Update: Cook County Prosecutors (Chicago) convened a grand jury several weeks ago to hear testimony and evidence regarding R. Kelly’s alleged sexual abuse of women and girls–minors. It has now been announced that the grand jury has returned an indictment charging the singer with 10 counts of felony aggravated sexual abuse. Reportedly, some of the victims are minors between the ages of 13-16.
While men like Weinstein, Jeremy Piven, James Toback and countless other men in Hollywood were caught in the tempest of the #MeToo movement, R. Kelly (Robert) has been hiding in plain sight. He has been producing music, touring, working with well known artists, and more. All while standing accused of being a rapist, a leader of a sex cult and even a pedophile.
This past year has been full of allegations against the R&B singer, but suddenly his wrongdoings are being thrust into the spotlight again with Lifetime’s new docuseries “Surviving R. Kelly.” The three-part, six-hour special provides vivid, disturbing and detailed accounts of Kelly’s history of abuse (both emotional and physical). At PROOF, we were interested in understanding just how long ago this all started.
He Was an Alleged Victim of Abuse Himself
According to both his own 2012 memoir and an interview with GQ, Kelly alleges that he was sexually abused as a child by an older woman. He referred to her as his relative and said that the abuse occurred every other day or week between the ages of 7-14. His brother, Carey, recently reported that their older sister, Theresa sexually abused both he and his brother.
He Wed Singer Aaliyah in 1994 When She was Just 15 Years Old ( After Forging Documents That Claimed She Was 18). He was 27.
Aaliyah, who would later die in a tragic plane accident, was just 12 years old when she met Robert Kelly. The two had begun recording “Age Ain’t Nothing But a Number” in 1993. By 1994, Kelly and Aaliyah had wed after the singer falsified documents saying that she was 18 years old. Aaliyah’s family got wind of the marriage and swiftly got the marriage annulled.
He Was Accused in 2000 of Sexual Abuse
While reporter Jim Derogatis (who also wrote the Buzzfeed expose about Kelly’s alleged sex cult…more on that in a bit) was writing for the Chicago Sun Times, he received the first of what would become many tips about R. Kelly: He was being investigated for sex crimes, but they were not being reported on. That is when the world found out that in 1996 Kelly was being sued by a girl for $10 million who alleged that R. Kelly started having sex with her when she was 15 and he was 24. According to the suit, Kelly “engaged in inappropriate sexual contact with her, including but not limited to engaging in group sexual intercouse with her and other minors.” There were other women named in the suit as having had sexual relationships with the singer while underage.
In an interview with the Village Voice, Derogatis described the accusations of one girl in detail saying that Kelly would return to his alma mater, Kenwood Academy in Chicago, and visit his old choir teacher, Lina McLin. “He would go to her sophomore class and hook up with girls afterward and have sex with them. Sometimes buy them a pair of sneakers. Sometimes just letting them hang out in his presence in the recording studio. She detailed the sexual relationship that she was scarred by. It lasted about one and a half to two years, and then he dumped her and she slit her wrists, tried to kill herself. Other girls were involved. She recruited other girls. He picked up other girls and made them all have sex together. A level of specificity that was pretty disgusting.”
In 2001, He Was Sued By an Intern
Kelly’s intern, Tracy Sampson, sued Kelly and accused him of inducing her “into an indecent sexual relationship.” She was 17 years old. She claimed that she was “treated as his personal sex object and cast aside.” The case was settled out of court for an undisclosed sum.
In 2002, Sued Again and Again
Patrice Jones sued Kelly in 2002, claiming that Kelly got her pregnant when she was underage and alleging that she was forced to have an abortion. Another woman also sued Kelly, Montina Woods, alleged that he videotaped them having sex without her knowledge. Both cases were settled out of court. Both women signed NDAs.
Child Pornography Charges in June 2002
Kelly was charged with 21 counts of making child pornography. The tapes all involved one girl, born in September 1984. They were disturbing and involved intercourse, oral sex, urination and other sexual acts. The tapes had been sent to The Chicago Sun who passed them on to police.
Kelly denied the charges in an interview and pleaded not guilty. It took 6 years for the case to even go to trial. In the meantime, Kelly continued to experience success musically and even received an NAACP Image Award (do you find yourself short of breath reading this?).
But because the jury could not prove definitively that the girl on the tape was a minor, Kelly was found not guilty on all counts. It is this case that is highlighted in the docuseries.
He Couldn’t Stop With the Sex Tapes
Kelly was arrested in Florida in 2003. That arrest lead to him being charged with 12 counts of making child pornography. Police seized a camera during the arrest that allegedly included the singer having sex with underaged girl. In an infuriating turn of events, a judge agreed with Kelly’s defense team that the police didn’t have the sufficient evidence to conduct the search in the first place. The evidence was deemed inadmissible. Reportedly, the detective had found the pictures on a camera wrapped in a towel inside a duffel bag. The detective sought a second warrant to look for child pornography but the judge found there was no probable cause to suspect pornography was in the house.
A Quiet Few Years and Then…Allegations of a Sex Cult
We told you we’d get back to the Buzzfeed expose that left people reeling. In 2017 Jim Derogatis wrote that Kelly was the leader of a pseudo-sex cult in Georgia where he lured young women into staying with him at his home, promising them music careers and fame, and then emotionally and psychologically abusing them.
The article alleged that Kelly would essentially take over these women’s lives, dictating control “what they eat, how they dress, when they bathe, when they sleep, and how they engage in sexual encounters that he records.” The report also claimed that he confiscated their cell phones so that they could not have any outside contact.
These claims were made even more clear in the Lifetime docuseries Surviving R. Kelly. In the series, accusers, collaborators, staffers, and more detail the offenses of the R&B singer. He still categorically denies the claims and even created a Facebook page (swiftly deactivated, thank you, Facebook!) that promised to vindicate him. He began posting about his accusers, even linking to video of them, and that is when the page was deactivated. His ex-wife Andrea Kelly (who is heavily involved in the doc) even believed that her ex-husband was the one who threatened a screening of the docuseries, forcing everyone to evacuate due to a “gun threat.”
And Now, the Docuseries Has Led to New Investigations
As a direct result of the documentary, Kelly is being criminally investigated in Georgia. Fulton County District Attorney’s Office has opened an investigation into the allegations made against the singer. Reportedly the law enforcement has been speaking with women like Asante McGee and the attorney for Joycelyn Savage’s family. McGee is one of the women who allegedly escaped R. Kelly’s home; Savage’s parents believe that R. Kelly is holding their daughter, Joycelyn, captive. Savage denies this.
And, in Chicago, Cook County State Attorney Kim Foxx made a public plea for victims of R. Kelly’s sexual abuse to come forward.
Taking a closer look at the pattern of abuse can be difficult, triggering, and painful. The history of this man’s transgressions is vast and the victims so young, so helpless in light of R. Kelly’s power, charm, fame, and connections. And though his alleged conduct spans over two decades, it certainly seems that R. Kelly’s luck is running out.
Often we think tv douseries are for entertainment purposes only but clearly Surviving R. Kelly is much more than that. In the coming weeks–as a direct result of this show–R. Kelly will be forced to respond to a variety of sexual abuse claims in several jurisdictions.