Gabrielle Union Recounts Being Raped at Gunpoint in College: 'I Didn't Leave My House For a Whole Year'

Gabrielle Union's book We're Going to Need More Wine (out Oct. 17) is excerpted exclusively in the current issue of PEOPLE


Gabrielle Union is opening up about her journey from victim to survivor.

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. In her new book We’re Going to Need More Wine — excerpted exclusively in the new issue of PEOPLE — she recounts the horrific incident 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, 44, writes in the book, set for release on Oct. 17. “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 affects 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 writes. “Twenty-four years later, fear still influences everything I do.”

Peter Zambouros

But fear 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, and she now stars as a TV news anchor looking for love on BET’s Being Mary Jane.

Given her voice and platform, and with the help of “a lot of therapy,” Union feels that she’s in a place where she can take on her story — though even the thought of her rape makes her nauseous to this day.

“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 tells 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. I will never stop sharing, and I will try to educate as much as I can for the voiceless and for people who didn’t get my treatment.”

For more on Gabrielle Union, pick up the latest issue of PEOPLE on newsstands now.

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