Danny McCarthy, Staff Writer
Lena Dunham, creator of the HBO show “Girls” and author of new book “Not That Kind of Girl,” is threatening to sue a website that alleged she sexual abused her younger sister in their youth.
TruthRevolt, a vigilante right-wing website with a goal to “unmask leftists in the media for who they are, destroy their credibility with the American public, and devastate their funding bases,” published an article on Oct. 29 that accused Dunham of sexually abusing her younger sister, Grace Dunham.
In a Nov. 3 follow-up story, TruthRevolt said that Dunham sent a cease-and-desist letter on Saturday, demanding that they remove the article and issue a public apology and threatening legal action if the website does not comply. TruthRevolt maintained its position, saying it would not remove the article and further stipulated that Dunham was a bully who thinks that “firing off legal threats against those who exercise first amendment rights is perfectly legitimate.”
The Oct. 29 article cited one particular quote in depth as evidence of sexual abuse, in which a 7-year-old Dunham “carefully spread open her [one-year-old sister Grace’s] vagina,” humorously finding a small amount of pebbles stored within. The website called the incident unsettling and charged Dunham with “using her little sister at times essentially as a sexual outlet.”
Dunham immediately responded to the claims in a tweet:
The right wing news story that I molested my little sister isn't just LOL- it's really fucking upsetting and disgusting.
— Lena Dunham (@lenadunham) November 1, 2014
Dunham claimed the story was entirely twisted, and added—in a self-described “rage spiral”—that the story was about “being a weird 7-year-old.”
In an exclusive story with TIME, Dunham made it clear that she does not “condone any kind of abuse under any circumstances.” She also apologized for the comic use of the term “sexual predator” in one essay, calling it insensitive. She ended the story saying, “As for my sibling, Grace, she is my best friend, and anything I have written about her has been published with her approval.”
Personally, I feel TruthRevolt is using alleged sexual abuse as a Trojan horse to directly attack Dunham. They openly declare war on media leftists in their mission statement, and Dunham—a New York-raised, Oberlin-educated feminist spearheading an entire show about a new generation of thought-provoking women—is a prime target.
I’ve read Dunham’s book, and nothing in it seems to be particularly telling of any sexual abuse. Her trademark humor is present and while the “sexual predator” joke is awkward, it is not unusual for her brand of wit. Dunham also specializes in championing uncomfortable dialogues about sexuality and sexual experiences. Detailing an account of slipping her hand down her underwear to “figure some stuff out” is not out of Dunham’s character; in fact, it seems to be her strength. Dunham excels in the act of discussing truth, no matter how awkward it is.
TruthRevolt makes the mistake of analyzing out of context. If Dunham were 18 and her sister were 10, their encounters would have a definite abusive overtone. But TruthRevolt refers to incidences that occur when the duo were seven and one or twelve and six.
In a Gawker article, Sam Rubenstein—a psychotherapist specializing in childhood abuse—articulated, “Context is a huge issue here… [Dunham’s age] is consistent with the latency stage, wherein children of that age are almost de-genderized and desexualized.” Actually, according to the American Academy of Pediatrics, instances of touching genitals in public or private and viewing or touching peer or new sibling genitals are normal sexual behaviors for children aged two to six.
Context is huge when discussing occasions of sexual abuse. And in Dunham’s case, there is nothing that appears to be particularly indicative of any sort of abuse. It makes me mad that websites that make grandiose claims that slander media figures, but in a world of Internet vigilantes, this sort of digital mudslinging is becoming all too common. Dunham has long been a controversial figure—from her nude scenes to her strong feminist stances—but she is in no way deserving of libel or defamation of character.