Actress Gabrielle Union took to the LA Times to write an editorial on what should be done in light of the recently resurfaced rape allegations against Nate Parker. Parker is the director and star of the upcoming film Birth of a Nation. Union is a survivor of sexual assault and presented herself clearly and forcefully.
She speaks about her reaction to first hearing about the charges.
Since Nate Parker’s story was revealed to me, I have found myself in a state of stomach-churning confusion. 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.
Union is undecided on Parker's guilt or innocence, but underscores that more conversations on affirmative consent are imperative.
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. That’s why education on this issue is so vital.
She goes on.
Regardless of what I think may have happened that night 17 years ago, after reading all 700 pages of the trial transcript, I still don’t actually know. Nor does anyone who was not in that room. 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.
Union's choice to speak out is a brave one. According to Black Women's Blueprint, 60% of Black girls are sexually assaulted before they turn 18. This is an epidemic that requires immediate attention.
Photo: Paul Archuleta/FilmMagic