Recently actress/author/activist Lena Dunham sort of apologized to a man she identified (inadvertently, I guess?) as a rapist in her book Not That Kind of Girl: A Young Woman Tells You What She’s “Learned”. Her publisher, Random House, also issued a kinda-sorta apology statement and paid his legal fees but didn’t admit to any wrong-doing.
Because paying someone’s legal fees is just the sort of thing a major New York publisher does when they don’t feel they’ve done anything wrong.
If you’re not familiar with the backstory I’ll let others explain, but in reading Dunham’s online response to this debacle something jumped out at me.
Dunham exonerates herself for not reporting her alleged rape, and for not identifying the allegedly guilty party, saying there’s “no right way” to be a victim of rape (emphasis mine).
Speaking out was never about exposing the man who assaulted me. 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.
…[Rape survivors] have the right to tell their stories, to take back control after the ultimate loss of control. There is no right way to survive rape and there is no right way to be a victim. 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.
This is absolutely wrong. In fact, this is shameful. Because there is a wrong way to be a rape victim. You’re doing it wrong when you get raped and then refuse to report it to the authorities.
Look at the havoc unreported rapes have created just in the last couple of weeks. The story of an alleged rape victim at the University of Virginia caused a national stir when Rolling Stone reported it with all the horrifying details. Except, it turns out that Rolling Stone got a lot of the facts wrong, and it appears as though more responsible journalists are on the verge of outing the accusations as a hoax (to be fair to “Jackie,” the unnamed accuser, something very real and terrible may have happened to her but it appears the version she and Rolling Stone reported isn’t the truth).
How much of that pain and scandal could have been avoided if “Jackie” had reported her alleged rape immediately?
[mks_pullquote align=”right” width=”300″ size=”24″ bg_color=”#000000″ txt_color=”#ffffff”]”…there is a wrong way to be a rape victim. You’re doing it wrong when you get raped and then refuse to report it to the authorities.”[/mks_pullquote]
Look, also, at the storm of accusations surrounding Bill Cosby. It’s difficult to count the number of women who have hung rape accusations on him which go back decades. Did any of these women go to the police contemporaneously to the alleged crime? Not that I can tell. I’ll admit, there are so many accusations against Cosby I may have missed the details of such a report, but suffice it to say most of the alleged victims did not make a report.
Meaning, if what they’re telling us about Cosby is true, they allowed him to continue victimizing one woman after another for a generations. By delaying their reports they put Cosby, law enforcement, and the public in a position of trying to figure out what felonious activities may or may not have happened decades in the past.
That’s just plain irresponsible, and it’s not “victim shaming” to feel that the alleged victims of these crimes should be ashamed of their delay in reporting.
According to Dunham, there is “no wrong way” to be a rape victim. Some rape victims report the crime to the police so that they can bring the perpetrator to justice. Others just write a memoir mentioning it later in life (that Dunham is, at 28 years old, already writing a memoir is a topic for another post).
One of these is right, and the other is wrong.
Compounding that wrong is the fact that future victims of sexual assaults, having been baptized in Dunham’s brand of feminism which condones letting rapes happen without repurcussions, might opt to let the crimes against them go unreported as well.
With all these headlines about rape in the media, I felt like I needed to have a talk with my teenage daughter about it. What I told her was that if something ever happened to her, she needs to speak out. She needs to tell her friends and her family and, most importantly, the authorities. No matter how hard and scary it is. If you’ve been victimized, it is your duty to speak up about it for the sake of justice.
Conviction in these cases is never a sure thing. Our justice system requires a high evidentiary standard for conviction, and that’s a good thing. But even a failed conviction can do a lot to either deter future criminal behavior or perhaps help in a future conviction.
Shame on Lena Dunham for promoting the idea that staying silent is an acceptable option.