“Surviving R. Kelly” reveals R&B singer’s sexual allegations

On Jan. 2, Lifetime Television released the six episode series, “Surviving R. Kelly,” a documentary on the sexual assault allegations against American singer-songwriter R. Kelly.
The first two episodes introduce Robert Sylvester Kelly in the context of the childhood he experienced. The purpose of these episodes is to give the viewer insight into how the singer grew up. The episodes also attempt to explain his subsequent actions in adulthood. At a young age, Kelly was sexually assaulted by a family member. He lived on the south side of Chicago in a poverty stricken home where adult supervision simply didn’t exist.
The show then gets into how his bad behavior started when his music hit the charts. In 1992-93, he released two popular, chart-topping albums, and several of the songs referenced a sexual relationship that he had with the then 15 year-old singer Aaliyah Haughton. At this point in the documentary turns from R. Kelly as prey, to an adult predator.
At the end of the second episode and all through the rest of the series, the show gets hard to watch. I watched it with my mom who remembered having her eyes glued to the news when the initial allegations came out in the late 1990s. Even though my mom had already heard of the accusations, clearly the rest of the show was unsettling for her as well.
One by one, brave and damaged women preached of the abuse they suffered at the hands of R. Kelly when they were only children, some as young as 14. This was not just sexual assault, but perverse, degrading acts. This, for me, was the hardest part to watch. For the first time, these women were telling their story and they knew it wasn’t just to the person holding the camera, but to the millions of people watching the show, and to Kelly himself.
Every woman looked so strong as they spoke, even when they cried or tried to fight back tears. One woman, whose success as a performer is, in part, due to her relationship with R. Kelly, spoke with strength and insight into the fact that her underaged niece was exploited by the famous and wealthy celebrity–and how she blames herself. The ripple effects of R. Kelly’s abuse continue in ways that are still revealing themselves.
In watching this series, my first reaction was shock. Shock that this kind of behavior even happens. Why would someone think they can behave in this illegal way? How can such a famous (he wrote “I Believe I can Fly!”) singer/songwriter continue his career and the world doesn’t care about the accusations against him?
This documentary proved to me that sometimes celebrities are in their own world with their own set of rules, rules that only apply to them.
It’s disgusting.
There is part of me that wonders if R. Kelly wasn’t talented and had no fame whether or not he would’ve already been convicted. Or,if he hadn’t had all the benefits of fame, would he never have had the chance to exploit and damage so many young girls in the first place?
As of Feb. 10 of this year, R. Kelly was charged with ten counts of sexual abuse here in Chicago. He was accused of aggravated criminal sexual abuse against four victims, three of whom were minors. This can carry a sentence of three to seven years for each count.
After watching Surviving R. Kelly, hearing the survivors, my heart breaks for their suffering and I want him to pay.
On Apr. 26, R. Kelly failed to show up in court. He lost the lawsuit alleging the underage sex abuse.
This specific lawsuit was only for a single case of his assault, of a girl with whom he had repeated sexual contact with from June 1998. She was 16 at the time
It shouldn’t take twenty years and a documentary series to help these types of cases rise to national prominence.
It scares me to think of how many more stories like this there could be hidden behind the fame.