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"You get worried that maybe you have revealed too much and you're going to scare them," said Gabrielle Union, who was raped at gunpoint by a stranger the summer before starting her sophomore year of college

By Natalie Stone
December 14, 2020 04:22 PM
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In the nine months since the coronavirus pandemic hit the United States, Gabrielle Union and her husband Dwyane Wade have been getting to know one another in deeper and unexpected ways.

Sitting down for the premiere episode of Facebook Watch's Peace of Mind with Taraji talk show with Taraji P. Henson and co-host Tracie Jade, Union opened up about being a rape survivor and the PTSD that she has suffered in the years since the horrific incident.

"For whatever reason, every time I talk about being a rape survivor, people are like [gasp] and then they forget. We are so conditioned that we know what someone looks like who has suffered from PTSD, we believe we know what rape victims look like and it's not me," Union, 48, told Henson and Jade.

The summer before starting her sophomore year of college at UCLA, the actress was raped at gunpoint by a stranger in the Payless store where she worked.

While Union has been open about the sexual assault, being quarantined at home with Wade, 38, has required the actress to be even more vulnerable in ways she didn't expect.

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Credit: Michael Loccisano/Getty Images for GQ

When Union and Wade began dating, "he was aware of it, as a fan," she told Henson and Jade of the NBA star knowing about her PTSD.

But now, "I think it has been hard during the quarantine because we are in the same space," explained Union. "I have not been home in any kind of consistent way since I have been an adult, so just getting to know my husband, which sounds crazy, I was like, ‘Oh, every day, every day you’re going to be here, okay ahh yeah I guess this is healthy.’ "

"I just feel a little bit more naked, exposed," said Union, who has been going to therapy since she was 19. "Because I am just on Zoom with the therapist and I can hear the household, and then the doors open and ... there is not enough space, you know what I mean, and that kind of worries me sometimes. You know when people are like, 'You gotta keep the mystery about yourself. Don't tell him everything.' I'm like, 'Well, s--- then, the pandemic, you got the whole thing.'"

Continued Union, "So you have to find out: 'Do you love me for all of ... the baggage?' " She also admitted, "You get worried that maybe you have revealed too much and you're going to scare them away because damaged women aren't supposed to be lovable."

Union and Wade began dating in 2009. They married on August 30, 2014, in Miami, Florida and the actress became a stepmother to his three children: Zaire Blessing Dwyane, 18, Xavier Zechariah, 7, and Zaya, 13, who recently revealed she identifies as female. In 2018, Wade and Union welcomed their first child together via surrogacy: daughter Kaavia James, now 2. Wade is also the guardian of nephew Dahveon Morris.

In 2017, PEOPLE exclusively excerpted Union's book, We’re Going to Need More Wine, in which she recounted her rape and how she eventually found healing.

“The way my dad looked at me after [he heard what had happened], oh my God, is still a nightmare,” Union wrote in the book. “I sued Payless for negligence, but I wanted to sue them for my dad looking at me like that. The look was: Damaged. Victim. Guilt. Fear. I was the kid you bragged about. I got great grades. Was the perfect athlete. Blah blah blah. And in that moment, I was damaged.”

Union’s rapist was caught and ended up taking a plea deal of 33 years in prison. She ultimately won her negligence suit against Payless because they gave no warning to employees about the assailant — even though he had been positively identified prior to her rape for robbing a different store location.

Despite getting justice in court, the lasting effects of her rape were like an “infection you can’t treat.”

“After I was raped, I didn’t leave my house for a whole year unless I had to go to court or to therapy,” she wrote. “Twenty-four years later, fear still influences everything I do.”

Fear, though, didn’t stop Union from pursuing her dreams. In 1993, she started acting. By 2000, she was famous for her breakthrough role as fierce cheer-captain Isis in Bring It On opposite Kirsten Dunst. Most recently, she starred opposite Jessica Alba on L.A.'s Finest.

“Each time I tell the story is a revelation that I need to keep sharing since there’s so many more victims than survivors,” she told PEOPLE. “They need to know healing is a process — a slow process like moving a boulder uphill with one hand tied behind your back, but there is hope."