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Actress, author Gabrielle Union shares journey to overcome sexual assault

22nd January 2018   ·   0 Comments

By Glenn Rebert II
Contributing Writer

During a chilly week in New Orleans, actress and author Gabrielle Union made an appearance at Dillard University to warm hearts and minds.

On January 16, in the latest installation of the Brain Food series, an audience gathered in Lawless Memorial Chapel on the university’s campus to hear Union discuss her life, career and an issue that has taken centerstage in Hollywood: sexual assault.



“For the last 25 years she has been talking about sexual assault,” said Dillard’s president Walter Kim-brough. “When you get somebody who has celebrity and is willing to talk about it, you fill up a room. If I just brought in a sexual assault specialist, nobody’s going to come; they don’t know who that is,” said Kimbrough, of why Union is relevant to the topic currently making national headlines.

Kimbrough started the Brain Food series in 2013, after noticing the abundance of festivals dedicated to food in New Orleans, and saw a need to feed the minds of his students through intellectual nourishment. Union’s visit to New Orleans was timely, as she has been at the forefront of talking about assault against women long before the #MeToo movement sprung up in her industry. Union told the audience it is important that her career is as much about her acting and personal life as it is her mission to empower people through her experiences.

“In Hollywood, you get asked a ton of stupid questions,” Union said. “And I just got asked one too many stupid questions and I said, ‘Enough.’ If I’m going to have these microphones shoved in my face, I’m going to feed my community,” she said.

Union shared firsthand how sexual assault is a very serious crime and humiliating to its victims. When she was 19, working at a Payless store during her college years, Union was raped at gunpoint during an armed robbery. Union said that Black people are too often programmed to believe that if anything terrible happens, all they need are family, friends and religion.

“That is a lie,” Union told the audience.

She called for more mental health facilities and resources and encouraged the audience to consider the value in therapy, particularly to heal from a traumatic experience like rape.

In her book, We’re Going To Need More Wine, released in October 2017, she talks about her attack and the steps she took to keep moving forward despite being a survivor.

Black women victims, Union said, in particular are marginalized and are often most marginalized by their own race. With the new “#MeToo” movement started by Tarana Burke, and all the alleged offenders defending themselves in the media, the marginalization still exists, she said.

No matter if women are white, Black, Latino, or any other race, being pushed to the side when you are a victim of a serious matter is not acceptable, Union said.

“The perfect victim is the victim, we leave nobody behind in our movement,” Union said.

This article originally published in the January 22, 2018 print edition of The Louisiana Weekly newspaper.

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