Hey Gawker, Here’s Why Outting Lena Dunham’s Rapist Is Bullshit

Yesterday, Gawker’s J.K. Trotter wrote a piece naming the man who allegedly raped Lena Dunham in college. Dunham wrote about the rape in her book, Not That Kind Of Girl, but took a number of steps to conceal his identity. Unfortunately, the manner in which she cloaked his identity was seized upon by some of Dunham’s conservative critics, who sought out to identify (and probably exonerate) the guy so he could tell “his side.” This led to a totally unrelated former student being fingered, which Dunham’s critics presented as proof that she was stretching the truth. Dunham eventually wrote a piece for Buzzfeed making it clear that the wrong guy had been identified, that she didn’t want her real rapist to be revealed and that his identity isn’t the issue anyway, as telling her story was the only point. “Reporters have attempted to uncover the identity of my attacker despite my sincerest attempts to protect this information,” she wrote. Sadly, her wishes have not been and continue to not be respected.

Last night, Beejoli Shah, a former editor at Gawker’s Defamer blog and a soon-to-be full-time Frisky staffer (woot!), forwarded me the email she sent to Trotter — who she acknowledges as a friend and former colleague — expressing her concerns with his decision to publish the name of Dunham’s rapist. She gave me permission to publish her email verbatim on The Frisky, though I have made a few small spelling/formatting corrections. For context, Beejoli also recently wrote a piece for Buzzfeed about her own rape and was harassed on Twitter by men’s rights activists (like Roosh V.) as a result. — Amelia

From: [email protected]

To: [email protected]

As a rape victim who has written about being raped very recently, here’s my perspective — I can’t speak for Lena, but I can speak to the choice for not naming the rapist, which I wanted to share with you. It wasn’t to protect him. I don’t care what happens to him. It was to protect myself — to protect the further scrutiny (there was plenty of scrutiny, thanks men’s rights activists!) from delving even deeper into finding him, giving him a chance to have a platform, to deny it happened and once again make me the bad guy in the case, and more than anything, to relive it even further. It took me 9 years to share that story because I was so terrified of repercussions not just from him, but from others — even those seemingly “on my side.” Writing about it in vague terms was difficult enough without holding it up to the court of public opinion with every detail they could want to dissect it Serial-style. Ultimately, in my case, said dissection happened anyways to a degree even without me naming him (MRA types did a ton of speculation and dug up so much info, I was flabbergasted), but I can’t imagine how much worse it would have been had I included his name. And that’s for me, a non-famous person whose name and persona is zero percent important to the world.

For Lena, I am assuming, telling her story wasn’t to shock and incite. It wasn’t to sell books. As ambivalent as I am about Lena (which you know, having been my coworker and friend for quite a few months), she would have sold books regardless. It was likely to tell a story that would hopefully engender other women to not feel like I did, that they couldn’t speak out for fear that their story would be dissected every which way instead of being held up for what it was: a story about their rape. How much more poignant does the name make it? A woman was raped. A woman was raped by X. A woman was raped by a man named ________. No matter how you slice it, a woman was raped.

I’m sorry you felt the need to out her rapist — something Lena didn’t ask you to do, and something I didn’t ask Roosh and his band of men’s rights followers to do. Today she is likely reliving her rape even more than she needed to, in a way that Roosh made me relive mine even more than I needed to. I love and respect you dearly as a reporter, but I don’t think you needed to be the person to cause Lena that pain.