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Nate Parker Responds To News Of Sexual Assault Accuser's Suicide

"I am filled with profound sorrow."

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Jean Baptiste Lacroix / AFP / Getty Images

Nate Parker at The Hollywood Foreign Press Association (HFPA) Annual Grants Banquet, in Beverly Hills, California, on August 4, 2016.

In a Facebook post published Tuesday evening, actor and director Nate Parker said he was "devastated" upon "just" learning that the woman who previously accused him of rape killed herself in 2012.

"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." Parker wrote. "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."

Parker's post went live roughly five hours after The Hollywood Reporter broke the news that the woman (who is identified as Jane Doe in many court documents) died on April 15, 2012. Previous to her suicide, according to court documents, Doe suffered anxiety, depression, and had tried to kill herself at least twice after the alleged sexual assault occurred. "She became detached from reality," the unidentified woman's brother told THR.

The woman alleged that Parker and friend Jean Celestin raped her on Aug. 21, 1999, at a time when the three were attending Penn State University. Parker and Celestin's arrests, trials, civil and federal cases have come back into the limelight as the film The Birth of a Nation — which was directed, co-written, and stars Parker and was co-written by Celestin — has inched toward theatrical release. Fox Searchlight, its distributor, has been positioning The Birth of a Nation as an Oscars contender.

"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," he said in his Facebook post. He said he wished he'd "used more wisdom" during the era in which he "fought to clear my name," emphasizing that the "situation" occurred when he was a "teenager" (Parker and Celestin were 19 at the time).

"As a 36-year-old father of daughters and person of faith, I look back on that time as a teenager and can say without hesitation that I should have used more wisdom... 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."

Court documents allege that Parker and Celestin harassed the accuser after she filed her police report, and that the two had hired a private investigator who then showed the woman’s picture to people on campus, revealing her identity and ultimately prompting more harassment.

"I can’t help but think of all the implications this has for her family," he continued.

The woman’s family, in a statement to the New York Times published also late on Tuesday, said that “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." It was not clear if the family had seen Parker's Facebook note.

Deadline and Variety published interviews late last week with Parker, during which the actor said that "I’ve always been an open book. ... I will never hide anything from my past,” re-emphasized his exoneration from the charges, and expressed a hope to shift dialogue beyond the accusations. “I have since moved on and been focusing on my family and writing career,” he said. Celestin said in a statement: “This was something that I experienced as a college student 17 years ago and was fully exonerated of. I have since moved on and been focusing on my family and writing career.”

In the final paragraph of his Facebook note, Parker wrote: "Please don’t take this as an attempt to solve this with a statement. I urge you only to take accept this letter as my response to the moment."

Parker's last Facebook post, promoting The Birth of a Nation, was published on Aug. 11, a day before Deadline and Variety's stories. Representatives for Parker did not immediately respond to BuzzFeed News' request for comment.

The rights to The Birth of a Nation fetched a record-breaking $17.5 million when it premiered at the Sundance Film Festival earlier this year. The film — a depiction of the historic slave uprising led by African-American Nat Turner in Virginia in 1831 — premiered less than two weeks after the 2016 Academy Awards nominations reignited #OscarsSoWhite protests and furthered conversations on black representation in Hollywood. The film is currently scheduled for theatrical release on Oct. 7.

Here is Nate Parker's complete Facebook post:

These are my words. Written from my heart and not filtered through a third party gaze. Please read these separate from any platform I may have, but from me as a fellow human being.


I write to you all devastated…

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. 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.

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. As a 36-year-old father of daughters and person of faith, I look back on that time as a teenager and can say without hesitation that I should have used more wisdom.

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.

All of this said, I also know there are wounds that neither time nor words can heal.

I have never run from this period in my life and I never ever will. Please don’t take this as an attempt to solve this with a statement. I urge you only to take accept this letter as my response to the moment.

Nate


Katie Hasty is a deputy entertainment editor for BuzzFeed News and is based in Los Angeles.

Contact Katie Hasty at katie.hasty@buzzfeed.com.

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