Gabrielle Union Speaks On Living As A Sexual Assault Survivor & Portraying One In ‘Birth Of A Nation’
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Actress Gabrielle Union has been a vocal advocate for spreading awareness about the ugly realities of rape culture throughout the course of her career and she’s once again using her platform to keep the much-needed conversation going.

Union, who has a supporting role in Nate Parker’s upcoming Birth Of A Nation film, recently attended the Toronto Film Festival and spoke out about how her own experience as a rape survivor mirrored that of her character in the movie.

“When I was 19, laying on the floor after being raped on the floor of a Payless shoe store at gunpoint, I decided never again,” Union said during a Q&A about the film on Sunday. “I decided I was going to use my celebrity, my platform to talk about the horrors of sexual violence and what it does to your soul and to your psyche and to your sanity and to your family and to your relationships.”

Union also emphasized the power in her character, Esther, not having any speaking lines in the film.

“I thought it was more important to be the symbol that people can recognize to put the face to voicelessness and powerlessness that sexual assault leaves us with.”

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After opening up about finding a support system in Hollywood following her horrific sexual assault ordeal, Union closed out the Q&A with an encouraging message for other women who have suffered through the traumatizing experience of being sexually violated. “If there’s any message I could get out to anyone who’s ever sat in my seat, is: You are not broken, you are not alone, you have a tremendous amount of support whether you speak out or you keep your pain personal, you are real, you are valid, you are loved, and you are worthwhile.” 

Earlier this summer, Union admitted to being in a state of “stomach-churning confusion” upon learning about Birth Of Nation director, actor and producer Nate Parker’s alleged involvement in the rape of a classmate during his college years at Penn State University. She later added that as a rape survivor herself, she could not take the situation “lightly.”