Justice

Gabrielle Union Explains Why She Took a Role in a Film Directed by a Man Accused of Sexual Assault

Actress Gabrielle Union recognizes the immeasurable trauma sexual assault victims face. For years, she has been open about experiencing the horrors of rape as a teenager. Now, she is addressing the sexual assault allegations against director Nate Parker that have resurfaced in the wake of the upcoming release of his film "Birth of a Nation," and sharing what it means to be a part of his production with this new information in mind.

In a piece for the Los Angeles Times, Union said she has found herself in a "state of stomach-churning confusion" since learning about Parker's sexual assault accusations last month. She said she took a role in his film "Birth of a Nation," which highlights the many struggles of slavery, because she wanted to give her character a voice, as many black women in particular feel silenced by society, so she "cannot take these allegations lightly."

"In [my character's] silence, she represents countless black women who have been and continue to be violated," Union wrote. "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."

Gabrielle Union

After reading all 700 pages of Parker's trial transcript, she wrote that she still can't know for sure what happened between him and the woman who accused him of sexual assault. However, she can still use her role as an opportunity to talk about the problem of sexual violence once again:

"To talk about this stain that lives on in our psyches. I know these conversations are uncomfortable and difficult and painful. But they are necessary. Addressing misogyny, toxic masculinity, and rape culture is necessary. Addressing what should and should not be deemed consent is necessary."

Union, who was sexually assaulted when she was working at a shoe store one summer, described her sexual assault as a "stain that is finely etched into [her] own history." 

"Rape is a wound that throbs long after it heals," she wrote. "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."

Parker and his "Birth of a Nation" co-writer were charged with sexual assault of an 18-year-old woman in 1999. He was ultimately cleared of the charges. The woman who accused him of sexual assault committed suicide in 2012. After learning of her death last month, Parker published a somber Facebook post while maintaining that their sexual encounter was consensual:

"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. 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. There is morality; no one who calls himself a man of faith should even be in that situation. As a 36-year-old father of daughters and person of faith, I look back on that time as a teenager and can say without hesitation that I should have used more wisdom."

Read the full Los Angeles Times post here.