Sharing her own story of sexual abuse was both healing and painful for Gabrielle Union.
The Being Mary Jane star previously spoke out in 2016—amid controversy surrounding former assault accusations against The Birth of a Nation director, Nate Parker—about being raped at gunpoint while working at a Payless shoe store 25 years ago.
During her recent book tour for her best-selling memoir We’re Going to Need More Wine, the 45-year-old actress listened to countless stories from fans who shared their own sexual assault stories, which “triggered” PTSD from her own sexual assault more than two decades ago.
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“On my book tour, a lot of cities felt like a revival—there were so many disclosures of abuse during the Q&A portion of talks and during the book signing; even as I was driving away people were flagging down my car in tears,” she says in her March Redbook cover interview, which hits newsstands Feb. 13. “I didn’t realize how big the need was for so many people to just get it out, to have someone look them in the eye and say, ‘I believe you.’ I cried a lot.”
Adds Union: “I Skyped a lot with my therapist, because the horrors that I was taking in triggered my PTSD.”
“But I feel a responsibility to offer that sense of safety and support,” she shares. “And luckily I have the means to help myself at the end of the night.”
In the fall of 2016, Union opened up about the “responsibility” she felt to tell her story of sexual assault so that other women feel comfortable and confident to stand up for themselves. “As a rape survivor and as an advocate, I cannot shy away from this responsibility because the conversation got difficult. I don’t want to put myself above anyone’s pain or triggers,” she said in Essence magazine’s November 2016 issue. “Every victim or survivor, I believe you. I support you.”
Despite the negative moments that have been a part of her past, Union, who is married to NBA star Dwyane Wade, is choosing to focus on the positives.
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“I started working with a therapist who asked me to list things that make me happy, and one of my top three was imitation crab!” she said. “You’re not on the right track if you say imitation crab. So the therapist started to ask questions: ‘What don’t you like? What annoys you? Have you ever experienced euphoria?’ Examine those moments and you’ll start to figure out who you really are,” she shares.
To help eliminate the negative from her life, Union says she always nips gossiping in the bud.
“When someone starts gossiping, I’ll be like, ‘I can’t.’ It stops people cold. They’ll ask, ‘What? What can’t you do?’ Then I’m like, ‘Listen to this. Yeah, I can’t. It’s sooo negative.’ … You have to do it with a wink and a nod, but it shuts people down,” she explains. “When you let that into your space, whether or not you’re going to spread it or agree with it, your silence makes you complicit in negative energy, and that comes back.”
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