Lena Dunham Opens Up About Date Rape

marie claire
Lena Dunham.

Lena Dunham. Photo: Getty Images.

Lena Dunham has bravely opened up being date raped in college.

The Girls creator and author of Not That Kind of Girl: A Young Woman Tells You What She's Learned, divulged to Terry Gross on Fresh Air that she was "terrified" to include a chapter on her experience in her new book, but said it's helped her gain new perspective.

"I said I spent so much time scared," Dunham said. "I spent so much time ashamed, I don't feel that way anymore. And it's not because of my job, it's not because of my boyfriend, it's not because of feminism -- though all those things helped -- it's because I told the story. And I still feel like myself and I feel less alone."

Dunham described the experience physically and emotionally painful, and one she spent a long time trying to reconcile.

"At the time that it happened, it wasn't something that I was able to be honest about," Dunham said. "I was able to share pieces, but I sort of used the lens of humor, which has always been my default mode, to try to talk around it."

Dunham also spoke out about the fact that she withdrew from the college experience afterwards, saying she'd "removed herself" from the world.

"I don't know if I would've told you at the time, 'Oh, I'm doing this to keep myself safe,' but obviously in hindsight... I basically removed myself from the social world as I'd known it," Dunham explained. "I spent a lot of time, which I talk about in the book, trying to figure out what my sexual preferences were and whether they in any way aligned with this experience I had had, whether there was any part of me that had, in quotes, 'wanted that.' It took me a long time of self-examination, hearing about other people's sort of sexual evolutions and realizing, oh, that's not something that happens to everyone. And when it does happen, they're allowed to mourn it and feel pain about it -- hearing that helped me."

The Girls creator also said it had taken some time for her to admit she'd been raped in the first place.

"I think I had just felt that something was very wrong," she said. "I had felt that something had happened and I remember thinking 'Can I ever be the same?'... I was at a party, drunk, waiting for attention -- and somehow that felt like such a shameful starting-off point that I didn't know how to reconcile what had come after. But I knew that it wasn't right and I knew in some way that this experience had been forced on me.

"When I shared it with my best friend and she used the term 'you were raped' at the time, I sort of laughed at her and thought like, you know, what an ambulance-chasing drama queen," Dunham continued. "[I] later felt this incredible gratitude for her for giving me that, giving me that gift of that kind of certainty that she had. I think that a lot of times when I felt at my lowest about it, those words in some way actually lifted me up because I felt that somebody was justifying the pain of my experience."

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