Future editions of Not That Kind of Girl will be altered to clarify that alleged attacker’s name is a pseudonym after man matching description of ‘Barry’ takes legal action
Lena Dunham and her publisher have agreed to make clear that the writer and actor is using a pseudonym when she refers to a Republican named Barry who allegedly sexually assaulted her when she was at college.
In her bestselling memoir Not That Kind of Girl, the Girls creator writes of how, during a sexual encounter with a fellow Oberlin College student, he removed his condom without asking her permission. “I’m not sure whether I can’t stop it or I don’t want to,” she writes of the experience in her memoir, later noting: “At no moment did I consent to being handled that way. I never gave him permission to be rough, to stick himself inside me without a barrier between us. I never gave him permission. In my deepest self I know this, and the knowledge of it has kept me from sinking.”
Dunham names the student as Barry, “a mustachioed campus Republican”. Now, after another Barry from Oberlin, also a Republican, felt the description matched him too closely and began legal action over the damage this could do to his reputation, publisher Random House has said that it “regrets the confusion”, and will clarify in future editions of the book that the choice of name is a pseudonym.
“As indicated on the copyright page of Not That Kind of Girl by Lena Dunham, some names and identifying details in the book have been changed. The name ‘Barry’ referenced in the book is a pseudonym. Random House, on our own behalf and on behalf of our author, regrets the confusion,” the publisher said in a statement, adding to the New York Times that the relevant chapter will now include a footnote making clear that Barry is not the man’s real name.
Dunham’s account of the alleged sexual assault has led to a series of online attacks, the author revealed. “I made the choice to keep certain identities private, changing names and some descriptive details. To be very clear, ‘Barry’ is a pseudonym, not the name of the man who assaulted me, and any resemblance to a person with this name is an unfortunate and surreal coincidence. I am sorry about all he has experienced,” she wrote in a piece for Buzzfeed.
Dunham had “hoped beyond hope that the sensitive nature of the event would be honoured, and that no one would attempt to reopen these wounds or deepen my trauma”, but this has not been the case, she wrote. “I have had my character and credibility questioned at every turn. I have been attacked online with violent and misogynistic language. Reporters have attempted to uncover the identity of my attacker despite my sincerest attempts to protect this information. My work has been torn apart in an attempt to prove I am a liar, or worse, a deviant myself.”
A piece last week from the right-wing news and opinion website Breitbart claimed that her story “collapses under scrutiny”, and that “after a month-long investigation that included more than a dozen interviews, a trip to the Oberlin campus, and hours spent poring through the Oberlin College archives, her description of the campus remains the only detail Breitbart News was able to verify in Dunham’s story of being raped by a campus Republican named Barry”.
“I have been made to feel, on multiple occasions, as though I am to blame for what happened. But I don’t believe I am to blame. I don’t believe any of us who have been raped and/or assaulted are to blame,” wrote Dunham. “Since coming out as a survivor I have gone from an intellectual sense of the ways in which victims are doubted and debased to a bone-deep understanding of this reality … I am deeply grateful for the support I have received. I am deeply grateful that this dialogue is taking place. I am angry but I am not alone.”
Not That Kind of Girl also drew controversy earlier this year after rightwing sites accused Dunham of sexually abusing her little sister over passages in the memoir that recount Dunham’s attempts to persuade her sister to kiss her, and her discovery of stones inside her sister’s vagina when she was one and Dunham was seven.
At the time, Dunham wrote on Twitter that “the right-wing news story that I molested my little sister isn’t just LOL – it’s really fucking upsetting and disgusting”. She subsequently said in a statement: “I do not condone any kind of abuse under any circumstances”, adding that “if the situations described in my book have been painful or triggering for people to read, I am sorry, as that was never my intention”.
This article was written by Alison Flood, for theguardian.com on Wednesday 10th December 2014 12.47 Europe/Londonguardian.co.uk © Guardian News and Media Limited 2010