Gabrielle Union talks about filming the assault story for the Apple TV+ series “Truth Be Told.”
Union, who was raped 30 years ago in California’s Bay Area, spoke about how the plot of the anthology series moved her. Union stars alongside Octavia Spencer in the thriller, with Spencer playing a reporter who ties up with Union after an outbreak of missing black girls draws media attention to human trafficking in Northern California.
“I have a lived experience of being sexually assaulted as a black teenager in the Bay Area,” Union said at a Television Critics Association panel about the series. “I mean, I’ve been speaking publicly about rape for 25 years. But this is a first-person account. To come up with it and to come up with the character based on my experience, I just didn’t know that was going to happen. It’s the first time I’ve really done that deep, deep work that’s been a trigger every day.”
Union was born in Omaha, Nebraska and moved to Pleasanton, California when she was in elementary school. He later attended Cuesta College, also in the Bay Area.
He continued: “There are literally locations that I couldn’t mention because you might accidentally give something away, they’re literally part of my past because of the rape. It was a trigger every day, and having it trigger for months literally pissed me off. Everything I’ve ever dealt with hasn’t worked. And what I found out was the 30 year anniversary of my rape in July. And what I’ve come to realize is that detachment is real. As much as I thought I was fully present and knew all the facts, my brain wouldn’t allow me to know the facts as a teenager. And every day, it was like my brain pulled back the veil of what was really going on and gave me the whole picture.”
Union added: “So I realized that if I had known, I just wouldn’t have survived. But in the course of work, I found out that a man once raped me. When they are sex-trafficked, this reality is daily, multiple times. No escape. And 30 years later, I’m still doing it, with all the resources and all the help, and everyone believed in me. But if you think back to the day when I was just a terrified, beaten, unrecognizable child, I was still made complicit in my own assault. There was the question, repeatedly asked “what were you wearing?”
The actress-producer dealt with the trauma of sometimes not having a “lifeline” as a survivor.
“When we’re talking about the most excluded of the marginalized, who are being disappeared and brutalized, and nobody is literally addressing what it does to the individual, what it does to the family, what it does to the community. .it’s like you’re suspending it in terror,” Union said. “And you’re screaming and no one bothers to throw you a life belt.” So while I’m trying to process all of this in real time, yeah, I don’t have words yet.”
The “Bring It On” alum noted that she “saw my therapist a lot” and leaned on those closest to her.
“By the end, as Octavia said, because you have to stay in it, by the end, my friends surprised me with a rebirth on the beaches of Malibu, because I totally saw my former self,” Union said. “And I had to start all over again, in all fairness. So when you talk about how you heal, what resources do these people need when they’re saved, when you find them? Not one size fits all. And when we’re dealing with black and brown kids and adults, it’s like people think we tend to handle pain and abuse well, but we don’t need to.”
As for “Justice,” Union summed it up, “Hopefully, it’s a very accurate but loving portrayal and a respectful portrayal of the reality of human trafficking, and the immediacy and urgency that we bring to people to help people on their journey to recovery, their own and towards the knowledge of saving each other, you know?
Union shared one Instagram video in June 2022, in which she describes how she “struggled with PTSD” for three decades after being sexually assaulted at age 19.
“I’m sharing this because I hope that anyone who lives with anxiety knows that they are not alone or ‘extra’. I see you, I FEEL you, and there is so much love for you. Always,” Union wrote. “When we tell you what we experience, please believe us the first time we mention it.”
Additional reporting by Wilson Chapman.
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