Long before the cultural conversation surrounding sexual assault inspired a movement and a hashtag—or was featured in Time’s Person of the Year issue—Gabrielle Union was an outspoken advocate for survivors. The Being Mary Jane star was raped at her place of work when she was 19, just one of the raw personal experiences she opens up about in her best-selling memoir, We’re Going To Need More Wine.
Having been outspoken about her attack for more than two decades, Union, 45, points out in a new interview with the New York Times that the #MeToo movement is still difficult to navigate for women of colour. “I think the floodgates have opened for white women,” she says. “I don’t think it’s a coincidence whose pain has been taken seriously. Whose pain we have showed historically and continued to show. Whose pain is tolerable and whose pain is intolerable. And whose pain needs to be addressed now.” (In October, Jane Fonda also commented on the whiteness of the #MeToo movement: “This has been going on a long time to Black women and other women of colour and it doesn’t get out quite the same.”)
Speaking about the women who have come forward with allegations against Hollywood movie producer Harvey Weinstein in particular, Union wonders if the cause would have gained traction if it weren’t for the white, A-list actresses at the forefront. “If those people hadn’t been Hollywood royalty…if they hadn’t been approachable. If they hadn’t been people who have had access to parts and roles and true inclusion in Hollywood, would we have believed?”
Union describes herself as a “perfect victim,” because the assault she experienced happened at work, on camera and was promptly reported to police. While she says people have felt safe enough to come forward to her during her book tour and share their own experiences with sexual assault, her hope is that someday those stories will be less common. In October, Union told Good Morning America‘s Robin Roberts: “For 20 years I’ve been trying to tell my story as honestly as possible, basically with the goal of never having to hear ‘me too’ ever again.”
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