JACKSONVILLE, Alabama – American actress Gabrielle Union takes part in ceasing domestic and sexual abuse crises alongside raising effective breast cancer awareness across the globe.
On April 5, 2006, Gabrielle Union detailed for the first time her victimizing experience with rape crime during a public hearing with congressional powers of Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C.
Union recalled that a couple weeks prior to the assault, she was strangely nestling her attention on an Oprah Winfrey television special that featured advice on what to do if you are a victim of a violent crime. On a late night in 1992, Union, a then-convenient store employee, was gunned down and sexually assaulted by an armed robber.
Union, having been forced to the back of her workplace by the perpetrator, began to feel guilt and a foreshadowing sense of death for not placing Oprah Winfrey’s words into action. During the assault, Union attempted to obtain the culprit’s gun, which resulted in her being repeatedly raped and beaten beyond recognition.
On April 18, 2006, Union utilized her motivation and strength to recount her story once more to a national mainstream-televised audience. The actress opened to A.J. Hammer of HLN’s former entertainment news broadcasting program, “Showbiz Tonight,” about the detailed occurrence and aftermath of the traumatizing event.
Following the discussion of the assault, Union conclusively noted that she was highly fortunate to have lived in an “affluent” community where immediate health services were provided. Yet, as treatment was applied to Union’s benefit, the famed actress knew women in non-affluent regions would lack the support and essential resources in overcoming sexual violence.
The recognition of such issues prompted Union to conduct a nationwide quest to urge congressional powers to increase funding for national rape crisis centers. Union stressed that training within the facilities should be taken into consideration when service members are on a communicative level with attendees of different ethnic and religious backgrounds.
Dating back to her April 2006 attendance at Capitol Hill, Union spoke on behalf of the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence to urge increased funding support for oppressed women’s shelters and rape crisis centers.
In 2009, to further promote the awareness, Union teamed up with Ann Burke to serve as proponents of the renewal of the multi-billion dollar plan Violence Against Women Act (VAWA), which serves as a vast female shield against rape.
When VAWA failed to seek reauthorization in the higher chambers of Congress, the actress noted to the reporting press in 2013 that opposing political parties should not play as overriding decision-making factors in the law’s renewal. Union further stressed that sexual assault has no ties nor favors with a specific “party line” and further noted that the law cannot be stalled, as a number of females could be subject to rape unpredictably at any moment.
Although Gabrielle Union is a working force of nature when it comes to aiding female abuse victims, the actress has also voiced support for organizations that work to restore children who have endured sexual abuse.
In 2010, Union, alongside fellow actors Kevin Bacon and Christina Ricci, voiced strong support for innovative campaigns like Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network (RAINN) that works to abolish the horrendous acts of child sexual abuse.
Aside from her work as an anti-rape activist, Union has worked in other fields to levy women of varying health causes, including breast cancer awareness.
As early as May 2008, it was reported that Union had partnered with breast cancer research campaign Susan G. Komen for the Cure’s Circle of Promise, where she served as a global ambassador for African-American communities.
“Being part of [my friends’]fight [against breast cancer]inspired me to raise my voice and become an ambassador to help other women […] We [as women]are our own best health advocates,” stated a bright Gabrielle Union, who lost a close friend, named Kristen Martinez, to breast cancer due to underinsured treatment.
In December 2008, Union would be granted the chance to travel to Uganda to educate the nation’s citizens of breast cancer.
Within the region, countless natives had traditionally believed that if a woman were to change her bra, the breast cancer would go away. Further noted, citizens of Uganda additionally held the belief that those retaining the cancerous disease would place an immediate curse upon the family’s descendants and rejected the notion of seeking hospital treatment due to belief that breasts would be amputated and result in death.
Union felt that as her duty as the newfound key ambassador, she had the power to reshape the ignorant thoughts and instill comfort in those with “inspirational, unfortunate” stories. As further treatment, Union, accompanied with researchers, designated a Kumasi hospital to implement early diagnoses in breast cancer victims.
A year later, the hard-working actress traveled to Ghana as part of Cure’s mission delegation trip to reiterate similar efforts.
Union would go on to help raise awareness of the issues Ghanaian women face when retrieving hospital treatment. The optimistic performer noted that because of the lack of equipment and trained technicians needed for proper treatment, the rural women often sustain highly-developed cancerous stages alongside increased mortality rate.
Union’s work with Cure would later grant her a feature in a 2009 visual advert for the company where recorded statistics of how African-American breast cancer sufferers’ rates outweigh other racial groups were addressed. Union disclosed to NPR that her goal in such participation was to reach a great amount of people in order to provide positive change “on a global scale.”
In May 2009, Union would additionally receive the honorary LIFE Heroes recognition as an effective anti-breast cancer activist. Utilizing her honor, Union would continue to embark on further charitable contributions with her participation in the 3.1 mile run of the 2012 Komen Race for the Cure to generate breast cancer awareness.
The same year, Gabrielle Union was appointed ambassador for beauty cosmetic chain Neutrogena’s Choose Skin Health campaign, which works to reduce skin cancer diagnoses. Union heavily applauds the foundation for granting members the affordable opportunity to see a dermatologist for a free skin cancer screening.
In 2010, aside from work as a breast cancer activist, Union partnered with R&B singer Mary J. Blige and Golden Globe-nominee Gabourey Sidibe for respective New York organizations, the tidying-classroom program “Make a Clean Difference” and the annual HIV awareness World AIDS Day convention. The latter, which occurred in Brooklyn, New York, issued immediate notice of Brooklyn natives accounting as the 25 percent infection rate of HIV/AIDS across the United States, the largest within the nation.
The actress’s extensive list of philanthropic work, however, does not just total up with HIV/AIDS and breast cancer awareness. The glowing actress also took part in a late-2012 collaborative effort with “New York Times” columnist Nicholas Kristof for a PBS report titled “Half the Sky,” that exposed the domestic hardships of young Vietnamese girls.
Along their travel, Union and Kristof would garner insight of the educational restraints on female Vietnamese teens where the male sex was often placed upon a more privileged scale.
The pair also learned of a colorist issue where female Vietnamese natives were often programmed to believe that natives whom retain a “permanent, natural” dark complexion were more scrutinized in society for the prime assumption of being poor. Union, who is of African-American descent, was alarmed that such issues like this were viewed as traditional means of thinking.
Aside from colorism, it was the encounter with a young Vietnamese teenager that grasped the greatest attention of Nicholas Kristof and Gabrielle Union. The female teen, named Nhi Huynh, endured ongoing physical abuse from her father who would consistently beat her if she did not accomplish tasks in selling lottery tickets.
“If kids in America could see what Nhi went through, and how she went through it, they can apply those same lessons to their own lives,” stated Gabrielle Union during a CNN interview.
Since then, Gabrielle Union has remained highly proactive with innovative tactics in generating awareness for the aforementioned problems that have held a dire effect on women’s lives across the globe. As Union conclusively noted to CNN interviewers, “Helping and giving a damn makes the world go round. We can all learn from each other.”
– Jeff Varner
Sources: NPR, Essence 1, Essence 2, P&G News, CNN, CNN Video, PBS, Accuracy in Media, HelloBeautiful.com, RAINN, St. Louis American, HighBeam Business, Essence 3, LPGA, Blisstree, Essence 4
Photo: Gabrielle Union on the Challenges That Girls Face in Vietnam | Independent Lens | PBS