The Mighty Logo

What Trauma Survivors Need to Know About the Upcoming R. Kelly Trial

The most helpful emails in health
Browse our free newsletters

Editor's Note

If you’ve experienced domestic violence or emotional abuse, sexual abuse or assault, the following post could be potentially triggering.

You can contact The National Sexual Assault Telephone Hotline at 1-800-656-4673.

You can contact The National Domestic Violence Hotline online by selecting “chat now” or calling 1-800-799-7233.

You can also contact the Crisis Text Line by texting “START” to 741741.

R. Kelly — whose real name is Robert Sylvester Kelly — was born on January 8, 1967 in Chicago, Illinois, U.S. He is a popular R&B singer and former basketball player for the Atlantic City Seagulls. In January 2019, Lifetime began airing “Surviving R. Kelly” — a six-part documentary series detailing sexual abuse and misconduct allegations against Kelly. This docuseries led to renewed law enforcement interest in Mr. Kelly and eventually led to additional criminal charges.

On July 11, 2019, Kelly was arrested on federal charges alleging sex crimes, human trafficking, child pornography, racketeering and obstruction of justice. Kelly faces a total of 22 federal counts, including child pornography, kidnapping and forced labor.

R. Kelly’s trial started on August 18 (after numerous COVID-19 related delays) and will be all over the news. The coverage will be hard to avoid. He is accused of heinous crimes against women and children. He may have married children, imprisoned women against their will, sexually assaulted underage girls and adult women, and he has even been accused of battery and human trafficking. Hearing about all of this can be very triggering to abuse survivors.

As a survivor of sexual assault, I hear about this in the news and it brings back how vulnerable I was and how no one came to my rescue. How I was all alone, and no one took note and questioned what was happening to me.

Mr. Kelly’s entire entourage allegedly knew what he was doing to these women and girls, and they enabled him to continue to commit his crimes. This is so often the case that abusers do not operate in isolation, and they have co-conspirators — conspirators who — for whatever reason, usually self-preservation — stand by and let these crimes occur such as with Michael Jackson, Harvey Weinstein and Jeffery Epstein. My father had co-conspirators who were benefitting from keeping silent about his abuse of me. This kept with access to financial income and status. I suffered because of this.

It is a relief to see someone finally be held accountable for their behavior, but it is so long in coming and so many have already been hurt.

Some will watch the trial as voyeurs, looking to see a famous man defend himself and his behavior. I am sure there will much victim-blaming and gaslighting. I am assured the defense team will also make these women out to be “gold-diggers” and looking for fame. R. Kelly will be portrayed as a victim in all of this, as his attorneys are saying he has a learning disability. Trust me: no one, I mean no one, wants to talk about these humiliating situations unless they must. These women are brave and role models to all of us victims, and to the community at large.

I will never get my day in court, like many victims. Once I remembered my abuse, I did not report to the authorities. I still loved my abuser and blamed myself for the abuse. I also did not want to bring any shame to him or me. I am always amazed at those who have the courage to report and then take all that society dishes out. They are my heroes.

I will not be watching the trial. I want to support the women, but I cannot stare in the face of evil and think about all the times someone like him brutalized me. Think about all the times someone violated me and blamed me for it. I cannot watch the gaslighting and victim-blaming that will go on.

I encourage all victims of sexual violence to take care over the next few weeks as the trial progresses. You do not have to tune in to watch or read about it in the news. It is OK to tune out and take care of yourself. You will have all kinds of feelings about what is going on and it will be hard to ignore but just know you are not alone, and others are thinking about you and concerned for your wellbeing at this time.

As survivors, we are often faced with abuse in the world around us. We just need to know that we are safe now. We are adults and can care for ourselves. We have power now and can use it to get the help we need. Ask for help during this time. You do not have to deal with this alone.

Together, we are Mighty Strong!

Image via YouTube

Originally published: August 25, 2021
Want more of The Mighty?
You can find even more stories on our Home page. There, you’ll also find thoughts and questions by our community.
Take Me Home