This morning I awakened and checked my Twitter feed. Immediately my eyes were drawn to the statement issued by Gabrielle Union on Nate Parker and his rape allegations. Reading through her op-ed, I found myself like, her, in a “state of stomach churning confusion.” Like Gabrielle, I am a survivor of sexual violence. On two occasions, I was drunk and unable to give consent. Like Union and Parker’s victim, the only witnesses were me and my assailant(s). As I write these words, I am mindful of the terrible position that Union has been placed in as a star of the forthcoming film, Birth of a Nation.
As a fellow survivor, I respect the courage that it takes for any survivor to speak out against sexual assault. And while I agree with Union’s stance that there needs to be more discussion on what exactly constitutes “affirmative consent,” I find myself troubled by her opinion piece and the way in which it is being used by rape apologists to deflect attention away from Nate Parker’s actions 17 years ago and onto more neutral territory - society’s pervasive problem with rape culture. When I see men and women who have been rabidly defending Parker based upon the fact of his acquittal avidly retweeting her statement, you know there is some form of misdirection occurring.
Equally disturbing is how the media has taken one sentence from Union’s article and used it to inaccurately frame the content and intent of her op-ed. Repeatedly, the lead in sentence on social media has been, “As important and ground-breaking as this film is, I cannot take these allegations lightly.”