Surviving R. Kelly: Episode 5

[Content Note: Child Sexual Assault]

Surviving R. Kelly. Episode 5: All The Missing Girls

I'm going to start Episode 5 and we'll see how far we get before I need to take a break. Episode 5 is called "All The Missing Girls" and that's an ominous title that worries the shit out of me.

"Our daughter Azriel Clary has been with R. Kelly about three years now."

"My daughter Dominique has been in his life for-- off and on for nine years." Oh shit.

Screen text: "Dominique Gardner met R. Kelly at age 17." He's 52 years old. If this was nine years ago, then he was 43 when she was 17? That's... I don't have words. "Michelle hasn't seen her daughter Dominique in almost a year."

Jerhonda: "I would be isolated [in R. Kelly's house]. I felt like a prisoner. I didn't have anyone to talk to. It was just me. The breaking point for me was when Rob slapped me and he choked me until I blacked out." Screen text: "Jerhonda turned over all evidence of abuse (including her diary) to the Illinois Bureau of Investigation."

[Anonymous Interviewee]: "There was a staff member who tried to help Dominique [get out of the house]. It was a situation where Dominique expressed how she was being mistreated. To Robert, Dominique is the rebellious one; she stays in trouble to him."

This is so fucking horrible.

Screen text: "Tim and Jonjelyn Savage haven't seen their daughter in almost two years." Screen text: "In response to questions concerning her well-being, Joycelyn has repeatedly denied any wrongdoing on R. Kelly's part, and stated that she did not want contact with her family." This is always the hard thing with cults and abusers because some people really *don't* want to leave and some people want to leave but are terrified of saying so for fear of being harmed, or having a loved one harmed. But I keep thinking about, like, the Free Melania signs/hashtags and have we ever put that kind of effort in for these girls? I haven't, and that's on me.

Screen text: "Joycelyn Savage met R. Kelly at age 19." I've noticed that he's started picking them at slightly older ages, legal ages, after his trial. But the age-gap is bigger than ever--instead of a 20yo with 14yo girls, he's a 50yo with 17 and 19yo girls. I'm not an expert on the various flavors of abusers, but that would suggest to me that it's more about power and control than about the precise age presentation of his victims.

God, she's just a baby. Screen text: "In the spring of 2015, Joycelyn met R. Kelly via the Savage family boutique in Atlanta." Oh no. The family thought he was innocent--the courts found him Not Guilty and everyone was working with him--so they thought he would be a good mentor for their daughter, who had a passion for singing. "R. Kelly began mentoring Joycelyn during her freshman year in college." Oh no, oh no, oh honey no.

She moved in with R. Kelly and her parents haven't seen or been able to talk to her. They haven't seen her in 2+ years. The Savages came out to the media, which put R. Kelly under the spotlight. Joycelyn started appearing on camera on TMZ to lay to rest the accusations that she was being held against her will.

TMZ Interviewer (over what looks like a webcam): "You are not being held against your will?"

Joycelyn: "Oh not at all. Never feeling hostage or anything like that."

Anonymous source: "As far as the video that Joycelyn Savage made, I would say that it was scripted because Robert does not allow those girls to say anything that he has not told them to say."

TMZ Interviewer: "Are you free to go from where you are?"

Joycelyn: "No, uh, I won't speak on that as well."

It looks like someone is directing her; there's shadows moving and she looks so scared, and I just. I have to take a break, I'm sorry.


Okay. Here we go.

When the parents come forward, Buzzfeed publishes a report detailing the accusations and using the word "cult" (which I used earlier in my own threads). Michelle sees her daughter Dominique on an interview in LA and realizes that she's staying in Beverly Hills. Screen text: "May 11, 2018. Beverly Hills, CA. 12:00 PM"

They talk about R. Kelly performing at Whitney Houston's funeral and how the pastors stand up with him, which protects him in culture--despite the fact that the allegations are well known now. Dr. Adewale talks about how we compartmentalize and minimize bad behavior from someone when they are contributing to society--we want those contributions, so we excuse the abuse. Tanaka Burke: "We don't want to let go of R. Kelly because it means letting go of all that catalogue of music and the memories that go along with it."

Back in Beverly Hills, Michelle keeps looking for Dominique. I don't know how I feel about the creative choice to keep cutting away from Michelle's search. It's painful, and that's probably the point (we get just a tiny tiny TASTE of her pain as she searches for her daughter) but this documentary is already so much pain. This whole thing is just very hard for survivors, I think. And there's no way around that. No way to make it easier.

So we cut away from Michelle again. Screen text: "Kitti Jones, radio DJ. Met R. Kelly at age 33."

...oh honey.

I actually earlier saw someone on the #SurvivingRKelly hashtag mocking Kitti and I think that's awful so I want to be careful here to describe what is happening. I hope ya'll can be patient with me. Kitti is 33 (though she looks younger to me, and R. Kelly remarks on this to her) and obviously that's a big age difference from the younger girls we've seen on this so far.

There is a truism that abusers groom their character witnesses as much as they groom their victims. Given that R. Kelly is facing a modicum of blowback in the community at this point, I wonder if Kitti was chosen as a "front woman" to replace his wife Andrea. Someone he could plausibly say, "Look, here is this young-but-not-too-young adult woman in a relationship with me who totally trusts me, therefore I'm good now and those days are behind me" sort of thing.

He tells Kitti "all the time" that he loves her and she gives up her job to move to Chicago with him so they aren't apart all the time. A friend asks her if she has ever watched "the sex tape" and Kitti is offended by the question and before we judge her for that, I think it's instructive both of the community image of R. Kelly and his grooming of Kitti. Specifically, she's hurt that her friend would bring up about her boyfriend this thing that he's the butt of every joke about forever until the end of time. She has been taught to see the tape as a consensual embarrassment rather than assault.

But she googles the tape and watches it. Kitti in the interview begins crying. "The images were the same girl he had introduced me to a couple weeks before." Oh no, oh god. I was hoping she got free and clear from him. She confronts him over the phone (smart woman!) and he turns ugly and begins threatening her. When he returns to town, he beats her. Oh god. Hon. "I'm of age. Am I just a beard? I didn't know."

"There's a period. He called it 'training you'. He used those words with me plenty of times." He would test what he would get away with. "You definitely had to ask to go to the restroom. Stand up when he walks into the room. You had to ask for your food. I was not allowed to watch TV shows. Dance Moms was a show he would look at--with little girls dancing." She's increasingly isolated, until she has "nothing else".

Anonymous source: "Being in trouble with Rob means being confined to a room for several days, being confined on the tour bus for several days. Having their devices taken, cell phones taken away. And even being spanked."

Anonymous source, crying: "I'm sorry. I'm sorry. When you talk about it, you realize how sick and twisted it really was. And when I first met those girls, I judged them, not him. My first response to myself was, 'These bitches are crazy.' Because I saw them jump up and kiss him, one right after the other, and I knew what was going on behind closed doors as far as them not being able to eat when they wanted to, not being able to move around. Until I started to not just look at the situation, but I started to also listen to what he would say to make them act that way."

"He does make the girls write statements with false accusations against themselves." Oh god. "I would call the false statements a type of insurance." They talk about the porn videos being held over their head as revenge.

At this point he introduces Kitti to the other girls and demands that sex be with 2 or 3 girls at a time. "My last straw was being starved." She talks about how frightened she was, leaving. Fearing going back to people's judgment, to people wanting to know why she left, why she's back.

Back in Beverly Hills, Michelle finds Dominique and begs her to come home. Dominique tells her to come back at 6 pm.

Screen text: "Azriel Clary met R. Kelly at age 17."

I don't know how to... I don't know how to... My heart hurts. Azriel's parents took her to an R. Kelly concert and he pulled her out of a crowd. R. Kelly offers to help her singing career. Her parents tell her that she must never be alone with him.

Michelle returns to the hotel in Beverly Hills at 6. Screen text: "The manager tells Michelle that Dominique called 911, claiming Michelle is not her mother, so he was required to file a police report." Oh no. Michelle calls Dominique and Dominique denies calling the police. Dominique rushes downstairs and leaves with Michelle. Oh thank god. "We ran out of there like the master was coming for us."

That's the end of episode 5 and I'm... gonna go rest for a bit and cry.


Post a Comment