It’s almost a “where were you” when you first heard the rumblings on social media about Lifetime’s “Surviving R. Kelly,” which aired the first part of the six-part series last week.
Shock and disgust were the common themes expressed on social media, as a wide range of interviews with R. Kelly’s family members, former friends and colleagues, and women who claim that the singer and producer used his influence to sexually and physically abuse women and young girls.
It’s like a bad dream. It’s been 25 years since R. Kelly had to deal with the sexual abuse allegations. Fast forward to 2019 and there are new reports along with witnesses and damning testimonies about his brutish behavior. Despite the manner in which the docuseries lays out
the brutal details, Kelly has always found a way to evade the charges and any significant consequences almost every time.
The complete series is six hours long and divided into chapters in an effort no doubt to try to untangle the long history of allegations against the singer. The set-up is important and in the first two episodes, we dive into his childhood, in which his musical ability and his own sexual abuse are laid bare. Here we follow his rise to stardom, and his relationship to the late Aaliyah, whom he met when she was just 12 years old. The third and fourth episodes detail the scandal of the infamous “pee tape,” which allegedly showed Kelly urinating and having sex with a 14-year-old girl and the subsequent child pornography case that ended in a surprise acquittal.
The final two episodes recap the disturbing reports, from the last several years, about Kelly grooming women and girls into a sex cult for his pleasure.
What’s uncomfortable to watch is the praise that the music community continued to shower on him despite the fact that so many of them knew about Kelly’s alleged behavior and continued to cover up for him.
On Twitter, many viewers criticized the girls and women arguing that they should’ve known better.
Despite women giving details on the years of violence,
intimidation, and molestation it’s hard to understand why this serial pedophile isn’t serving time behind bars. All this makes the series even more disturbing because there have been recent reports that
Kelly’s legacy of sexual abuse is ongoing.
Why is this docuseries so crucial? Because it’s made painfully clear that so many people in the music industry were not only aware of his behavior but allegedly enabled him. A victim said as much, stating;
[that] “the reason why he could do it is that he had people helping him”.
What stays with the viewer is just how long Kelly’s pattern has been
in motion and the fact that the women—the survivors are young still,
while others now are mothers themselves with daughters the same age they were when they met and were allegedly abused by him.
We also hear the roar of the survivors and their support system. We hear from Kelly’s own brothers and employees and we watch (in horror) as they come to terms with their own part in protecting him over the years.
They let a monster continue to ravage innocent women and despite their testimonies tinged with regret, all of them say the same thing, citing that his musical brilliance and natural charisma took control.
How does one explain a life of a sexual predator? In the series, there are attempts by culture writers, sexual violence experts, clinical psychologists, and even Kelly’s industry peers but in truth, there is no answer that fits. No one should have allowed this behavior.
His reported marriage to the late Aaliyah when she was just 15 years old brought great emotion from social media highlighting the fact that
“Surviving R. Kelly” isn’t an easy watch.
“Surviving R. Kelly” aired on Lifetime.