Surviving R. Kelly: Episode 6

[Content Note: Child Sexual Assault]

Surviving R. Kelly. Episode 6: Black Girls Matter

I'm going to start Episode 6. This is the last episode and I'm dreading it. I know there's no happy ending here. The wisdom in switching to legal-age girls for control and domination is that technically, none of it is illegal. Or, rather, the illegality is hard to prove without witnesses willing to cooperate against him. He abuses them with spankings, group sex, bathroom control, fasting, and other methods of abuse--but all those things are legal to do to a consenting adult. The problem here is that even if the girls are consenting, they've been groomed to accept abuse.

He does have guards and people willing to watch the girls for him, but every person who has tried to leave so far has not been physically blocked, at least as far as I can tell from the documentary. The blocks have been emotional and financial. [Note: This is later shown to be wrong.] I don't know how you fix this, shy of putting his butt in prison for the illegal stuff in his past. Assuming double jeopardy and the statue of limitations don't protect him--and they well might. Oof. That has made these episodes increasingly hard to watch. It hurts to see someone groomed to accept abuse and to feel helpless to stop the abuse or get the victim out.

Screen text: "Orlando. Fall 2015."

The Clarys talk about how R. Kelly offered to mentor their daughter Azriel. They were alarmed but their daughter really wanted the opportunity and pressed them to agree. I keep coming back to how so many of his victims are met and groomed through a Mentor / Mentee relationship. It's a one-trick pony that has worked for him from Aaliyah to Azriel.

OH, well, forget what I said about his victims not being physically barred from leaving because that line has now been crossed in the documentary. FUCK. Azriel's sister flies out with her during one of the "mentoring" trips and things start getting weird, so Azriel's sister takes hold of her to haul her out and home. R. Kelly grabs Azriel and doesn't let her go. He then tells his security to take care of the sister; they pick her up, carry her out, drive her to a McDonald's, and shove her out. They tell her, "If you say anything, your sister won't make it out alive."

Once again, I think I'm most upset by the fact that he's willing to find employees willing to do this on his behalf. What life choices lead you to threaten a young girl because she tried to save her sister from an abusive relationship?

Toure: "Part of what he was selling was 'I'm a star and I can make you a star.'" He's remarkably good at convincing parents that he's doing all this out of the goodness of his heart and to give back to the community. (I really like @Toure in this documentary; he does a really good job of distilling a lot of information into accessible bites.)

Azriel's sister talks about how when she was going through the studio, room by room, looking for Azriel, she kept finding silent girls in rooms with buckets used to go to the bathroom.

Screen text: "It's been one year since the Savages lost contact with their daughter, Joycelyn."

Periodically the parents try to engage in a legal "wellness check" to make sure their daughter is alright. She's not at the house when they go; an anonymous employee alleges that contacts in the Chicago police department warn R. Kelly beforehand. I, uhhhh, feel like that needs a LOT more attention??????? "The police are finally doing something about R. Kelly" isn't reassuring if they're on his payroll!

Tarana Burke talks about how he's operating in a smarter manner, by getting girls who are right on the edge of legal so they're not technically underage. An anonymous employee talks about the grooming methods: any girl is worth sleeping around with, but they're vetted carefully for vulnerability before being installed in the house. The main "trainer" who teaches the girls how to act is a woman. This all has that standard "cult" feel of sounding absolutely batshit bananas, but building together to give the leader at the top a sense of control and power.

Screen text: "Asante McGee, superfan. Met R. Kelly at age 35."

Asante: "He'd go for younger girls because they're weak-minded, but if you're older and he feels like you're weak-minded, he's gonna go for you too." Asante agrees to take the documentary producers through a home of the house where they lived before R. Kelly was evicted for failure to pay rent. "This is my bedroom right here. I... don't think I want to go in there. I'm gonna just show you guys the other bedrooms." Oh hon. This had to be so hard for her.

Screen text: "The Black Room."

Asante: "In my opinion, I feel like this is the wickedest part. The whole room was black. He had black curtains. He had basically-- Furniture was black. Right here in the middle was the actual bed. This room right here, besides my bedroom, was like the most degrading thing ever. Things that happened in here that you wouldn't even think would happen, but you had to pretty much agree to it." All the bedrooms are upstairs. In order to come down the stairs, they needed permission. "There's been times when I've knocked for hours and he just did not respond."

Oronike Odeleye talks about co-founding #MuteRKelly with the goal to get him off Atlanta radio and cancel his concerts. She thought it would be a simple ask, given 25 years of receipts. Instead, they were met with "resounding silence."

Kathy Chaney: "They fought back and said 'We do not want him performing here.'" I think it is *especially* critical to remember that concerts is how he's recruiting new victims. He pulled Azriel up on stage with him in a concert.

Tarana Burke talks about how R. Kelly manages to survive these allegations, and even to dodge being included in the MeToo discussions, because people don't care enough about Black girls to care. I don't know how we address that, but it's a real problem! Even if you can't talk about his underage victims, there's the adults like Kitti and Asante. Folks won't talk about them? Why not? We have to be here for them!

Mikki Kendall: "We still socially don't perceive young Black women as innocent, as deserving of protection; somehow it's their fault. When the reality is that the problem isn't the girls, the problem is the predators."

Voice over: A woman is suing R. Kelly for failing to disclose an STD. She also accuses him of sexual battery.

Screen text: "Faith Rodgers met R. Kelly at age 19." Faith talks about R. Kelly coming to her room unexpectedly after a show. "It was consensual, but it was consent by intimidation." He tells her about "the girls". Faith: "These are women that I raise. Some have been with me for 15 years." Jesus Christ.

He takes Faith to meet Joycelyn; Faith recognizes her as "the girl whose parents say she was kidnapped." Faith: "She's not acting like a real person. She's acting like a robot, doing whatever he tells her to do. When he would leave, she would just go numb. I wouldn't say she was kidnapped.... Brainwashed? Yes, absolutely."

Faith leaves him and reaches out to the Savages to tell her that their daughter is still alive. The Savages urge her to be tested for STDs. "I know for a fact that my daughter has an incurable STD and that she got it from R. Kelly."

"I wasn't angry at him. I was angry at myself."

There's some good news about viral word taking off and radio stations refusing to play him and other artists calling him out. I'm glad of that and if I'm not summarizing it all it's just because I'm so *flails* about these poor girls who are still trapped.

The Clarys go to his studio in an attempt to find Azriel. Dominique told them (after SHE escaped) that Azriel has been trying to leave and has run away before but that R. Kelly's people caught her and brought her back. Screen text: "Chicago P.D. was unable to legally enter the studio to see if the girl Alice saw was, in fact, Azriel. As of November 2018, the Clarys have not seen their daughter in almost 3 years."

R. Kelly releases a 19 minute song called "I Admit."

Andrea: "It's the dumbest damn 19 minutes in the universe. He doesn't admit anything. He just proves that he's a narcissist. He proves that he's gaslighting. He's proving that he's never going to take responsibility for his actions."

That's the end. I have a lot of emotions I need to sort through. Thank you for being here with me through this.


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