R. Kelly faces social outrage amid new docuseries “Surviving R. Kelly”

Songwriter, record producer and R&B singer Robert Kelly, known as “R. Kelly” has been in the forefront of news over the course of the month. Sparking this social media outrage was the release of the documentary, “Surviving R. Kelly,” premiering on Lifetime.  

In the documentary, women tell stories of the horrific, emotional, and graphic nature of R. Kelly; in which he manipulated, abused and sexually assaulted them and others as minors. Some of these minors were as young as 12 years old.  

On June 13, 2008, R. Kelly was acquitted of all charges of misconduct and child pornography. Every episode of the series repeated a disclaimer that he denies all allegations. 

Many of the women in the series similarly pointed to R. Kelly taking advantage of their aspirations to be singers by asking for sexual favors.  The women alleged R. Kelly would prey on minors in common areas such as high schools and malls.  Coupled with his music, and charm and the belief that their singing career could be catapulted with his help. Consequently, R. Kelly easily manipulated and extorted them for sexual acts. 

R. Kelly’s former associates, such as his bodyguard Gem Pratts, described how they apologetically encouraged or were blind to his monstrosities. R. Kelly would have his bodyguard book flights and carry out a lot of the logistics regarding the minors. Money is most likely the common denominator in understanding why R. Kelly’s bodyguards, producers and management were willfully ignorant of his actions.  

 Lizette Martinez’s relationship with R. Kelly started when she was 17 and he was 28. Martinez described a point in which she would simply be waiting in hotel rooms for him. R. Kelly would come and go, demanding sexual favors, leaving and then returning for them again. She became pregnant by his alleged rape, and had a miscarriage in a hotel, while waiting for R. Kelly. Later Martinez was hospitalized after contracting mononucleosis from her alleged rapist. R. Kelly gave her $1000 to cover the scandal. After recovering she finally split up with him. 

 This newly disclosed information about R. Kelly prompted outrage, which dominated social media following the release of the episodes. People called for companies or anyone associated with R. Kelly to drop and denounce him, leading to both RCA Records and Sony Music to part ways with him on January 18th. Lady Gaga apologized for working with R. Kelly as well.  

 “Age Ain’t Nothing but a Number” produced by R. Kelly and sang by Aaliyah, who at the time was a minor should have been a huge red flag. However, money and willful ignorance once again blinded the fact that Aaliyah needed help. In the documentary, one of the women recalls walking into 15-year-old Aaliyah having sex with R. Kelly. 

As a Xavier community, it is only right that we bring to light the sheer darkness of sexual assault. However, it is more morally virtuous and just that we remember every machine has moving parts. One of Xavier’s values, Cura Personalis, calls on us “To care for others recognizing the uniqueness and wholeness of each person.” A willful ignorance for monetary or any other gain is what allowed R. Kelly to prey. His bodyguards, producers and management knew, yet they did nothing. R. Kelly is an example of what happens when we become tolerant and blinded by our own volitions. The consequence of turning a blind benefits people like R. Kelly, and hurts victims like Lizette Martinez.  

By: Jabari Turner