Lena Dunham Explains What Rape Does To Women's Voices

When Lena Dunham received an award at Variety's Power of Women New York luncheon on Friday, she spoke up about her own rape and why she's been motivated to help other victims.

"When I was raped, I felt powerless," Dunham told the audience. "I felt my value had been determined by someone else. Someone who sent me the message that my body was not my own, and my choices were meaningless. It took years to recognize my personal worth was not tied to my assault; the voices telling me I deserved this were phantoms, they were liars. So as a feminist and a sexual assault survivor, my ultimate goal is to use my experience, my platform, and yes, my privilege, to reverse stigma and give voice to other survivors."
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The Girls creator and star wrote about her sexual assault at Oberlin College in a controversial passage in her memoir, Not That Kind of Girl. She called her assailant Barry, but when reporters tracked down a real-life Oberlin alum with that name, the publisher announced new editions would clarify that "Barry" was a fake name and offered to pay the man's legal fees.

But on Friday, Dunham turned the conversation back to what rape and other forms of sexual assault does to victims, and why it's up to women to support each other in its wake.

"Trauma can make us narcissistic and myopic, turning us inward as we struggle with what we have seen, felt, and repressed," she said. "But connecting with other survivors reopens our world. Instead of scrambling for power by silencing other women, we're able to mutually strengthen each other through collaboration and support."
This is why Dunham says she decided to work with the GEMS, the Girls Educational and Mentoring Services, an organization that's dedicated to helping victims of commercial sexual exploitation and trafficking. And while Dunham herself is often accused of making everything about her, she declared that the award she received on Friday would go to GEMS founder Rachel Lloyd, in honor of the work she does, "fighting for a world where girls are not for sale."

Find out more about GEMS here.      
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