Village Voice Exposes R. Kelly and Our Willingness to Ignore The Sexual Assault of Black Females

If you are one of those unfortunate types that still find wonderment in the music of R Kelly then you have my condolences. Above and beyond the issue of him being an internationally known creep, it seems his music has declined to the level of his own morality. The Village Voice posted an expose with the reporter who has been at the center of the allegations of R. Kelly’s sexual predator history and it finally now seems like people care.

Of course, if you are a black female who has been a victim of sexual assault then you may be well aware of the fact that no one cares about you. Whether you pressed charges, filed a complaint, informed a parent, or did any a number of other things women (in general) are taught to do in case of emergency, you more than likely were met with lack of concern from the people who are supposed to care.

It has been nearly 15 years since music journalist Jim DeRogatis caught the story that has since defined his career, one that he wishes didn’t exist: R. Kelly’s sexual predation on teenage girls. DeRogatis, at that time the pop-music critic at the Chicago Sun-Times, was anonymously delivered the first of two videos he would receive depicting the pop star engaging in sexual acts with underage girls. Now the host of the syndicated public radio show Sound Opinions and a professor at Columbia College, DeRogatis, along with his former Sun-Times colleague Abdon Pallasch, didn’t just break the story, they did the only significant reporting on the accusations against Kelly, interviewing hundreds of people over the years, including dozens of young women whose lives DeRogatis says were ruined by the singer.

I interviewed him a number of times. Then TP2.com came out. I’d written a review that said the jarring thing about Kelly is that one moment he wants to be riding you and then next minute he’s on his knees, crying and praying to his dead mother in Heaven for forgiveness for his unnamed sins. It’s a little weird at times. It’s just an observation.

The next day at the Sun-Times, we got this anonymous fax — we didn’t know where it came from. It said: R. Kelly’s been under investigation for two years by the sex-crimes unit of the Chicago police.

Now, from the beginning, there were rumors that Kelly likes them young. And there’d been this Aaliyah thing — Vibe printed, without much commentary and no reporting, the marriage certificate. Kelly or someone had falsified her age as 18. There was that.

But there was something that nagged at me as a reporter. There were specific names, specific dates, and those great, long Polish cop names.

As a career reporter DeRogatis knew how to dig for information, he knew how to look up the recent court filings in search of known names, as this was often a way to find ‘breaking news’ about a celebrity. Information is available for anyone who cares to look for it. He looked for it and found more than what he bargained for.

DeRogatis is the originator of the infamous R. Kelly sex tape, of which he passed on to the Chicago police, who then had it reviewed by sex crimes forensic detectives to no avail. No one was willing to come forth and identify themselves as the minor or parents of the minor. Yet, there were many other people willing to testify against R. Kelly, including those who did identify the young girl seen in the video. Strangely enough, the family of the accused victim somehow relocated to the South of France for an extended vacation during the trial of which he was acquitted of all charges against him.

They were stomach churning. The one young woman, who had been 14 or 15 when R. Kelly began a relationship with her, detailed in great length, in her affidavits, a sexual relationship that began at Kenwood Academy..

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.

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.

We knocked on a lot of doors. The lawsuits, the two that we had found initially, had been settled. Kelly had paid the women and their families money and the settlements were sealed by the court. But of course, the initial lawsuits remain part of the public record.

Asked why the public seems so ambiguous to the charges of sexual abuse against R. Kelly and DeRogatis presumes that people don’t want to deal with situations that make them uncomfortable.

 You watch the video for which he was indicted and there is the disembodied look of the rape victim. He orders her to call him Daddy. He urinates in her mouth and instructs her at great length on how to position herself to receive his “gift.” It’s a rape that you’re watching. So we’re not talking about rock-star misbehavior, which men or women can do. We’re talking about predatory behavior. Their lives were ruined. Read the lawsuits!

And there was a young woman who was pressured into an abortion?

That he paid for. There was a young woman that he picked up on the evening of her prom. The relationship lasted a year and a half or two years. Impregnated her, paid for her abortion, had his goons drive her. None of which she wanted. She sued him. The saddest fact I’ve learned is: Nobody matters less to our society than young black women. Nobody. They have any complaint about the way they are treated: they are “bitches, hos, and gold diggers,” plain and simple. Kelly never misbehaved with a single white girl who sued him or that we know of.

And this here may be the most poignant part of the entire three page article. The actual, factual, statement from a white man with considerable power. A white man that has informed, verified, collaborated with and rang the alarm in every way he knows how regarding the artist and his disgusting practice to the tune of absolute silence.

The forensic experts they had looking at it said judging by the soles of her feet, they could tell she was 13 or 14 at the time this tape was made, but we can’t identify who the woman is. Videotape number one.

I think in the end there were two dozen women with various level of details. Obviously the women who were part of the hundreds of pages of lawsuits — hell of a lot of details. There were girls who just told one simple story, and there were a lot of girls who told stories that lasted hours which still make me sick to my stomach. It never was one girl on one tape. Or one girl and Aaliyah.

The other thing, the thing that people seem to not know: She was fresh out of eighth grade in this tape.

Fourteen or fifteen. That puts a perspective on it. She’s not sophisticated enough to know what her kinks are.

Jim DeRogatis published a detailed discussion about the willingness of The Pitchfork Music Festival to use Kelly as a feature act during their summer concert series. Pitchfork organizers declined to comment, which is of no surprise to anyone accustomed to asking the complicated questions to those whom have the answers and make money from the silence.

He and several other social science and industry professionals noted the willingness of promoters, the various well known brands,and the legion of fans to overlook the tarnished past of R. Kelly in this article.

Specifically, the round table posed some serious questions that all of us need to consider when it comes to the public’s consistent choice to dismiss the facts of the crimes that have been charged against the R&B star. 

One question stood above all others:

What if the crimes are part of the appeal of the art?

Here’s the most sinister. This deeply troubles me: There’s a very — I don’t know what the percentage is — some percentage of fans are liking Kelly’s music because they know. And that’s really troublesome to me. There is some sort of — and this is tied up to complicated questions of racism and sexism — there is some sort of vicarious thrill to seeing this guy play this character in these songs and knowing that it’s not just a character!

I’m not reminded constantly in the art, because the art is not about it. But if you’re listening to “I want to marry you, pussy,” and not realizing that he said that to Aaliyah, who was 14, and making an album he named Age Ain’t Nothing but a Number — I had Aaliyah’s mother cry on my shoulder and say her daughter’s life was ruined, Aaliyah’s life was never the same after that.

Yeah, I got a call from one of the women after the Pitchfork festival review. “I know we haven’t spoken in a long time…,” and said thank you for still caring and thank you for writing this story, because nobody gives a shit.

It was a horrible day and a horrible couple of weeks when he was acquitted. The women I heard from who I’d interviewed, women I’d never interviewed who said, “I didn’t come forward, I never spoke to you before, I wish I had now that son of a bitch got off.”

Rapes, plural. It is on record. Rapes in the dozen. So stop hedging your words and when you tell me what a brilliant ode to pussy Black Panties is, then realize that the next sentence should say: “This, from a man who has committed numerous rapes.” The guy was a monster! Just say it!

You can read through details of all of the lawsuits and backup documents by visiting this link. I clicked and read and saw what I already knew to be true, where there is smoke, there is fire, and no amount of bass beats and vocal range gymnastics can make me overlook the fact that this man is beyond disgusting. I would be confused at the public’s consistent deaf ear until I remember that Black women have been taught to disregard themselves. Ignorance and co-signing to abuse is a survival tactic, it’s inbred into the experience of smelling pissy hallways and having subpar housing. What Black men do doesn’t matter as long as what he’s doing is done to a Black female. Who will fight for her when the cost of battle be it legal, physical or reputation is more than what the concerned few can afford.

If you are a black female from an urban town then YOU KNOW WHO THIS GUY IS!! The conversation is not about R. Kelly specifically, the conversation is about the Black male predators that roam freely in our homes, and communities. You know their names. You know where they live. You know what they do and what they will continue to do but you better not mention it to anyone lest you find yourself suffering even more so.

This conversation is about the further victimization suffered through by sex abuse victims and survivors when their accusations aren’t taken seriously and the willingness to speak about what has been done to you may well put you or your loved ones in danger.

This conversation is about how money, power and fame, no matter how small, allows men who enjoy preying on young women to continue to do so. This conversation is about the law enforcement, schools, parents and other adults in charge who observe these girls being prayed on yet they do nothing.

This conversation is about the men who know what they do, and those who support R. Kelly specifically for what he has done. This conversation is about those males among us who wish we were (truly) in a world where women are only to be used and discarded like the condoms that sit prominently next to penny candy on the corner store counter.

This is a Helluvah conversation to have and it has many voices.

Sexual abuse and exploitation by men in lower economic environments is a known fact. The inability, disregard and resentment thrown at the victims in response for their suffrage and their desire to want protection is prime example of how no body gives a fuck about what happens to young black girls.

And it is this realization that allows men like R. Kelly to do what they do without fear or retaliation, retribution or regret.

It’s been 15 years and we are still using vague language to diffuse fact. It’s been 15 years and this man is still making music mocking his victims.

It’s been 15 years since the conversation of underage girls and predatory men has been a barber shop, beauty parlor and project hallways debate.

It’s been 15 years too long for us to just now be getting around to caring about these young black girls.

As they say about God, ‘he doesn’t come when you call him, but he’s right on time’ so I’m hoping THIS time, something will change besides the excuses used to protect men like R. Kelly.

It’s been 15 years…….

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