Nate Parker, the star and creator of Birth of a Nation, expressed his “profound sorrow” when he heard that the woman who had accused him of rape 17 years ago committed suicide in 2012.
On Tuesday, Parker took to Facebook to write, “I see now that I may not have shown enough empathy even as I fought to clear my name.”
Parker and his college roommate, Jean McGianni Celestin, with whom he shares a writing credit on Birth of a Nation, were accused 17 years ago of rape by an 18-year-old woman who claimed that she was assaulted by the two men after passing out during a party.
Both Parker and Celestin claimed that the sex was consensual and that she was not drunk. Parker was acquitted of charges in 2001, while Jean McGianni Celestin, was found guilty of sexual assault. Celestin was sentenced to six months in prison but appealed and was never retried when the woman declined to testify again.
In the aftermath of the case, the woman’s brother said she battled with depression. She was found dead at a drug rehabilitation facility after overdosing on pills.
Parker says he just learned that the woman took her life at age 30 and wrote a lengthy post in response:
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.
I cannot- nor do I want to ignore the pain she endured during and following our trial…
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.
I cannot change what has happened. I cannot bring this young woman who was someone else’s daughter, someone’s sister and someone’s mother back to life…
I have changed so much since nineteen. I’ve grown and matured in so many ways and still have more learning and growth to do. I have tried to conduct myself in a way that honors my entire community – and will continue to do this to the best of my ability.
Many internet commenters were unforgiving, noting that Parker did not explicitly apologize for his actions in the post, nor did Parker address the accusations that he stalked and harassed the victim in the aftermath of incident.
The woman’s family has released a statement to the New York Times saying;
“We appreciate that after all this time, these men are being held accountable for their actions. However, we are dubious of the underlying motivations that bring this to present light after 17 years, and we will not take part in stoking its coals. While we cannot protect the victim from this media storm, we can do our best to protect her son. For that reason, we ask for privacy for our family and do not wish to comment further.”