Birth of a Nation‘s director and star Nate Parker has released a statement to comment on the news that the woman who had accused him of rape committed suicide in 2012.

Nate Parker On Rape Accuser’s Suicide

When Parker was enrolled at Penn State University in 1999, he and his roommate were charged with raping an 18-year-old female classmate after a party in their apartment. Parker was ultimately acquitted in the case, but with his star on the rise, the trial is back in the news. Addressing it last week, Parker declined to relive the trial that took place nearly 20 years ago, eager to embrace his present as a married father of five daughters at a highpoint in his career.

However, Parker was unable to brush the incident under the rug. It soon came to light that the alleged victim had committed suicide, and that at least her surviving sister believes that she took her life in part due to the trauma of being raped and the ensuing trial. In response to the news, Parker released a statement in which he admitted that, as a young man, he failed to show the empathy the late woman deserved, but maintained his innocence.

“Over the last several days, a part of my past – my arrest, trial and acquittal on charges of sexual assault – has become a focal point for media coverage, social media speculation and industry conversation. I understand why so many are concerned and rightfully have questions. These issues of a women’s right to be safe and of men and women engaging in healthy relationships are extremely important to talk about, however difficult,” Parker wrote. “And more personally, as a father, a husband, a brother and man of deep faith, I understand how much confusion and pain this incident has had on so many, most importantly the young woman who was involved.”

“I myself just learned that the young woman ended her own life several years ago and I am filled with profound sorrow…I can’t tell you how hard it is to hear this news. I can’t help but think of all the implications this has for her family,” Parker added. “I cannot- nor do I want to ignore the pain she endured during and following our trial. While I maintain my innocence that the encounter was unambiguously consensual, there are things more important than the law. There is morality; no one who calls himself a man of faith should even be in that situation. […] I look back on that time, my indignant attitude and my heartfelt mission to prove my innocence with eyes that are more wise with time. I see now that I may not have shown enough empathy even as I fought to clear my name. Empathy for the young woman and empathy for the seriousness of the situation I put myself and others in.”

Birth of a Nation, which broke records at Sundance, was predicted to be an awards season favorite before Parker’s past reemerged in the mainstream news. The film, which also stars Armie Hammer and Aja Naomi King, is slated to hit theaters Oct. 7.


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