Gabrielle Union is determined to keep the conversation going around often-difficult topics, from revealing that she was raped at the age of 19 to speaking out about suffering several miscarriages, knowing that her honesty goes a long way to help other women.
Now, in the wake of multiple allegations against Harvey Weinstein and the increased spotlight on issues of sexual harassment and abuse, the actress has again discussed her own traumatic experiences in order to help others feel less alone – and made an important point about the perception of rape and abuse survivors.
Speaking to E! at the Golden Heart Awards for God's Love We Deliver, the actress discussed her surprise at the resurgence of the hashtag #MeToo – a movement originally started 10 years ago that in recent days has seen thousands of people share their experiences of sexual harassment and assault – as she addresses the phrase in her newly released memoir, We’re Going To Need More Wine.
“Every time I talk about being raped, someone will come up to me in a bathroom or an amusement park and say, ‘Me too.’
“In that instant I am completely connected. I know everything and nothing all at once,” Union explained.
There have been several accusations of sexual harassment against Weinstein, leading to high-profile women in Hollywood – from Cara Delevingne and Blake Lively to Reese Witherspoon – to speak out about their own experiences in the last two weeks, and Union says she’s “not surprised” by the sheer volume.
“It’s been almost 25 years since I became a rape survivor. I’m not surprised. Rape is the most under-reported crime in the world,” Union said, but added that it was important to keep the conversation going.
“I have to keep talking out because people feel like they’re the only ones. They feel like are on an island by themselves; they feel like they are screaming into a hurricane and nobody is listening and I am just trying to say, ‘I’m listening. I hear you. I've been there, and there is light at the end of the tunnel’ [...]
“That’s the importance of sharing the stories when you’re ready.”
The actress also shared an important point about fellow survivors when she took to Twitter to hit home the fact that rape occurs regardless of a victim’s clothing.
Earlier this week, The Big Bang Theory star Mayim Bialik was accused of “victim-blaming” after suggesting that her inclination to “dress modestly” and reserve her sexual self for “private situations” had helped protect her from harassment, writing in an op-ed piece: “As a proud feminist with little desire to diet, get plastic surgery or hire a personal trainer, I have almost no personal experience with men asking me to meetings in their hotel rooms.”
Though I was raped by a stranger who raped me at gunpoint after robbing the store, I was still asked by a female "friend" what I had worn— Gabrielle Union (@itsgabrielleu) October 15, 2017
Reminder. I got raped at work at a Payless shoe store. I had on a long tunic & leggings so miss me w/ "dress modestly" shit.— Gabrielle Union (@itsgabrielleu) October 15, 2017
In Hollywood meetings in homes, hotel lobbies/restaurants/suites, private isolated office space is the norm. NO ONE "ASKED FOR IT!!"— Gabrielle Union (@itsgabrielleu) October 15, 2017
Sexual violence & harassment can happen to anyone at anytime anywhere.— Gabrielle Union (@itsgabrielleu) October 15, 2017
Union wrote that a friend, after hearing of her attack, had asked her what she was wearing.
She tweeted: “Reminder. I got raped at work at a Payless shoe store. I had on a long tunic & leggings so miss me [with this] ‘dress modestly’ s**t [...] No one ‘asked for it’!”
She added: “Sexual violence & harassment can happen to anyone at anytime anywhere.”
Images: Rex Features / Instagram