Gabrielle Union has never shied away from the fact that 24 years ago, she was raped. The actress has repeatedly told her story to raise awareness about rape survivors and statistics. Union is also one of the stars of Nate Parker's upcoming The Birth of a Nation film, and she portrays a woman who was raped.
In an op-ed for the Los Angeles Times, Union speaks out about Nate Parker's rape charges, as well as how the movie could be a lesson for others. Union wrote that although her role in the movie is important to her, she isn't taking the allegations that were lodged against Parker lightly:
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.
My compassion for victims of sexual violence is something that I cannot control. It spills out of me like an instinct rather than a choice. It pushes me to speak when I want to run away from the platform. When I am scared. Confused. Ashamed. I remember this part of myself and must reach out to anyone who will listen—other survivors, or even potential perpetrators. 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.
Union went on to explain that she's raising black sons and understands the importance of teaching them about the boundaries between the sexes and "affirmative consent."
One important aspect of Union's op-ed concerns why she says she took on the role in the film as a rape survivor:
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.