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'We shouldn't be distracted by a Lena Dunham pile-on when a man is accused of rape.'

Lena Dunham – we get it.

A lot of us have been crushed recently, learning that men that we’ve admired are being accused of terrible crimes.  A lot of us didn’t want to believe that our beloved Chuck Bass, aka Ed Westwick, could do criminal things to women. It must be even harder to accept when you have a working relationship with someone – or worse – a real friendship.

So it makes sense that when Lena Dunham’s friend was accused of sexual assault, she wanted to say something. She made a public statement in defence of her friend Murray Miller, that cast doubt on the veracity of the allegations he faces.

It was a surprising move – but very human, too. Many of us do this sort of thing all the time, when we don’t want to believe.

“She’s leaving him? What does she have to be unhappy about? Her husband is lovely!”

“My child would never let someone else take the blame for something. He always tells the truth.”

But we also have to accept that you never really know anyone. Good people can do bad things – and, if we’re honest with ourselves, that includes us.

Of course, there are degrees of bad. There’s crappy behaviour, and there’s criminal actions. And this is the bit that sucks when you see someone you believe in accused of a crime:

It’s not up to us to decide the difference. That’s for the police to investigate, the lawyers to defend, and the law to decide.

Which is why, when we’re talking about potential criminal actions, we have to be very careful with what we say. That responsibility is heightened when you have a huge, international platform like Lena Dunham, and have 5.71 million Twitter followers.

To some extent,  Dunham’s comments were laughable. She used the term “insider knowledge” – because, you guys, she’s, like, in the “in crowd”, and we’re not. And then there was her problematic about-face from August’s tweet: “Things women do lie about: what they ate for lunch. Things women don’t lie about: rape”, to “this accusation is one of the 3 per cent of assault cases that are misreported every year” when defending her friend.

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And then there was the apology tweet: “I naively believed it was important to share my perspective.” As if she, Lena Dunham, could save her friend by influencing others about his character.

But the thing is, she could – well, at least –  she tried to.

Trouble is, her readiness to come out, guns blazing, was totally misplaced loyalty; because it’s probably done more harm than good to Miller’s case.

Of course, there’s been an outraged backlash, but Dunham’s tweet has done something more significant than reveal another part of her character. It’s potentially negatively influenced the case against her friend. It’s made him look like he’s complaining to his mates and he’s got them to publicly invalidate the alleged victim. It’s not a good look, to say the least.

Liksten to Mamamia Out Loud ask why does everyone hate Lena Dunham?

 

If I were Miller, I would be angry with Dunham for doing that. If I were Miller, I’d want Dunham to have taken the measured Gayle King approach – if she had to say anything at all. Dunham didn’t even consider that her words could potentially be used for a defamation case, because they attempted to discredit the victim.

It’s all negative publicity that could potentially influence the media – and future legal proceedings by influencing jurors.

A headline from 2012 warning social media users to consider their comments so they don't influence legal proceedings

As any lawyer would tell you, there's a reason why the presumption of innocence exists, and if you really believe in someone, you shouldn't try to influence the course of justice.

But there is something much more important here.

Ultimately, we can't allow Dunham to detract from what the story is really about - a woman was sexually assaulted.

Surely we need to focus this seriously intense eye of scrutiny on the alleged abuser, over a woman who made a comment she shouldn't have made.

Whether the victim has made it up or not, is for a court of law to decide - not Twitter, and not Lena Dunham.

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