Entertainment

Gabrielle Union conflicted about Birth of a Nation director's past rape charge

Gabrielle Union says she cannot take lightly rape allegations against Nate Parker, who directed her in The Birth of a Nation and co-stars in the film in which she plays a rape victim.

Director Nate Parker was acquitted in 2001 of charges related to incident while attending Penn State

From left to right, Aja Naomi King, Gabrielle Union and Nate Parker are seen at A Birth of a Nation festival event on June 17 in Miami. (Gustavo Caballero/Getty Images)

Gabrielle Union says she cannot take lightly rape allegations against Nate Parker, who directed her in The Birth of a Nation and co-stars in the film in which she plays a rape victim.

In an opinion piece Friday for the Los Angeles Times , Union writes that she has been "in a state of stomach-churning confusion" since learning about the allegations against Parker. Union says she was raped at gunpoint 24 years ago and took the role because she "related to the experience."

The allegation dates back to 1999, when Parker and his roommate Jean Celestin  — who has a story credit on The Birth of a Nation — were charged with raping an 18-year-old student when they were studying at Penn State. Parker was 19 years old at the time.

Parker was acquitted in 2001. Celestin was convicted of sexual assault, but that was later overturned when the woman opted not to testify again for a 2005 retrial. She sued Penn State and was awarded a settlement out of court, but committed suicide in 2012.

"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," Union wrote. "Nor does anyone who was not in that room."

Union, 44, says she hopes the film will be "an opportunity to inform and educate so that these situations cease to occur" and that people donate their time to supporting victims of sexual violence and money to organizations who are working to prevent such crimes.

Union, who is married to NBA star Dwyane Wade, added that she's raising their sons to know the meaning of affirmative consent.

With files from CBC News

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