If Perrineau “came forward” at all, it wasn’t in November 2017 or even in September 2017. It was 18 months before that, when she relented and told her parents what she says happened to her. “It was a very dark time. I wasn’t very good,” she says. “There was a lot of self-harm.” She’d gotten so afraid of the outside world that she could barely leave her house. Her parents hazarded an intervention. The upshot was more or less, “We can’t help you unless you tell us what is going on because this is getting progressively worse and worse.”
To recount the assault, to their faces, was scary, she says. But when she did, it felt like salvation. “If I didn’t get it out, I don’t know what would have happened to me,” she says. With the help of a therapist, she started to think about what closure would mean for her. “It was never a thing like, ‘I’m going to tell my story,’” she says. “I just wanted justice.” Nine months after Perrineau filed her report, the Los Angeles District Attorney’s Office announced that it had declined to bring charges. The statute of limitations on one possible charge had expired, and the D.A. said the other charge wouldn’t be pursued due to “inconsistencies and the delay in reporting.”
Still, she’s proud she went to the police. She reaches around for words to describe it. How is it possible to feel vindicated when the scales of justice tip in someone else’s favor? “For a long time I tried to figure out how to get my power back,” she says. “Going to the police station, filing a report—it kind of got the monkey off my back.”
Then came the report in The Wrap. It all could have fizzled out there, but for the statement from Dunham and Konner. Perrineau had no advance notice that the women intended to speak. She woke up to the text no one wants to get: “Did you see the news?” Perrineau read the statement in total shock. She’d never worked with Dunham and Konner. “Woman to woman, I just thought that support would be there,” Perrineau says.
She’s reluctant to assess what motivated them, which speaks as much to her grace as it does to how serious it is to accuse someone of a false rape accusation. But her most generous guess is that it was fear. “Fear for their friend or someone that they thought was their friend,” she says.
Perrineau didn’t comment on the statement. She listened to her father, who told her: “We just need to take a second, be silent, let the facts speak for themselves.” He also assured her: “They’re going to be on the wrong side of history.” Perrineau remained quiet.
In the absence of a counter-narrative from her, black men and women filled the void. Perrineau names them: Zinzi Clemmons, Terry Crews, Tarana Burke, and DuVernay, of course. As sad as she was, she felt their embrace. And moreover, the experience alerted her to the particular indignities black women face. “It’s hard enough to ever come [forward], but then to be a woman of color and know that there’s a very good chance that no one is going to believe you? I think it opened my eyes to that,” she explains. “I’m grateful for that part of it.”
Within 24 hours of the joint statement, Dunham recanted on Twitter. “We have been given the gift of powerful voices and by speaking out we were putting our thumb on the scale and it was wrong,” Dunham wrote, without a direct mention of Perrineau. “We regret this decision with every fiber of our being.” Later Perrineau’s mother brokered a sit-down between Perrineau and Dunham, and Dunham apologized in person. But fuller restitution came in December 2018, when Dunham guest-edited the Hollywood Reporter’s Women in Entertainment issue and included in it a 1,400-word mea culpa. Dunham said she’d never had “insider information” to exonerate Miller and called her initial statement “a terrible mistake.”