Entertainment

'I was a dog': Birth of a Nation's Nate Parker addresses rape case controversy

Nate Parker, whose historical biopic The Birth of a Nation will be screening at TIFF and is already receiving critical acclaim, spoke out Friday about a past rape allegation after remaining silent for weeks.

Director, whose acclaimed film will screen at TIFF, tells L.A. audience he didn't understand consent at 19

Nate Parker, seen here Aug. 11 in L.A., spoke out about a past rape claim after staying silent for weeks on the subject. (Willy Sanjuan/Invision/Associated Press)

Nate Parker, whose historical biopic The Birth of a Nation will be screening at TIFF and has already been receiving critical acclaim, spoke out Friday about a past rape allegation after remaining silent for weeks.

"I hurt a lot of women," Parker told an audience following a screening of the film at the Merge Summit in Los Angeles. "That was normal for me, in respect to how I treated them emotionally. I was introduced to sex in a certain way."

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, whose only commentary on the case before now has been a Facebook post, began speaking about it during a Q&A panel, even though he wasn't asked a direct question about it.

2001 acquittal

The woman said she was unconscious and didn't consent to the sex. Parker testified that he and the woman had previously had sex and Celestin maintained it was consensual.

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.

The case came into the spotlight after Variety reported the woman committed suicide at the age of 30 in 2012.

'I'm trying to be better'

"The way I treated women, objectified women — my manhood was defined by how many women I could be with. I was a dog. I was wrong," he said on stage after the screening as the credits for his film rolled behind him.

The Birth of a Nation, which Parker directed, co-wrote, co-produced and stars in, has received rave reviews since its premiere at the Sundance Film Festival and thrust Parker into the spotlight.

Armie Hammer, left, and Nate Parker in a scene from the film The Birth of a Nation, directed by Parker. The movie won two top awards at the Sundance Film Festival, will be screened at TIFF and is getting Academy Award buzz. (Elliot Davis/Sundance Institute via Associated Press)

The film about the 1831 U.S. slave rebellion led by Nat Turner is set to screen at this year's Toronto International Film Festival.

Parker went on to say Friday that he didn't understand the concept of consent as a teenager because he never learned about it.

"That type of male culture, that type of hyper-masculinity where your manhood is determined by how many women you get to say 'yes,' is destructive."

Parker also spoke to Ebony.com at length about the charges following the Q&A.

"I'm a work in progress," he toldEbony in an article published Saturday. "I'm trying to be better."

When asked if he thought about the incident over the last 17 years, he said he "hadn't thought about it at all."

With files from The Associated Press