UPDATED at 8 p.m. PT with a statement from the woman’s family.
Director Nate Parker said on Tuesday he was “devastated” after news of a 1999 sexual assault case resurfaced during promotion for his upcoming film”The Birth of a Nation,” but insisted that he would not run from his past.
“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,” Parker wrote in an emotional Facebook post.
Parker is the writer, director producer and star of the acclaimed “Birth,” which won Sundance and was bought by Fox Searchlight in an historic bidding war this year. As an early awards favorite, 36-year-old Parker has been the subject of recent profiles in which the old rape case was brought up.
But Parker insisted on his own innocence in the case, and added, “I have never run from this period in my life and I never ever will.”
Parker was acquitted of sexually assaulting an 18-year-old woman student in 2001 at his college, Penn State University. Monday reports revealed that the unnamed woman took her own life in 2012.
Parker said he had been unaware of this tragic ending.
“I myself just learned that the young woman ended her own life several years ago and I am filled with profound sorrow,” he wrote. “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.”
Shortly after Parker posted to Facebook, the family of the alleged victim issued a statement to The New York Times.
“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,” the woman’s family said. “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.”
Read Parker’s full account of the case, posted to his Facebook page on Tuesday evening.
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.