R. Kelly, a Chicago native, stepped in the music scene in the early 1990s and created hits that topped the charts, and helped him gain notoriety as one of the best male R&B singers of all time.
Although Kelly has had a successful career, accusations detailing his sexual misconduct toward teenage girls caused many to label him as a sexual predator.
In February 1994, Kelly married the late R&B singer Aaliyah, who was 12 years younger than Kelly. He served as Aaliyah’s mentor when she first began singing.
A video surfaced of Kelly engaging in sexual acts with a 13-year-old girl eight years later, which caused him to be indicted for child pornography. During the 2008 trial, Kelly and the girl denied their involvement, despite the fact that witnesses countered their statements. After the deliberation, a jury of nine men and three women found Kelly not guilty of the charges.
Kelly was also arrested for sexual misconduct with a minor after authorities discovered images of Kelly and a teenager engaged in sexual activity. From 1997 to 2002, Kelly has reached settlements in at least three sexual assault lawsuits filed against him.
In July 2017, a BuzzFeed article shed light on the lives of three women who claimed they were victims of Kelly’s “sex cult,” in which he controlled what they ate, when they slept, how they dressed and the type of filmed sexual encounters they engaged in.
When news resurfaced about Kelly’s alleged actions, celebrities and supporters of the #MeToo movement began to take action and Spotify stopped promoting his music.
Amid the allegations, a six-part documentary series titled “Surviving R. Kelly” aired on Lifetime in Jan. 2019, which detailed the stories of women who alleged they were abused and sexually assaulted by Kelly.
While watching the show and hearing the testimonies of his alleged victims and former entourage, I began to form my own opinions. R. Kelly’s behavior could have been prevented while he was a child and during the height of his career.
In the docuseries, former members of Kelly’s entourage stated there were times when they saw Kelly with minors and they knew it was wrong, but they decided to turn a blind eye and not discuss it. The fact that each of these individuals decided to remain silent on his alleged wrongdoing is sad because if they spoke up, they could have impacted the lives of his former victims and prevented him from preying on other girls.
I also think their statements outline why there is so much emphasis on bystander prevention. Making the decision to speak up for victims who feel voiceless can make an impact on the victims’ lives, hold the alleged suspect accountable and prevent them from preying on others.
It was also mentioned that Kelly alleges he was sexually abused from the ages of seven to 14 by older female family members, which some think caused him to become sexually active at a young age and contributed to his lust for minors.
Carey, Kelly’s younger brother, countered Kelly’s statement when he admitted that he also experienced sexual assault as a child.
Imagine what precautions could have been taken if someone was aware of the alleged abuse Kelly endured and he received proper counseling that would help him possibly cope with his past.
When I finished watching the documentary, I immediately scrolled through Twitter and looked at the other perspectives of viewers, which mainly consisted of tweets that blamed the alleged victims and focused on Kelly’s work as an artist, rather than the issues at hand.
Many viewers criticized the women, who were from ages of 13 to 17 for allowing themselves to be involved with an older man and not “expect things to go left,” while others focused on the absence of the alleged victims’ parents.
We can go back and forth all day about ways that these types of incidents could have been prevented but nothing will change what these women claimed they have or the fact that Kelly has been accused of sexual misconduct for years. Seeing these tweets reminded me of why it is difficult for sexual assault victims to step forward and tell their truth because they are afraid they will be held accountable for the sexual perpetrator’s actions.
I also saw tweets where people stated the alleged victims were doing this for publicity and money. It has been confirmed that the alleged survivors were not paid for this documentary.
The fact that these allegations have constantly been swept under the rug because of Kelly’s platform and success as an artist is disheartening and serves as a prime example of sexual assault allegations not being taken seriously in this country.
After the documentary aired, artists like Chance the Rapper, Lady Gaga and Ciara, among many others who previously collaborated with Kelly, removed their songs with him from streaming services, which shows there are some strides being taken.
Before blaming these women and ignoring these allegations, ask yourself this question and let it marinate for a minute: Would you keep this same attitude and energy if this happened to a family member or close friend of yours?
Regardless of how much you may love listening to slow jams from Kelly’s “12 Play” album or dancing to “Step in the Name of Love” or the “Ignition (Remix)” at wedding receptions, that should not distract you from the fact that this man has been accused of preying on girls for the past 25 years, and he should finally be held accountable for his actions.