Students respond to R Kelly’s actions

Yasmine Pascal, Accountability and Ad Manager

Robert Sylvester Kelly, better known by his stage name “R. Kelly,” is a popular R&B singer whose name made headlines following the airing of the Lifetime documentary, Surviving R. Kelly, on Jan. 3, 2019. The documentary detailed the sexual abuse allegations against R. Kelly and featured accounts from his victims, family members and colleagues. The content of the documentary sparked uproar on social media, many expressing horror by the singer’s actions.

It was no secret that Kelly was attracted to underage girls: in 1994 Kelly married Aaliyah Haughton when he was 27 and she was only 15, and in 2002 a sex tape of Kelly having sexual intercourse with a minor went viral. Yet, even after he was charged with producing child pornorgraphy in 2002 in both Chicago and Florida, people continued to support him.

It is sad that we as a society turned a blind eye towards his abuse of countless underage girls while the evidence was directly in front of us. By doing so, Kelly’s listeners normalized his behaviour, allowing young black girls, who looked to Kelly as a mentor, to fall victim. In turn, we taught them that their bodies were not their own and that exploiting their sexuality was the only way to get ahead in life.

Kelly himself was molested by a family member when he was seven years old. No one, especially a child, should have to deal with that kind of trauma. Everyone should have a right to their own body and no one should take that away. His history, however, does not excuse him for what he has done, but it shows that we need to teach kids how to respect each others’ bodies, as well as their own. We need to teach children that their feelings matter and if they feel uncomfortable, it’s okay to voice that. We have to create a safe space for people to talk about their abuse, without feeling that they would be judged, ridiculed or blamed.

We need to do better, so that what happened to R. Kelly, his victims and other rape survivors does not happen to anyone else. People need to know that their voices do matter and no one can take that away from them.