Actress Gabrielle Union defends Birth of a Nation despite Nate Parker rape allegations in poignant essay

Gabrielle Union writes essay about the importance of discussing sexual violence.
(Image credit: Craig Barritt/Getty Images)

Actress Gabrielle Union's role as a sexual assault victim in the upcoming film Birth of a Nation hit particularly close to home for her. Union admitted last February that she was raped at gunpoint at the age of 19.

But, she acknowledged in a moving essay published Friday in the Los Angeles Times, she isn't the film's only star with personal ties to the matter. After Union signed onto the film, allegations about Nate Parker, the movie's director and star, resurfaced. Parker was charged with rape in 1999, but then acquitted in 2001; the alleged victim committed suicide in 2012.

As much as that revelation pushed Union into what she described as a "state of stomach-churning confusion," she maintains that the film, and its message, are still significant:

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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.I took this part in this film to talk about sexual violence. To talk about this stain that lives on in our psyches. 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. [Los Angeles Times]

Still, Union wrote, as "important and ground-breaking as this film is, I cannot take these allegations lightly."

The film, about 19th-century slave and preacher Nat Turner, comes out Oct. 7. You can read Union's full essay at the Los Angeles Times.

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