Gabrielle Union Pens Powerful Op-Ed About Sexual Violence

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Gabrielle Union is now placing herself front-and-center in the conversation around Nate Parker's 1999 rape charge. Union, who stars in Parker's directorial debut and Oscar-hopeful The Birth Of A Nation, wrote an op-ed which ran in The Los Angeles Times detailing her thoughts on sexual assault and the reemerged allegations against Parker. In the essay, Union begins by retelling the story of her own sexual assault, when she was raped 24 years ago while working at a shoe store. From there, she unravels the narrative that unfortunately impacts many women around the world. A narrative that involves men taking advantage of women, and silencing them with their power. Something that Parker himself was accused of, tried of, and then acquitted of as a student at Penn State. The most heartbreaking detail surrounding that story comes later when it was revealed that the woman who accused Parker, and his friend and co-writer of Birth of a Nation, Jean Celestin, of sexual assault had killed herself in 2012. The 43-year-old actress seems to be especially torn because her character in Parker's movie is raped, and literally has no speaking lines. She writes, "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.” She continues, stating one of the most important pieces of information that any male or female engaging in sexual intercourse NEEDS to understand, "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." Her words are beautiful and powerful, but she seems to still stand with the film and is not entirely distancing herself from the project. Union's main takeaway is that she does not know what really happened that night 17 years ago, even after she read the entire 700-page transcription from the case, but that it's 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."
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