New R. Kelly Documentary Series Covers Singer's Alleged Abuse of Underage Black Girls

Tonight is the last night of Lifetime’s documentary series “Surviving R. Kelly,” about the allegations of abuse and predatory behavior against 51-year-old singer R. Kelly (whose full name is Robert Kelly). The documentary is split into six hour-long chapters over three nights; the first two hours debuted on Thursday, the second two-hour set aired last night, and the final two hours will air tonight at 9pm E.T.


According to Lifetime, the documentary reveals the “true story of R. Kelly’s controversial past”:

In the ground-breaking documentary series “Surviving R. Kelly,” women are emerging from the shadows and uniting their voices to share their stories. Celebrated as one of the greatest R&B singers of all time, R. Kelly’s genre defining career and playboy lifestyle has been riddled with rumors of abuse, predatory behavior, and pedophilia. Despite damning evidence and multiple witnesses, to date, none of these accusations have seemingly affected him. For the first time ever, survivors and people from R. Kelly’s inner circle, are coming forward with new allegations about his sexual, mental, and physical abuse. They are now finally ready to share their full story and shed light on the secret life the public has never seen.

With over 50 interviews including civil rights activist Tarana Burke, musicians John Legend and Sparkle, talk-show host and former DJ Wendy Williams, ex-wife Andrea Kelly, ex-girlfriend Kitti Jones, brothers Carey and Bruce Kelly, and many others, the true story of R. Kelly’s controversial past will be revealed beginning in 1970 through present day, shedding light on the R&B star whose history of alleged abuse of underage African American girls has, until recently, been largely ignored by mainstream media.

Variety praised the documentary as “perhaps the most comprehensive dive” into the allegations against Kelly:

In six hour-long chapters, Lifetime’s “Surviving R. Kelly” is perhaps the most comprehensive dive into the terrible, tangled history of allegations against the singer yet. The first two episodes dig into his childhood, in which he both was recognized as a musical prodigy and sexually abused himself and his unstoppable rise to stardom, and his relationship to Aaliyah, whom he met when she was just 12 years old. The third and fourth episodes detail the circumstances of the so-called “pee tape,” which allegedly showed Kelly having sex with and urinating on a 14 year-old girl, and the subsequent child pornography case that ended in a surprise acquittal. The final two episodes highlight the reports from the last several years that Kelly has isolated and groomed women and girls into a sex cult for his own pleasure.


Allegations of abuse and predatory behavior have followed R. Kelly for decades.

In 1994, then-27-year-old R. Kelly reportedly married the 15-year-old singer Aaliyah.

In February 2002, then-Chicago Sun-Times reporter Jim DeRogatis 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 Kelly and an underage girl. Kelly was also charged with 21 counts of child pornography that year. Jurors ultimately found him not guilty after being unable to verify the identity and age of the girl.

Tweet by former Chicago Sun-Times reporter and current BuzzFeed reporter Jim DeRogatis, who has reported about the singer for nearly 20 years.

In July 2017, Jim DeRogatis, now at BuzzFeed, reported that multiple 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.

Last April, a 20-year-old woman filed a complaint in Texas alleging that 51-year-old R. Kelly “knowingly and intentionally” infected her with a sexually-transmitted disease. In Texas, people who know they are infected with sexually transmitted diseases and expose their sexual partners without disclosing the disease can be charged with assault. Kelly denied the allegation through a representative.


That same month, Time’s Up, the Hollywood anti-sexual harassment initiative that began as a result of the #MeToo movement, called for a boycott of the singer and his music.

R. Kelly has denied all allegations against him.

The documentary interviewed John Petrean, a juror from Kelly’s child pornography case in which the singer was found not guilty, who said, “I just didn’t believe them, the women. I know it sounds ridiculous. The way they dress, the way they act, I didn’t like them. I disregarded all of what they said.”

How many adults like Petrean “disregarded” Kelly’s alleged victims?

It’s not possible to change the past, but we can make changes to our own behavior and adjust how we respond going forward. For example, as journalist Yashar Ali stated, any tape involving sexual activity between a minor and an adult is child pornography, not a “sex tape”; furthermore, such a tape does not show “sex” but “rape.”

Much of the discussion regarding the allegations against R. Kelly have mentioned a report titled “Girlhood Interrupted: The Erasure of Black Girls’ Childhood” from the Georgetown Law Center on Poverty and Inequality, which found “significant bias towards [black] girls starting at age 5.”


“What we found is that adults see black girls as less innocent and less in need of protection as white girls of the same age,” said Rebecca Epstein, lead author of the report.

‘This new evidence of what we call the ‘adultification’ of black girls may help explain why black girls in America are disciplined much more often and more severely than white girls – across our schools and in our juvenile justice system,” said Epstein, who is also the executive director of the Center on Poverty and Inequality at the Georgetown University Law Center..

The study surveyed 325 adults across the United States from different racial and ethnic backgrounds and educational levels. The report found that, compared to white girls the same age, the survey participants perceived that black girls need less nurturing, protection, support, and comfort, and are more knowledgeable about adult topics, including sex.

Hopefully, awareness of this bias can and will be used in the future to ensure that all children receive the same protection from adult abusers.

The documentary series concludes tonight.

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.



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