he’d never met Dunham.
Dunham wrote that it was a “surreal coincidence” that the former Oberlin student with that name resembled the attacker she described in her memoir, and added that she was “sorry about all he has experienced.”
But she made no apologies about broaching the sensitive topic of sexual assault.
“Speaking out was never about exposing the man who assaulted me,” she wrote. “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.”
Catherine Thompson is a senior editor for Talking Points Memo in New York City. She came to the site in 2013 and reported on national affairs. Previously, she worked as a research assistant to investigative reporter Wayne Barrett. She can be reached at email@example.com.