Gabrielle Union: Nate Parker Rape Accusation “Cannot Be Taken Lightly”
Gabrielle Union wrote an op-ed in the Los Angeles Times on Friday in which she addresses the 1999 rape accusation made against her Birth of a Nation director and co-star, Nate Parker. The actress, who’s a rape survivor herself, expresses in a powerful new essay that she’s proud of their film but “cannot take these allegations lightly.”
Parker is the director, co-writer, and star of the upcoming slave drama, The Birth of a Nation, which has garnered Oscar buzz since its premiere at this year’s Sundance Film Festival. But the filmmaker made headlines recently when it came to light that he and the film’s co-writer, Jean Celestin, were accused of raping a white female classmate while attending Penn State in the late 1990s. The men claimed the sex was consensual, but the accuser said she was intoxicated and unable to consent.
In Union’s essay for the Los Angeles Times about the controversy surrounding Parker, the actress first reveals that she was “raped at gunpoint” more than two decades ago in the backroom of a Payless shoe store, before noting she also plays a rape victim in Birth of a Nation. “Seventeen years ago Nate Parker was accused and acquitted of sexual assault. Four years ago the woman who accused him committed suicide,” writes Union.
The actress adds, “Since Nate Parker’s story was revealed to me, I have found myself in a state of stomach-churning confusion… As important and ground-breaking as this film is, I cannot take these allegations lightly.” Union goes on to say “it’s very possible” Parker had his date’s consent on the night in question, though she points out, “By his own admission he did not have verbal affirmation; and even if she never said ‘no,’ silence certainly does not equal ‘yes.'”
Union further explains she “took this part in this film to talk about sexual violence” and give a voice to sexual assault victims too afraid to come forward. “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,” continues the actress. She further expresses the hope people can use the situation with Parker “as an opportunity to look within,” as well as “reach out to organizations which are working hard to prevent these kinds of crimes” and “support its victims.”