'Surviving R. Kelly' Taught Me One Thing: We Need to Protect Black Girls

r kelly rape
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This past weekend, Lifetime finally premiered their six-part documentary series Surviving R. Kelly.

At first, I didn’t want to watch it; I already knew he was a predator, pedophile, and a pervert — why would I need a TV show to tell me that?

But I kept seeing post after post from my friends about how disgusted they were. I eventually caved and binge-watched the whole docuseries, mostly with tears in my eyes. There were even moments where I was getting sick to my stomach.  And then my boyfriend asked me with disgust in his voice, “Why isn’t this piece of shit in jail?” I shrugged and said, “Because his victims were and are black girls and women, and no one cares about them.”

There was a pattern throughout the show as to why R. Kelly has gotten away with, and continues to get away with, his crimes. We saw it after hearing from his former employees, who played a hand in bringing the girls to R. Kelly. They saw what he was doing to them, but they continued to turn a blind eye. I genuinely do not care if they now feel remorse or guilt for what they did. Just because they didn’t engage in the acts, does not mean that they aren’t guilty.

More than once interviewees said that if he was doing this to white girls and women, he would have been in jail the minute his sex tape with a minor (which included him peeing on her) came out over a decade ago. And that is the honest truth. As a society, we constantly let women down. But when it comes to women of color, that’s a whole other ball game. Even after the documentary, you can go on his social media pages and see that there are still fans out there that refuse to believe these women. The common retort is that they’re trying to keep the black man down.

Have there been instances when Black men have been accused unfairly and put in jail for crimes they haven’t committed? Of course. But this isn’t one of those situations. The biggest issue that needs to be talked about is the code of silence within the Black community when it comes to things like this. The only way that I can explain this way of thinking is that as a Black community if we throw a Black man under the bus for a heinous thing that he has done, that somehow equates to us working against the unity within the Black community.

But this perpetuates the idea that the Black woman does not matter to Black people. Their struggles, their secrets, their demons, that they are dealing with alone, it doesn’t matter as long as the predator’s image is still seen as saintly within the community. Because it seems as though Kelly’s “musical genius” and what his songs mean to the Black community are more important than the safety of our women.


This whole weekend, my Twitter feed was FULL of Black women telling their stories about being raped or molested by a family member or family friend. When they tried to tell someone about it, they were met with skepticism, and they were to blame for being “fast.”

Really? Many of these women hadn’t hit the age of ten when these acts happened to them and yet they were to blame? We cannot scream “Black Lives Matter” if we are going to exclude the trauma of Black women’s narratives. It’s more than just police brutality, it’s more than just getting white people to understand that people of color have different experiences because of the color of their skin. As a Black community, we need to work on the misogyny against Black women, particularly dark skin Black women. And we need to start holding the predators within our community accountable because nobody else is going to do it for us.

Although it’s not a surprise what a disgusting person R. Kelly is, my hope is that something comes from these brave women coming forward. Their parents are pleading to see their daughters that they have not seen in years. There’s no question about it: something needs to be done. And R. Kelly needs to rot in jail.

As of 2019, Joycelyn Savage and Azriel Clary are still missing but are believed to be with R. Kelly.

UPDATE: As of January 18, R. Kelly has been dropped from RCA records, evicted from his Chicago recording studio that was featured on the show and is currently undergoing a criminal investigation. His manager is also under investigation for threatening to kill the father of Joycelyn Savage.

UPDATE: On February 22, 2019, R. Kelly was indicted on 10 counts of aggravated criminal sexual abuse. Three out of the four women are believed to be minors.


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Alysia Stevenson
Alysia Stevenson is a twenty-seven New York City transplant currently living in Florida with her boyfriend and three furbabies. When she's not writing, you can find her watching beauty tutorials on Youtube or Parks and Rec for the millionth time.