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The horrifying story of Jessica Knoll's gang rape that is now a Netflix movie starring Mila Kunis

'I’m scared people won’t call what happened to me rape because for a long time, no one did,' said Knoll, author of best-selling book 'Luckiest Girl Alive'
UPDATED SEP 11, 2022
Jessica Knoll's (R) 'Luckiest Girl Alive' now a Netflix movie starring Mila Kunis (L) (@jessicaknollauthor/ Instagram)
Jessica Knoll's (R) 'Luckiest Girl Alive' now a Netflix movie starring Mila Kunis (L) (@jessicaknollauthor/ Instagram)

Warning: This article contains details about sexual assault and rape that some readers may find disturbing

LOS ANGELES, CALIFORNIA: Jessica Knoll, a survivor of gang rape, drew inspiration from her past terrible trauma to write a best-selling book, which will soon be adapted into a Netflix film starring Mila Kunis. In May 2015, Pennsylvania-born American writer Knoll, 39, published her debut book, Luckiest Girl Alive, which followed a young victim of sexual assault named Ani as she struggled to make sense of her troubled upbringing. 

The book was an instant hit and it was on New York Times Best Seller list for four months, practically overnight catapulting Knoll to fame. When writing Ani's story, Knoll initially claimed to the public that she was inspired by tales she had heard from others, but she later admitted that the book's real inspiration came from her own experience as a 15-year-old victim of truly horrific gang rape.


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Nearly a year after the book's publication, Knoll wrote an emotional essay for Lena Dunham's Lenny Letter in which she stated that while the book "is a work of fiction, its inspiration was not." She wrote, "I know what it’s like to not belong. I know what it’s like to shut down and power through, to have no other choice than to pretend to be OK. I am a savant of survivor mode."

'Horrifying sexual assault'

Knoll disclosed that when she was only 15 years old, she once became intoxicated at a party and woke up to three different guys raping her. She claimed to have consumed so much alcohol that she "slipped away from the waking world" and awoke horrified to discover a boy's head "between her legs" while lying on the floor of a bedroom. She soon drifted off to sleep once more but was startled by "excruciating pain." Knoll wrote in the newsletter, "I know that the pain is what woke me next. That I was moaning Ow, over and over, before even opening." my eyes." "This time A Boy was there, his shoulders rising and falling above me in an excruciating rhythm." Knoll also revealed that after collapsing once more, she woke up in the bathroom, surrounded by blood. She wrote, "I went under again, coming to on my knees in the bathroom, staring into a toilet full of blood. I know I was too young to understand. I thought I must have cut myself."

(Photo: Simon & Schuster)
American author Jessica Knoll's debut book, Luckiest Girl Alive, was a 2015 New York Times bestseller in the mystery genre. (Simon & Schuster/Wikipedia)

'No idea whom I was with'

She must have fallen asleep once more, according to Knoll, because the next thing she recalled was waking up the following morning in bed with a third boy. She recalled, "There was a nauseating moment where I had no idea where I was and whom I was with. He laughed about how hungover he was, how crazy the party had been, and how the reason I couldn’t find my underwear was that it was downstairs."

'Felt like on fire with shame'

The boy referred to her as a "party animal," claimed she had cut her hand on a shattered bottle the previous evening and was "stumbling around in front of everyone wearing nothing from the waist down." Knoll wrote, "I laughed, because laughing was easier than tending to my heart, which felt like a hot coal in my chest, on fire with shame."

Knoll recalled "aching for guidance and protection" as she left for the clinic to get the morning-after pill and described the events of the evening to a doctor.  She wrote, "When I asked if what had happened to me was rape she told me she wasn’t qualified to answer that question."

'I apologized to my rapist for calling him a rapist'

Knoll claimed that after the incident, her classmates began calling her a "slut" and that after she questioned one of the boys about what happened, she started to fear that they would "come after her." As a result, she decided to call the boy to apologize. "I apologized to my rapist for calling him a rapist. What a thing to live with."

(Photo: @jessicaknollauthor/Instagram)
Knoll claimed that after the incident, her classmates began calling her a slut (Photo: @jessicaknollauthor/Instagram)

From then on, Knoll submitted her assigned narrative. She claims, "What was the point in raising my voice when all it got me was my own lonely echo? She added, "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. I know that once I was free, I became obsessed with reinventing myself."

At the time, the author admitted that she had held back because she was "afraid" that people wouldn't call what happened to her rape. "I’ve been running and I’ve been ducking and I’ve been dodging because I’m scared. I’m scared people won’t call what happened to me rape because for a long time, no one did."

'There’s no reason I shouldn’t say what I know'

In her newsletter, Knoll wrote, "There’s no reason to cover my head. There’s no reason I shouldn’t say what I know." She added that the incident still had her "very, very angry."  She wrote, "My anger is odorless, colorless, and tasteless. It’s completely toxic. My anger is carbon monoxide, binding to pain, humiliation, and hurt, rendering them powerless." She continued by saying that she was telling her story to the world in an effort to finally find healing and to make other victims feel less alone. 

450K copies of Luckiest Girl Alive sold as of 2019

The Cut reported that 450,000 copies of Luckiest Girl Alive had been sold as of 2019. She also revealed to the outlet at the time that Simon & Schuster, the book's publisher, paid her a profit in the "high six figures" for the work. She told, "Royalties have made me even more than the advance. You get those checks twice a year. Every time my agency tells me the amount that’s going into my checking account, the woman is like, 'You go, girl.'" She added, "In my mind, I'm not rich enough. To me, rich enough is not a number. It’s a lifestyle."

'Luckiest Girl Alive' movie on Netflix

The screenplay for the upcoming Luckiest Girl Alive Netflix adaptation was written by Knoll, who is also the movie's executive producer. The movie features Connie Britton, Jennifer Beals, Scoot McNairy, Justine Lupe, and Finn Wittrock. It will premiere on September 30. Knoll served as an editor at Cosmopolitan magazine prior to becoming a widely acclaimed author.