3 Things I learned from ‘Surviving R. Kelly’.

Please note, the following may contain triggers regarding sexual assault.

It’s been a few weeks since I watched the six-part documentary, “Surviving R. Kelly” on Lifetime. I’ll be honest, part of me felt sick for watching it — it was difficult to hear. But I was hooked by what these brave women were saying.

I questioned whether or not to write this post, but if his survivors were brave enough to speak out (knowing how our country treats survivors), then I can use my voice to amplify their stories.

I have never really been an R. Kelly fan. Yes, I saw “Space Jam” and I do remember seeing the music video for “I Believe I Can Fly”, but I’ve never purchased any of his CDs.

I vaguely remembered hearing about the infamous tape years ago, and I recently saw the video of the young women saying she wasn’t being held captive (even though it seemed scripted). But, I have never paid much attention to anything involving R. Kelly.

For those reasons, I’m really glad I watched this documentary. It provides the complete history of R. Kelly’s music, his fame, and his systematic mental and sexual abuse of the women around him.

The documentary features real-life accounts from the survivors themselves of being kept in R. Kelly’s studio and his home, sometimes being denied food or access to the bathroom, and performed sex acts as they were instructed. All of these sex acts were recorded on camera. Many of these women were between the ages of 14 and 19 years old, and many of them were drawn in by R. Kelly’s massive fame and musical talent.

…Which brings me to the lessons I learned while watching this documentary:

Fame, money is a catch 22 for R. Kelly.

Let me start by saying that R. Kelly is a monster, a total sexual predator, a rapist, and he should be referred to as such. R. Kelly’s fame has allowed him to be a predator. The money he’s made from record sales, world tours, and endorsements have given him the ability to hang out at high schools (at 27 years old and beyond) and talk to children without being questioned.

He’s been able to buy dozens of beds for his recording studio and NO ONE questioned why those beds were there, or why there were children waiting on the beds for him. His employees have booked flights for children to come stay with him on tour, and stay in separate hotel rooms. His money has allowed him to silence those who question him; his lawyer writing up NDAs for future survivors.

I was shocked to hear many of his employees speaking out in the documentary, saying how much they knew was going on. Why didn’t they say anything to stop it? Money.

After the documentary aired, many viewers took to Twitter to point out that there are many “R. Kelly”‘s out there — a creepy neighbor, a teacher that looks too closely, an acquaintance that hugs too long — and we don’t know what’s happening in their homes. Yes, true.

But this is where R. Kelly’s fame might turn against him – the ultimate Catch 22. Because since the documentary aired, he’s been dropped from Sony, and the police have been watching his studio (there are still at least two victims being held captive there), and several artists have come forward to remove any collaborations with him.

There are white men determining the age of consent.

One thing I kept thinking while I was watching was, why is the age of consent so young in certain states? I spent two years at my former job watching white men make decisions for women’s healthcare, and this goes hand-in-hand with that.

Once you are of-age to consent, it makes it more difficult to get a woman out of an abusive situation. It also makes it more difficult for a woman to charge her abuser with rape. Who benefits from that? Not women.

In North America, the age of consent varies in each state and ranges from 16-18. Persons below these ages may not give sexual consent, and any sexual activity is considered rape.

Do you think a 16-year-old is of-age to determine sexual consent? I don’t.

We must do better for black women.

If half of the reason this has gone on so long is because of R. Kelly’s empire, the other half is because white America has tossed black women aside.

Come @ me all you want, but if R. Kelly was hiding white girls in his studio, this would have ended years ago.

How can we do better by them? Take it to the polls. Give them a voice. Lift up their stories. Share their struggles. Let them be heard. Believe their words.

If you would like to watch the docu-series, you can see all of it here. Visit this site to see how you can stop violence against women. 

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