I watched the documentary series Surviving R. Kelly and I felt so sad that those young women went through what they went through. What’s more horrifying is how people responded to them during the time when they first went public with their allegations of abuse. Instead of feeling outraged, many people presumed that they were only after his money. That’s the struggle with going against a successful man. Instead of going against one person, victims go against a whole system that instinctively closes ranks around him. It’s also disquieting how the adults around him were complicit participants in his depravity by either helping him procure young women to be invited to the studio or house parties, or by accepting as normal how he’s always surrounded by apparently underage women at home or at the studio.
If the testimonies of the survivors, former employees, colleagues in the industry, even his own siblings (one of whom still don’t get why his sexual preference for underage women is wrong) are to be believed, then like Harvey Weinstein’s behavior, R. Kelly’s behavior became an “open secret”. The adults around them worked to keep him happy and making music and money. It’s horrifying. The young women who were seduced and then later intimidated by his money and fame, never really stood a chance, what with this whole ecosystem of complicity in place and actively working to entrap them.
I’m glad this documentary came out, and that the #MeToo movement has provided the momentum to address such a terrible culture in the entertainment industry. There is much to be done, but rejecting this terrible behavior no matter how talented or successful a person is, that’s a good start. Things may be moving along so slowly, but I think times are beginning to change. People are beginning to speak out and refusing to normalize this kind of behavior. If nothing else, the documentary should encourage us to take a long, hard look at our own attitudes about sexual abuse allegations and how we react to allegations leveled against successful men.