Sister of Nate Parker rape accuser angry over new film


The sister of a woman who accused filmmaker Nate Parker of rape spoke Thursday of her disgust at his “perverse” inclusion of a sex attack in his directorial debut.

Parker and his “The Birth of a Nation” co-writer Jean Celestin were accused of raping the student — who subsequently committed suicide — when the pair were roommates at Penn State University in 1999.

“As her sister, the thing that pains me most of all is that in retelling the story of the Nat Turner slave revolt, they invented a rape scene,” Sharon Loeffler wrote in a column for Variety magazine.

“The rape of Turner’s wife is used as a reason to justify Turner’s rebellion,” she said. “This is fiction.”

“I find it creepy and perverse that Parker and Celestin would put a fictional rape at the center of their film, and that Parker would portray himself as a hero avenging that rape,” she added.

Parker, 36, was acquitted in 2001 but Celestin was sentenced to six months in prison for sexual assault before his conviction was overturned on appeal after the woman refused to testify again.

A dark episode Parker believed was behind him, the case exploded across front pages in August, when Variety revealed that the woman had killed herself at a drug rehab center in 2012.

Fox Searchlight bought “The Birth of a Nation” for a record $17.5 million in January at the Sundance Film Festival, where it won the grand jury prize, prompting predictions of Oscars glory.

It screened in September at the Toronto International Film Festival, often a launchpad for the awards season, and is due to hit US theaters on October 7.

– No apology –

Parker has given his first television interview about the case to the CBS current-affairs show “60 Minutes,” refusing to apologize for an episode over which he was “falsely accused” and then “vindicated.”

During the interview, to be broadcast on Sunday, host Anderson Cooper asks if he thinks he did something morally wrong in 1999.

“As a Christian man, just being in that situation, yeah, sure,” Parker says.

“I am 36 years old right now and my faith is very important to me, so looking back through that lens, I definitely feel like it’s not the lens I had when I was 19 years old.”

Loeffler said her sister — who was 18 at the time of the alleged attack — had been “tormented” to see Parker thriving in Hollywood as she struggled to come to terms with her ordeal.

Although there is no evidence linking her suicide at the age of 30 to the trial more than a decade earlier, questions have resurfaced over Parker’s conduct after the woman made the rape allegations.

She alleged that he and Celestin harassed, stalked and publicly identified her after she went to the police.

“She was eager to testify against him again, but several years had passed, other witnesses had moved away, and prosecutors decided not to retry the case,” Loeffler wrote in Variety.

“She went through every option she possibly could for justice, and she got none.”

Loeffler said the rape scene in Parker’s film was “self-serving and sinister,” and “a cruel insult” to the memory of her sister, who testified that she was unconscious at the time of the incident after a night of drinking.

“I was the closest person to her throughout her life,” she added. “Nate Parker caused her so much pain, and that pain and anger are still raw for me.”

© 2016 AFP

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