Gabrielle Union just did something amazing, and you should read every word of it. In a Los Angeles Times op-ed, Union addressed the past charges of rape against Nate Parker, the writer, director, and star of her new film, the highly anticipated Birth of a Nation. Parker was accused of raping a classmate in college. The victim of this alleged assault committed suicide ten years after the alleged rape. Parker was acquitted in a 2001 trial on what some feel was a technicality.
In the piece, Union came out as a survivor of sexual assault, and emotionally expressed her raw feelings about the Parker rape allegations.
Twenty-four years ago I was raped at gunpoint in the cold, dark backroom of the Payless shoe store where I was then working. Two years ago I signed on to a brilliant script called “The Birth of a Nation,” to play a woman who was raped. One month ago I was sent a story about Nate Parker, the very talented writer, director and star of this film. Seventeen years ago Nate Parker was accused and acquitted of sexual assault. Four years ago the woman who accused him committed suicide.
She went on to discuss the importance of her taking the role in Nation, where she plays a woman brutally silenced by sexual assault...
I took this role because I related to the experience. I also wanted to give a voice to my character, who remains silent throughout the film. 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.
She then powerfully focused on the victim in the Parker rape allegations...
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.” 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.
Finally, she addresses the complexity of having public awareness of sexual assaults...
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... Think of all the victims who, like my character, are silent. The girls sitting in their dorm rooms, scared to speak up. The wife who is abused by her husband. The woman attacked in an alley. The child molested. Countless souls broken from trans-violence attacks. It is for you that I am speaking. This is real. We are real. Sexual violence happens more often than anyone can imagine. And if the stories around this film do not prove and emphasize this, then I don’t know what does.
Seriously, go read every word of what she wrote. And then forward it to your friends, your children, your family. The first step towards ending sexual assaults is talking about sexual assaults. And like, mad props to Gabrielle Union for her bravery.