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Gabrielle Union on Costar Nate Parker: I Can’t Take Rape Allegations Against Him Lightly

Gabrielle Union and Nate Parker
Gabrielle Union and Nate Parker during the 2016 Los Angeles Film Festival.

Gabrielle Union addressed the rape allegations that continue to follow Nate Parker, her costar in The Birth of a Nation, in an op-ed piece for the Los Angeles Times, which was published on Friday, September 2.

As previously reported, Parker, 36, and his college roommate were accused of sexual assault when he attended Penn State University in 1999. He was acquitted, but his past recently resurfaced when he began promoting the new movie, which he both wrote, directed and stars in.

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Union, 43, was raped at gunpoint when she was 19 years old. She first publicly opened up about her own sexual assault during an appearance on The View in February 2014.

“Rape is a wound that throbs long after it heals. And for some of us the throbbing gets too loud. Post-traumatic stress syndrome is very real and chips away at the soul and sanity of so many of us who have survived sexual violence. Since Nate Parker’s story was revealed to me, I have found myself in a state of stomach-churning confusion,” Union wrote in her piece for the L.A. Times.

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“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,” she continued. “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.”

The Being Mary Jane actress and her husband, Dwyane Wade, now try to teach their sons what “consent” really means. The NBA star has three young children from previous relationships.

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“As a black woman raising brilliant, handsome, talented young black men, I am cognizant of my responsibility to them and their future. My husband and I stress the importance of their having to walk an even straighter line than their white counterparts. A lesson that is heartbreaking and infuriating, but mandatory in the world we live in. We have spent countless hours focused on manners, education, the perils of drugs,” Union wrote in her op-ed. “We teach them about stranger-danger and making good choices. But recently I’ve become aware that we must speak to our children about boundaries between the sexes. And what it means to not be a danger to someone else. To that end, we are making an effort to teach our sons about affirmative consent. We explain that the onus is on them to explicitly ask if their partner consents. And we tell them that a shrug or a smile or a sigh won’t suffice. They have to hear ‘yes.'”

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