Lena Dunham Shares Her College Date Rape Story, Talks Recovery

Lena for Sia
Lena Dunham goes all interpretive for Sia's 'Late Night' performance.
Lena Dunham has revealed that she was date raped in college.

The Oberlin College graduate shares her story in her new book, Not That Kind of Girl: A Young Woman Tells You What She’s “Learned.” Discussing her story in the book wasn’t easy, and Lena talked to NPR’s Terry Gross about the experience. Lena revealed, “The chapter about date rape in the book was a really, really terrifying thing for me to put into the world.” But, Lena feels “less alone” now that she’s shared her experience. Read on to learn more about Lena’s story.

Without a doubt, Lena’s a role model to many girls around the world. Thanks to her hit show Girls, Lena has become a leader for women empowerment. Now, Lena has found the strength to talk about her college date rape experience. Hopefully, her story will help others to come forward and talk about their experiences.

While on Fresh Air with Terry Gross, Lena shared her story. Lena revealed, “It was a painful experience physically and emotionally, and one I 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. 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.”

Lena says she didn’t really understand what had happened to her. She explained, “I think I had just felt that something was very wrong. 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. [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.”

The experience made her want to avoid parties. “I didn’t really go to anymore parties. I just stopped going… I basically didn’t have a drink for the rest of college… I really removed myself from that 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. 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.”

Lena’s new memoir has helped her recovery process. She revealed, “I said I spent so much time scared. 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 (Jack Antonoff), 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.” Good for you, Lena!

Are you glad Lena shared her story? Sound off in the comments!

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