For decades, R&B singer R. Kelly has been accused of sexually mistreating and manipulating young girls, but he has so far escaped any meaningful consequences, continuing to release music, perform, and win awards. However, he now faces his first accusation in the #MeToo era; today one of Kelly’s former partners accused him of “knowingly and intentionally” infecting her with a sexually-transmitted disease.
An unnamed 20-year-old woman, who had an 11-month relationship with the 51-year-old singer, has filed a complaint in Texas alleging that R. Kelly gave her herpes.
In Texas, people who know they are infected with sexually transmitted diseases and expose their sexual partners without disclosing the the disease can be charged with assault. Kelly denied the allegation through a representative.
— S. Lee Merritt, Esq. (@MeritLaw) April 17, 2018
The woman also provided an exclusive interview to The Root, in which she says Kelly gave her instructions regarding her behavior and demanded “total control and access” to her “social media, phone, and contacts.” She says she was “groomed to join Kelly’s sex cult” after first meeting him backstage at one of his concerts.
Last summer, Jim DeRogatis at BuzzFeed reported that three sets of parents had accused R. Kelly of holding their daughters in an abusive sex “cult.” Several former members of Kelly’s inner circle seemingly confirmed the accusations: Kitti Jones, a DJ and radio personality, says she endured physical and verbal abuse and was forced to participate in degrading sexual activity, while Cheryl Mack, Kelly’s former personal assistant, said R. Kelly “is a master at mind control. … He is a puppet master.”
Sadly, the cycle of abuse is often viewed with confusion by outside parties, who struggle to understand what they have not experienced. It seems easy to blame the victims for not leaving. But many of these women were teenagers at the time they first encountered Kelly, and abusive relationships do not start as abusive. Victims are broken down over time, until their confidence is destroyed and they blame themselves, while the “good times” in the relationship give them false hope that that is how it will or could always be.
And this is far from R. Kelly’s first time being accused of allegedly abusing young women.
According to some outlets, Kelly married his singer protégé Aaliyah in 1994, when he was 27 years old and she was 15. Both Kelly and Aaliyah denied the reports, but her parents allegedly annulled the marriage in 1995, while in 1997 Aaliyah filed a lawsuit in Cook County to have the marriage records expunged.
In 1996, R. Kelly was sued by aspiring singer Tiffany Hawkins, who claimed they had slept together when she was 15 years old. They settled the lawsuit for an undisclosed sum in 1998.
In February 2002, the same Jim DeRogatis who covered R. Kelly at BuzzFeed was then a reporter at the Chicago Sun-Times and broke the story of a video that allegedly showed Kelly engaging in sexual activity with an underage girl and urinating on her. It was the second video tape sent anonymously to the Sun-Times allegedly regarding R. Kelly and an underage girl. Kelly was also charged with 21 counts of child pornography that year. Jurors ultimately acquitted him after being unable to verify the identity and age of the girl.
Perhaps the most tragic aspect is that R. Kelly’s victims are mostly young black women, who studies have found to be frequently subjected to “adultification”; adults perceive young black females as older and less innocent than white girls, so they therefore receive less protection.
One Georgetown University Law report reported the following findings, among others:
Black girls seem older than white girls of the same age.
Black girls need less protection than white girls.
Black girls know more about adult topics than white girls.
Black girls know more about sex than white girls.
Such views seem to stem from the time of slavery in America, when black females were often depicted as “Jezebels” who were sexually promiscuous with insatiable sexual appetites. This stereotype was used to blame black girls and women for the sexual mistreatment and exploitation they received at the hands of powerful white men in their lives; according to the stereotype, a black woman could not be a rape victim because she always desired, and therefore consented to, sex, and so any sexual mistreatment was her fault, not her abuser’s or rapist’s.
Jim DeRogatis, who has determinedly covered R. Kelly for decades, told the Village Voice in 2013, “The saddest fact I’ve learned is: Nobody matters less to our society than young black women.”
Same thing over and over and over and over again…and no one in power seems to care because his victims are black girls and young women. SMH. “R Kelly groomed 14-year-old girl as sex 'pet,' BBC documentary alleges”https://t.co/pm1Hcthxiq
— Yashar Ali 🐘 (@yashar) March 28, 2018
#MeToo has helped shine a light on pervasive patterns of sexual misconduct through a variety of industries, but the lack of attention for R. Kelly’s alleged victims and so many other women shows there’s still a lot of ground to cover.
As one of R. Kelly’s alleged victims has watched the effects of #MeToo, she wondered why she and other women have received so little attention and justice. “What about us?” she asked. There are certainly many other women across the country asking the same questions.
Let’s hope victims who deserve justice receive it.
The views expressed here are those of the author and do not represent those of any other individual or entity. Follow Sarah on Twitter: @sarahmquinlan.