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Lena Dunham catches heat for defending ‘Girls’ writer amid sexual assault allegations
Dunham once tweeted that women don’t falsely report rape—so what has changed?
Lena Dunham has often described herself as an advocate for survivors of sexual assault, and she’s a survivor herself. But after allegations were leveled at Murray Miller, a writer and producer for Dunham’s HBO show Girls, the internet isn’t so sure about who her brand of feminism is serving.
On Friday, the Wrap reported that Aurora Perrineau, a 23-year-old actress who appeared in Passenger and is the daughter of Lost actor Harold Perrineau, filed a police report with the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department saying Miller, who is 40, raped her in 2012 when she was 17 years old.
In a statement the actress had written on Sept. 26 for a polygraph test, Perrineau said she had met Miller one night in 2012 while at the Standard Hotel with two of her friends. She wrote that he was flirting with her, but she repeatedly told him she was 17. After briefly leaving, then returning to the hotel, Miller asked for Perrineau and her friends to give him a ride home because he was drunk.
“When we arrived at Murray’s place, everyone got out of the car. I did not want to get out of the car, but I felt like I had to go along with everyone else. At some point, I woke up in Murray’s bed naked. He was on top of me having sexual intercourse with me. I freaked out and was extremely upset and traumatized. At no time did I consent to any sexual contact with Murray,” Perrineau wrote.
On Friday, the Hollywood Reporter got confirmation that Perrineau filed a police report. Miller, through his attorneys, has denied the allegation in a statement, accusing Perrineau of having sought monetary damages from him before going to the police.
“Mr. Miller categorically and vehemently denies Ms. Perrineau’s outrageous claims. After being contacted several weeks ago by lawyers who—on Ms. Perrineau’s behalf—sought substantial monetary damages from him, Mr. Miller’s legal team gathered overwhelming evidence directly contradicting these false and offensive claims,” Don Walerstein, Miller’s attorney, said in a statement. “Only after her demands for money were rebuffed did Ms. Perrineau go to the police. Mr. Miller looks forward to sharing all evidence and information with any and all authorities seeking the truth in this matter.”
Perrineau told the Wrap, “I filed a police report today. I cannot talk about the investigation that is happening currently,” and declined further comment. However, Perrineau’s mother, Brittany, denied that their legal team or family asked Miller for monetary damages.
According to polygraph examiner Louis Rovner, a polygraph of Perrineau’s written statement, which she had taken on Sept. 26, proved true, and he said she was not lying. Rovner’s report, obtained by the Wrap, says he’s a member of the Panel of Experts of the Los Angeles Superior Court, Criminal Division. Polygraph tests have long been disputed as being susceptible to manipulation, though Rovner’s report states his accuracy rate in the Utah Zone of Comparison Test, the specific methodology used on Perrineau, was 95.5 percent.
With her Girls co-showrunner Jenni Konner, Dunham issued a statement to the Reporter saying they defend Miller, and they believe Perrineau’s accusation to be “one of the 3 percent of assault cases” falsely reported annually (false accusations are believed to be 2 to 10 percent of all reported rapes). Said Dunham and Konner:
During the windfall of deeply necessary accusations over the last few months in Hollywood, we have been thrilled to see so many women’s voices heard and dark experiences in this industry justified. It’s a hugely important time of change and, like every feminist in Hollywood and beyond, we celebrate. But during every time of change there are also incidences of the culture, in its enthusiasm and zeal, taking down the wrong targets. We believe, having worked closely with him for more than half a decade, that this is the case with Murray Miller. 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. It is a true shame to add to that number, as outside of Hollywood women still struggle to be believed. We stand by Murray and this is all we’ll be saying about this issue.
On Twitter, Dunham elaborated, writing, “I believe in a lot of things but the first tenet of my politics is to hold up the people who have held me up, who have filled my world with love.”
I believe in a lot of things but the first tenet of my politics is to hold up the people who have held me up, who have filled my world with love.
— Lena Dunham (@lenadunham) November 17, 2017
The backlash on Twitter was swift, many fans and haters alike accusing Dunham of protecting someone accused of rape and of hurting the narratives of sexual assault survivors as a whole.
Apparently Lena Dunham is a huge supporter of women coming forward with sexual assault unless it’s someone she knows personally and has held her up and filled her world with love.
— Tom & Lorenzo (@tomandlorenzo) November 18, 2017
I avoid talking about Lena Dunham because life is too short. However, to deny an alleged sexual assault PUBLICLY, regardless of what “insider info” you have, is careless & selfish. If your friend is innocent, that will be proven. Your public statement hurts survivors.
— Hari Kondabolu (@harikondabolu) November 18, 2017
Lena Dunham in Aug 2017: women don’t lie about rape.
Lena Dunham in Nov 2017: …unless they’re accusing a friend of mine. pic.twitter.com/GxLHrHUBFr
— Megha Mohan (@meghamohan) November 18, 2017
It is hard to imagine a better avatar for white liberal capitalist feminism than Dunham. Truly this is *kisses fingers* spot on for that brand. https://t.co/O8Z1hI18zn
— Tressie Mc (@tressiemcphd) November 18, 2017
“the first tenet of my politics is unequivocal self-interest” https://t.co/tt40mDWJqy
— bobby shawarma (@hummusandpizza) November 18, 2017
loving someone while refusing to acknowledge, or hold them accountable for, the violence they have perpetrated against other people — that's a really shitty kind of love. https://t.co/X2iZNeDtru
— green bean casserole is the best Thanksgiving dish (@laura_zillman) November 18, 2017
One Twitter user pointed to Dunham’s infamy for apologizing for previous comments.
man I can’t believe lena dunham said something terrible pic.twitter.com/G5aQNDZEWe
— KRANG T. NELSON, JD DDS (@KrangTNelson) November 18, 2017
And others criticized Dunham’s posture for supporting a white man against allegations made by a Black woman.
— Kelly Wickham Hurst (@mochamomma) November 18, 2017
According the Reporter, Los Angeles police are investigating Perrineau’s report.
Update 8:28am CT, Nov. 19: Dunham has released another statement in which she’s apologized, saying she now realizes her initial statement of support came at the wrong time and reaffirming her stance that every woman deserves to be heard. Here’s the entire statement.
— Lena Dunham (@lenadunham) November 19, 2017
Samantha Grasso is a former IRL staff writer for the Daily Dot with a reporting emphasis on immigration. Her work has appeared on Los Angeles Magazine, Death And Taxes, Revelist, Texts From Last Night, Austin Monthly, and she has previously contributed to Texas Monthly.