Finally, the world will have to come to grips with the fact that R. Kelly the entertainer and Robert Kelly the man are drastically different people. I already have. I was one of his victims.
In coming forward to tell my story on the documentary “Surviving R. Kelly,” in media interviews and in my book, I know I did the right thing. I am happy to see that my being among the first of R. Kelly’s alleged victims to speak openly has given other women like me the courage to step up and tell their stories.
Last week, R. Kelly was arrested and charged with 10 counts of aggravated criminal sexual abuse. The indictment lists four victims and multiple alleged criminal acts of sexual assault dating to 1998. Three of the victims were just children, between the ages of 13 and 17.
When I heard the news of the indictment, I experienced strong feelings of relief and vindication.
Read more commentary:
‘Surviving R. Kelly’ filmmaker on overdue sex abuse charges: Were girls of color ignored?
Hollywood Madam: Rich men have dingy massage parlor sex for same reasons they eat burgers
Robert Kraft prostitution scandal exposes the horrors in our backyard: Today’s talker
In coming forward, I have received harassment and backlash from family, friends and strangers on social media. There have been attempts to discredit me, to victim shame and victim blame me. But as more women stand up and speak out, more truth is coming to light.
Two years of grooming, gaslighting
Even now, there are critics who want to believe that this is all about R. Kelly’s money. It never was about his money for me, and it never will be. Additionally, there cannot be much money if he was unable to pull together 10 percent of his $1 million bond to post bail. A woman who lives in suburban Chicago and describes herself as “a friend” paid it for him.
It saddens me to know that there are “friends” who, despite decades of rumors about his history as an alleged sexual predator, still help and enable him. I pray that the women who are with R. Kelly come to their senses about his character and controlling nature, and that justice will be served very soon. No matter what happens, I will continue to be the voice for them, the voiceless.
My experience resembles the stories of the other women caught in R. Kelly’s web. I was a superfan who didn’t believe the allegations made against him in the past. After all, in court he was always acquitted, or settlements were made out of court. I first met R. Kelly at a promo show for his upcoming tour, in Atlanta in September 2013. That started two years of my being groomed and gaslighted. Eventually, I moved into his Atlanta home, where other women were already living.
R. Kelly controlled every aspect of our lives: what we ate, what we wore, when we were allowed to leave our bedrooms, whom we could communicate with. He would film his sexual encounters and share them with the men in his circle.
I’m so thankful I finally found the willpower to leave him in 2016.
Don’t abandon the women still with him
My primary concern now is for the women who are still with him. Celebrity news sites reported that one of his alleged victims — Joycelyn Savage — attended the bail hearing with a group of apparent chaperones and body men. Joycelyn’s parents have spoken out about how R. Kelly allegedly brainwashed their daughter.
After leaving R. Kelly, I contacted the parents of the women still living there to warn them. Three years ago, I could have never imagined that this is where we would be. After experiencing his manipulation and controlling behavior, I know in my heart of hearts that I did what was right as a woman and as a mother. I have no regrets for speaking out. The parents need to be aware of what their children are being subjected to.
I also pray that R. Kelly gets the help he needs. I hope those who continue to support him and continue to shame us will soon realize they were wrong. How would they react if someone close to them was being abused in any way? What if that person was their best friend or sister or daughter? When women see society defend a person like R. Kelly, the self-described “Pied Piper of R&B,” victims become afraid to speak out against their abuser.
I sincerely hope and pray that if our detractors, our doubters and our critics ever have to deal with a situation similar to what women like me went through, I hope they offer their loved one or friend more understanding, patience and compassion than they have shown us.
I also hope and pray that R. Kelly’s alleged victims obtain justice — if not from his fans and defenders, at least from a court of law.
Asante McGee, author of “No Longer Trapped In The Closet,” lives in the Atlanta area. Follow her on Twitter: @asante_shelthia.