The Lifetime Documentary series “Surviving R Kelly” has caught the attention of men, women and children across the nation and #SurvivingRKelly is exploding on all social media outlets. The self-named Pied Piper of R&B and self-proclaimed King of R&B has been exposed on a whole new level through the lens of Dream Hampton, producer of the Lifetime Documentary. If you are one of the few who have not watched it, and plan to, be prepared to hear some of the most horrific stories of domination, manipulation, domestic violence and sexual abuse you have ever heard in your life. The vivid recalling of stories of victim, after victim, after victim is overwhelming. Most of Kelly’s victims were underaged, starting with former R&B princess Aaliyah. One question that resounds repeatedly on social media outlets in response is, “Where were the parents?”
As a sexual assault survivor, and domestic and sexual assault advocate, these questions serve to deflect from the main issue at hand, R Kelly was, and continues to be, the ADULT, who is fully responsible and accountable for his actions! What is a fair question to ask is “What type of culture do we live in that allows an adult male to continue to prey on young girls and no one from the community, not one institution, intervenes on behalf of the victims? The answer is: We live in a rape culture where social and cultural norms define who is a victim, who is a perpetrator, who deserves to be saved and who gets abandoned. We as a collective community failed these girls and will continue to fail them even after this documentary UNLESS something changes. This is where our work begins!
Part 5: The Missing Girls part of the documentary examines the stories of the young girls who met Kelly at various places, including outside of the criminal courthouse during Kelly’s trial for child pornography. Many people took to social media commentary asking “Where were the parents? Were the parents paid off?” The answer is simple, and yet complex: the parents were fully present, particularly with one family where the young woman is still living as an alleged hostage with R. Kelly. It is noted that families of the earlier victims were paid. Do we know the exact amounts and if money was given to all victims? No, and THIS point is actually irrelevant. The main point we need to focus time and energy on is how predatory behavior can happen literally right before the parents’ eyes. Let’s unpack:
- This type of abuse occurs when the parents are uninformed of rape culture, don’t understand rape culture and perpetuate it. The R Kelly case brought national attention. Unfortunately, people translated “Not Guilty” into “Innocent.” Post Trayvon Martin, we have learned the fall out of what Not Guilty really means. A Not Guilty verdict means there was not enough evidence to substantiate the crime indicted for. Innocence is not a factor. In this particular case, because the main witness, the 14-year-old in the video, did not testify, the case became complicated to produce a “Guilty” verdict. In addition, Kelly had a jury trial, composed of people who also are indoctrinated in a rape culture. But again, it does not mean innocent. The video STILL happened, it was presented in the case. It was proven underage sex and what were called “deviant” acts of pornography were shown. Yet, the ”NOT GUILTY” verdict caused many, including the parents of subsequent victims to believe Kelly was innocent. Thus leading to the open door of abuse. Parents, we must stop the belief that what happened to HER (as we include a level of disgust in our voice) cannot happen to MY SON OR DAUGHTER. This mentality causes you to let your guard down, protective lenses are removed, and predators pounce on these opportunities. It is when you are not looking that they decided and capture their prey. One family documented in the video took a family trip to an R Kelly concert. They believed that he was found NOT GUILTY, therefore, he must not have done anything wrong. THEIR DAUGHTER was not on the tape. THEIR DAUGHTER was not in the house. And now, they are fighting with every fiber in their being to rescue their daughter from R Kelly, whom she met him at the concert. Her parents allowed Kelly to bring her on stage with him and escort her back behind stage. NEVER think, Parents, that IT CAN’T BE YOUR CHILD! Predators wait for an open moment. Don’t think that “THOSE GIRLS” or “THOSE BOYS” are the only ones. It is just that mentality that predators wait for. We must embrace our ancestral roots that all the children in the village are ours! It is in the humanization of others that we find the protection.
- Parents, be aware of what your children are listening to and following on social media. Many of us grew up asking “Who are your people?” It is critical to know not who are your children’s friends, but their parents and the culture in which they live. One of the survivors, who told her story, recounted how she friended another girl on MySpace through Kelly’s fan page. She sought out the girl, befriended her, went to her house, gained access to her family. Her mother knew her, but didn’t know the back story. Gratefully, through a mother’s unyielding persistence, she rescued her daughter. But it was through one person through a virtual community where she lost her daughter. KNOW the friends, because you need to know the agenda of the friendship.
- Become educated on how and why rape culture exists. We are all indoctrinated in it! We are all victims of it, and can save ourselves by becoming educated! Each victim of Kelly thought he was innocent. Why? I believe Chance the Rapper said it best in an interview, “I didn’t believe the victims because they were Black women.” Historically, since our ancestors were kidnapped from our homeland, Black women’s bodies have been indispensable and for public consumption. Therefore, there is this subconscious, vicious belief that Black women can’t be raped. There were numerous victims before each victim of R Kelly. None of them were believed. The parents didn’t believe them. Therefore, the ground became fertile for them to become his next prey. Even the 35-year-old self-named SuperFan didn’t believe ANY of the victims. When we BELIEVE BLACK WOMEN, we can save our children!
Tennille Power is a minister, therapist and life coach. She is the founder of Woman’s Worth, LLC @womensworthllc