Gabrielle Union Speaks Out on Nate Parker Rape Accusations

Two months before the release of the Sundance project The Birth of a Nation, lead actress Gabrielle Union is addressing the scandal surrounding her co-star and director. She’s written an emotional op-ed piece in the Los Angeles Times regarding the rape allegations surrounding director/producer Nate Parker. Even though the two are working together on the film, Union is not afraid to express her own opinion, drawing from her experience as a rape survivor.

In the midst of publicity for his upcoming film, the 36-year-old Parker is being scrutinized for a rape he was accused of committing when he was a student at Penn State University in 1999. At the trial, he was acquitted of the charges, but in August, he issued a statement on Facebook after learning his accuser had committed suicide in 2012.

“I am filled with profound sorrow…I can’t tell you how hard it is to hear this news. I can’t help but think of all the implications this has for her family,” Parker wrote. “I cannot- nor do I want to ignore the pain she endured during and following our trial. While I maintain my innocence that the encounter was unambiguously consensual, there are things more important than the law.” While this apology seemed to work for some, it didn’t alleviate Union’s uneasiness.

When she was a teenager, Union was raped at gunpoint while closing up at work. Since then, she’s become incredibly vocal about speaking out about the implications of sexual assault, even publishing her story in Cosmopolitan. In her op-ed, Union discusses how “Rape is a wound that throbs long after it heals. And for some of us the throbbing gets too loud. Post traumatic stress syndrome is very real and chips away at the soul and sanity of so many of us who have survived sexual violence.”

Gabrielle Union responds to Nate Parker rape accusations

Nicholas Hunt/Getty Images

Union also addresses the accusations aimed at someone who is close to her. “Since Nate Parker’s story was revealed to me, I have found myself in a state of stomach-churning confusion,” she writes. “As important and ground-breaking as this film is, I cannot take these allegations lightly. On that night, 17-odd years ago, did Nate have his date’s consent? It’s very possible he thought he did. Yet by his own admission he did not have verbal affirmation; and even if she never said ‘no,’ silence certainly does not equal ‘yes,'” Union added. “Although it’s often difficult to read and understand body language, the fact that some individuals interpret the absence of a ‘no’ as a ‘yes’ is problematic at least, criminal at worst.”

However, the actress is careful to note that despite what she may think, she does not actually know what happened between Parker and the victim that night; neither does anyone involved in the trial except the accused and the accuser. “But I believe that the film is an opportunity to inform and educate so that these situations cease to occur on college campuses, in dorm rooms, in fraternities, in apartments or anywhere else young people get together to socialize,” she continued.

Union plays Esther in The Birth of a Nation, a character who is silent throughout the film. “I took this role because I related to the experience. I also wanted to give a voice to my character,” she explained. “In her silence, she represents countless black women who have been and continue to be violated. Women without a voice, without power. Women in general. But black women in particular. I knew I could walk out of our movie and speak to the audience about what it feels like to be a survivor.”

Although this situation surrounding her co-star is despairing, Union firmly believes in herself and her advocacy against sexual assault. And we admire her all the more for it.

[H/T: E! Online]

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