The star, writer, director and producer of awards season prospect The Birth Of A Nation took to Facebook on Tuesday after it emerged that the woman who accused him of rape in 1999 committed suicide in 2012.
In an interview with Variety earlier in the day, the woman’s brother, who would only identify himself as Johnny in order to preserve the anonymity of the victim’s family, said his sister died at a drug rehab facility aged 30 from an overdose of sleeping pills.
In a long response Parker expressed his “profound sorrow”, while maintaining his innocence over the “unambiguously consensual” 1999 encounter that formed the basis of a claim by the woman that Parker and his Penn State roommate of the time Jean Celestin, who shares a story credit with Parker on slave revolt drama The Birth Of A Nation, raped her while she was intoxicated.
Parker was acquitted of rape in 2001, yet the developing saga throws into question the nature of the upcoming release and awards campaign by Fox Searchlight, which paid $17.5m for worldwide rights to the film back in January following a triumphant world premiere at the Sundance Film Festival.
The studio intends to go ahead with the film’s US release on October 7, although it did not comment on campaign plans or any aspect of Tuesday’s developments.
On Tuesday evening Parker posted the following message on Facebook:
“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.”
The victim’s family issued a statement to The New York Times on Tuesday that read: “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.”