The rape allegation against Nate Parker in 1999 and his subsequent acquittal at trial resurfaced today following an article in Variety featuring a statement from the brother of the woman who accused Parker and his college roommate of sexual assault. That woman later went on to suffer from depression and she died by suicide in 2012, according to her brother.
Parker has now responded to the subsequent media scrutiny and the flurry of questions about his past. In a public Facebook post shared on Tuesday, Parker writes that he has only just learned about the woman’s death and that he hopes readers take the statement “from [him] as a fellow human being,” and that he writes “devastated,” about what happened.
Parker’s been getting ready for a media blitz for his new film, The Birth of a Nation, which he wrote, directed, and stars in. It’s unclear how the resurfacing of the 1999 rape allegations will impact the film, but Parker has spoken previously about the episode, which remains on the public record.
In his Facebook post, Parker writes that he understands why people are rightfully concerned about what exactly happened 17 years ago. “These issues of a women’s [sic] right to be safe and of men and women engaging in healthy relationships are extremely important to talk about, however difficult,” Parker writes. “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.”
The news of the woman’s death by suicide was a complete surprise to Parker, but he maintains his innocence. He writes:
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.
In the post, Parker goes on to say that he cannot change what happened nor bring back the woman’s life. She was 30 when she died in 2012 and remains anonymous since her brother gave Variety only his first name to maintain his late sister’s privacy. Parker also writes that he has changed a lot since he was 19 and still has 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,” he wrote. “I have never run from this period in my life and I never ever will,” he added. “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.”
The woman who accused Parker received a settlement of $17,500 from Penn State, though she did not graduate. The episode and trial haunted her remaining years, according to Johnny, her brother. “If I were to look back at her very short life and point to one moment where I think she changed as a person, it was obviously that point,” he continued. “The trial was pretty tough for her.”
While the renewed interest in the woman’s story has been welcome by some of her family members, some have their reservations. In a statement to the New York Times, the woman’s family said: “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.”
Still, the woman’s sister, Sharon Loeffler, differed on the matter. She also told the Times that her sister would have wanted to speak. “I know what she would’ve said,” Loeffler told the Times, “and that would be, ‘I fought long and hard, it overcame me. All I can ask is any other victims to come forward, and not let this kind of tolerance to go on anymore.’”