Lena Dunham’s Childish Defense Of A Friend Accused Of Sexual Assault Is A Lesson For Us All

20 November 2017, 17:52

Lena Dunham at Glamour Women Of The Year 2016 LIVE Summit
Picture: Emma McIntyre/Getty Images
Nicky Idika

By Nicky Idika

"I now understand that it was absolutely the wrong time to come forward with such a statement and I am so sorry."

It’s time to face the facts. Based on everything we’ve learned about how widespread sexual harassment really is in our culture, there is a very good chance you know a harasser. In fact, there is decent chance you’re close to someone who has harassed someone in the past.

Over the weekend, Lena Dunham blew it with an ill-advised defense of her friend, Murray Miller, a former writer on the HBO show, Girls. Miller has been accused of sexual assault by actress Aurora Perrineau (who was underage at the time) and Lena Dunham, an outspoken “feminist”, chose to publicly support the accused rather than the accuser.

Lena Dunham at Glamour Women Of The Year 2016 LIVE Summit
Picture: Emma McIntyre/Getty Images

"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," wrote Lena over the weekend.

This isn’t just significant because Lena insists that she is a feminist. It’s significant because Lena tweeted earlier this year that women just don’t lie about being raped.

Lena Dunham tweet lie
Picture: Twitter/Lena Dunham

Generally, false allegations of sexual assault are believed to make up just 2%-10% of reported claims

The idea that the vast majority of sexual assault claims are true except the ones made against Lena's friends specifically is a leap in logic that disqualifies her from appearing serious about this issue.

Lena has since apologised for her defense of Miller.

"As feminists, we live and die by our politics, and believing women is the first choice we make every single day when we wake up. Therefore I never thought I would issue a statement publically [sic] supporting someone accused of sexual assault, but I naively believed it was important to share my perspective on my friend’s situation as it has transpired behind the scenes over the last few months. I now understand that it was absolutely the wrong time to come forward with such a statement and I am so sorry. "

"Every woman who comes forward deserves to be heard, fully and completely, and our relationship to the accused should not be part of the calculation anyone makes when examining her case."

Unfortunately, Lena's apology even lacks the requisite "if true" condemnation that hedges her judgement on further evidence of wrongdoing. She expresses regret at sharing her "perspective" but does not actually address the serious nature of the allegation made against Miller.

Lena publicly outing herself as someone with convenient views on this cultural epidemic might make you wonder how you would react in a similar situation.

The truth is that your feelings about your friend are nothing compared to the emotions a victim might experience in a situation like this. It's hypocritical to say that you believe all women unless the accused is someone close to you. With so many victims coming forward to tell their stories, the fact that this might one day hit close to home shouldn't come as a surprise.

If 2017 has taught us anything, it should be the fact that everyone has the capacity to do bad things. Whether they're your favourite actor, a good friend, your fun "work husband" or even your real life partner, we now have to be ready and willing to take on a culture that has encouraged truly toxic behaviour. Abusers have friends. Harassers have friends. Just because someone is your friend doesn't mean they can't hurt others.

Confronting people in your life who have hurt others is as important as showing support for people who say they have been hurt.

Lena Dunham's behaviour shines a light on an immature part of all of us that wants to shield and protect our friends from scrutiny. But, if we're ever going to change things for women and girls in the future, we're going to have to get serious and stop being part-time feminists.