Gabrielle Union’s moving op-ed about Nate Parker and sexual assault is worth a read

Following a month of allegations against the star and director of The Birth of a Nation, Nate Parker, the co-star and actress Gabrielle Union penned an op-ed about sexual assault and how the news of Parker’s past sexual assault allegations have profoundly impacted her relationship with the film itself. In the film, Union plays the role of Esther, a woman who is sexually assaulted and stays silent for the duration of the film. In her op-ed, published Friday in the The Los Angeles Times, Union shared that she originally picked the role because she herself is a survivor of sexual assault and hopes to give a voice to others. Amidst the news of Parker’s past sexual assault allegations, Union shared that she hopes this will highlight the conversation around campus sexual assault.

Parker was accused of raping a woman in 1999, when he was 19 years old, but was acquitted and the woman committed suicide in 2012. Union wrote, “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.”

She continued to explain that she wanted to give a voice to her character, too, saying, “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.”

In her heartbreaking and eloquently penned essay, Union shared her very personal experience with sexual assault years ago in and said that she “cannot take these allegations lightly,” both in light of her personal connection to the experience and the pervasive problem of sexual assault at large. She also expressed her personal commitment to raising her sons under the guidance of affirmative consent and expressed that she hopes Birth of a Nation and the sobering allegations surrounding Parker can spark deeper discussion around sexual assault on college campuses.

She said in the op-ed regarding Parker:

“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.”

She finished the essay on a hopeful and compassionate note, calling in for proactive measures from people of all walks of life:

“It is my hope that we can use this as an opportunity to look within. To open up the conversation. To reach out to organizations which are working hard to prevent these kinds of crimes. And to support its victims. To donate time or money. To play an active role in creating a ripple that will change the ingrained misogyny that permeates our culture. And to eventually wipe the stain clean.”

For those looking for both physical and financial ways to take action, the organization End Rape On Campus is a great haven of resources.