News and Commentary

Lena Dunham: I Lied To Protect My Friend From Sexual Assault Accusations

In November 2017, Lena Dunham, the creator of “Girls,” claimed she had inside information exonerating “Girls” writer Murray Miller from claims by actress Aurora Perrineau that he had sexually assaulted her in 2012, when she was 17.

Dunham lied.

Dunham issued this statement in 2017:

During the windfall of deeply necessary accusations over the last few months in Hollywood, we have been thrilled to see so many women’s voices heard and dark experiences in this industry justified. It’s a hugely important time of change and, like every feminist in Hollywood and beyond, we celebrate. But during every time of change there are also incidences of the culture, in its enthusiasm and zeal, taking down the wrong targets. We believe, having worked closely with him for more than half a decade, that this is the case with Murray Miller. While our first instinct is to listen to every woman’s story, our insider knowledge of Murray’s situation makes us confident that sadly this accusation is one of the 3 percent of assault cases that are misreported every year. It is a true shame to add to that number, as outside of Hollywood women still struggle to be believed. We stand by Murray and this is all we’ll be saying about this issue.

But on Wednesday, writing in The Hollywood Reporter, Dunham offered an apology to Perrineau, beginning by celebrating the past year for “unprecedented dialogue about issues like wage equality and systemic bias and, most notably, sexual assault and harassment. We have spoken and we have spoken loudly, and our voices, once muffled under layers of crinoline and repressed rage, have been heard. Heroines have emerged. We are cracking open windows and beating down doors. The air is circulating and the light is pouring in. There are magazine covers and TV specials and parties and instas celebrating the very real, very important and long overdue progress that has been made.”

Then, some self-absorption:

So many of us have spent such a long time hiding our trauma. At least I know I had — even as a chronic oversharer, I tended to leave huge swaths of experience out of my story — and I walked around feeling like such a victim. Like so many women (so many people), I disguised my pain with medication and stuff and chronic overwork, with social media and mindless dating and the random day-to-day drama we generate to stay out of our own experience. I never stopped, much less stopped to consider that I might be capable of traumatizing somebody, too (the exact complaint I’ve always had about old white man artists).

Finally, the apology:

And so I made a terrible mistake. When someone I knew, someone I had loved as a brother, was accused, I did something inexcusable: I publicly spoke up in his defense. There are few acts I could ever regret more in this life. I didn’t have the “insider information” I claimed but rather blind faith in a story that kept slipping and changing and revealed itself to mean nothing at all. I wanted to feel my workplace and my world were safe, untouched by the outside world (a privilege in and of itself, the privilege of ignoring what hasn’t hurt you) and I claimed that safety at cost to someone else, someone very special.

To Aurora: You have been on my mind and in my heart every day this year. I love you. I will always love you. I will always work to right that wrong. In that way, you have made me a better woman and a better feminist. You shouldn’t have been given that job in addition to your other burdens, but here we are, and here I am asking: How do we move forward? Not just you and I but all of us, living in the gray space between admission and vindication.

After some more confessions, Dunham concluded:

There are some who will think I am writing this to curry public favor (that’s OK, though, I stopped thinking that was an option for me somewhere around 2014, and that’s some kind of freedom). I have the only women I want or need in my life. And this is the Women in Entertainment issue, and women in entertainment need healing. Sometimes healing starts with the words: I’m sorry.

I’m sorry.

Moving forward from trauma is never easy, but there are brave women doing it for us. All we have to do is listen.