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Gabrielle Union discusses taking on "Truth Be Told" role as a sexual assault survivor: "At 19, I experienced sexual violence."

Actor Gabrielle Union on "Truth Be Told"
Gabrielle Union discusses "Truth Be Told" with Octavia Spencer and motherhood 07:44

Gabrielle Union said she had mixed feelings when fellow actor Octavia Spencer asker her to take a role in "Truth Be Told." Three decades ago, Union was raped at gunpoint while at her job, and knew the true crime show would touch on similar themes. 

"I was nervous because of the subject matter and not sure just how I would react to really mining some of the most traumatic experiences of my life for my art, and for such a long time ... for filming," Union said. 

But, she said, "you can't say no" to Spencer, an Academy Award winner and Union's longtime friend. 

"I trust her," Union said of Spencer. "There's not a lot of people that I trust my peace and my sanity to. But one of those would be Octavia. And I think this season, the work that we've done and the spotlight we've been able to put on human trafficking, sexual trafficking of young Black and brown girls and the disparity in media coverage and just the lack of resources we put towards the most marginalized of the marginalized. For all of that, it's worth it."

Union said the show on Apple TV+ marks her third time working with Spencer. Union plays a high school principal who helps true crime podcaster Spencer bring awareness to missing Black girls in the community.  

Union said her experience as a sexual assault survivor forced her to revisit the idea of dissociation as she filmed. 

"At 19, I experienced sexual violence. I was raped at gunpoint at my job," Union said. 

"Throughout the filming of this show, I realized the depths of dissociation. So, when it was happening ... I left my body. And that is what they call dissociation. Sort of removing yourself mentally form where you're at. But I thought I came back into myself by the time the police arrived."

Union said she thought she remembered everything that happened when she was assaulted, but shooting the show for five months brought out new details of her experience.

"It was like my brain was pulling back the curtain on everything. Smells, like everything that happened. What his skin felt like. All of it was finally revealed to me."

Union said she still struggles after her assault, and that filming the show brought out fresh emotions.

"I would go home every night and cry," she said. "It was like, finally feeling the full brunt of my rape and having to use that pain for art, for the greater good. And I just felt such an enormous responsibility."

Union said some people will "make you complicit in your own abuse."

"I was raped at gunpoint at work," Union said, "and they still asked me what I had on ... as though that matters."

Union said 71,000 Black girls under 17 went missing in 2021, and most were identified as runaways, which she said means they don't get an Amber alert or law enforcement attention. She called the situation a "global epidemic."

"Where's the concern? Where's the care? Where's the outrage?" she said. 

"They're being subjected to unspeakable horrors, and we're turning a blind eye," she said.

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