The author of the best-selling novel Luckiest Girl in the World is starting a frank conversation with her readers, admitting a year after her novel's release that the excruciating rape scene in her book is based on events that happened to her at a party when she was 15, reports Entertainment Weekly. In an intimate open letter headlined "What I Know" on Lenny, she describes fading in and out of consciousness to different boys between her legs and on top of her, to blood in a toilet bowl, to waking up next to a strange boy who laughed it all off as a "wild night." And in an interview with the New York Times, she explains how the reaction—from dismissal to overt name-calling, including "trash slut" being scrawled inside her locker—sent the once outgoing dancer and athlete into an abyss that took years before anyone (a therapist) even labeled her trauma as gang rape.
"I was so conditioned to not talk about it that it didn’t even occur to me to be forthcoming," the 32-year-old Pennsylvania native tells the Times. "No one was treating me like a victim; they were treating me like I was a perpetrator, like I was getting what I deserved." In a separate interview with BuzzFeed, Knoll says she's "incredibly grateful" that there's been a shift in how society responds to those who tell their rape stories, and that she's "very grateful for the brave women who told their stories and made me think that I could tell mine too, that I don’t need to hide from or be ashamed of what happened to me." Knoll concludes her open letter by confessing that she is only at the very start of her healing process: "I'm not fine. It's not fine. But it's finally the truth, it's what I know, and that's a start." (Lady Gaga's own grandmother didn't know about her rape until she sang about it at the Oscars.)