Shipley alumna Jessica Knoll says gang rape in her best-selling novel was real
Jessica Knoll, author of the best-selling novel Luckiest Girl Alive revealed Tuesday that the harrowing gang rape she depicted in her book wasn't fiction at all. It had happened to her, when she was a student at the prestigious Shipley School in Bryn Mawr.
by Howard Gensler
Published Mar 29, 2016
Jessica Knoll, author of the best-selling novel Luckiest Girl Alive revealed Tuesday that the harrowing gang rape she depicted in her book wasn't fiction at all.
It had happened to her, when she was a student at the prestigious Shipley School in Bryn Mawr.
In an essay on the Lena Dunham-Jenni Konner magazine/newsletter Lenny, Knoll wrote about her years of recovering from the alleged rapes, and why for months she had insisted that the rape of Ani, the main character in her novel, was a made-up story.
"I'm scared people won't call what happened to me rape because for a long time, no one did," she wrote.  But as she gears up for a paperback tour and the probing questions of fans and reporters, she said,  "I've come to a simple, powerful revelation: everyone is calling it rape now. There's no reason to cover my head. There's no reason I shouldn't say what I know."
Knoll, now 32, was a 15-year-old student at Shipley when she attended a teenage party, drank alcohol and blacked out, The New York Times reported. At various points that night, she said, she awoke to different boys having sex with her, and the next morning she was in another boy's bed, only partially dressed and hurting.
At school over the subsequent weeks, she wrote, fellow students and a teacher bullied and shamed her.  Knoll said she was unable to face what happened, and struggled with doctors and herself in classifying it as a rape.
"Like Ani, the only way I knew to survive was to laugh loudly at my rapists' jokes, speak softly to the mean girls, and focus on chiseling my tunnel out of there," she wrote.
Fast forward another few years and Knoll, now a senior editor at Cosmopolitan magazine, was writing Luckiest Girl Alive. With the help of a therapist, she said she had come to terms with the incident, but still felt the need to create the character of Ani as her fictional surrogate. Once the book became a massive success and she received so much feedback from women who'd had similar experiences, Knoll said she began to feel guilt that she hadn't been entirely truthful.
On the day Knoll pitched the essay to Lenny, she said, a woman in New Jersey approached her and asked about her research for the novel.
"Something similar to what happened to Ani happened to me," she said.
The woman, taken aback, grabbed her wrist and blinked back tears.  She told the woman: "I'm fine! It's fine!"
But in concluding her essay, she wrote: "I'm not fine. It's not fine. But it's finally the truth, it's what I know, and that's a start."
Published March 29, 2016
Howard Gensler
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