Our Culture Allowed R. Kelly’s Cult to Happen

It's time for rape culture to change.

Decades. That’s how long R. Kelly was able to get away with abusing young black girls. His team helped him make this happen and mainstream media all but ignored their abuse. It took a six-part docu-series before people were finally willing to acknowledge the truth.

R. Kelly’s inexcusable behavior didn’t happen overnight. He married hit singer Aaliyah when she was just 15 years old. That happened 24 years ago.

A stage mom of a girl in what’s now being called R. Kelly’s cult said she knew about the Aaliyah situation and still let her daughter get close to Kelly to further her career. She thought she could protect her daughter from that side of him.

I don’t believe the stage mom is to blame for what is happening to her daughter. She didn’t just leave her daughter and walk away. She wanted to be there for the ride as well. Unfortunately that didn’t happen. While Buzzfeed has not released the name of the mother or victim, we do know the victim is still in R. Kelly’s circle and has scarce contact with her parents.

Cheryl Mack, Kitti Jones, and Asante McGee were all members of Kelly’s inner circle have come forward to detail what these girls endure. The allegations are damning.

Kelly controls everything possible. They are forced to wear tracksuits so their figures are hidden. He controls what they eat and when they sleep. On top of it all, he records any sexual encounter they have.

A majority of the women who are facing this abuse are at or above the legal age of consent. At least in Georgia and Illinois where he has two properties. This makes it hard for parents to file missing persons reports for their daughters because, in the eyes of the law, adults can get up and leave when they want.

In addition, these girls aren’t technically missing. We know where they are, in one of R. Kelly’s homes in either Atlanta or Chicago.

This whole attitude we have of not wanting to be involved and not wanting to believe rape survivors is what allowed this to happen. It took decades of abuse and Lifetime’s docu-series to start pushing people toward the path of activism. Now they support the girls. But where were we all before this? Not present.

But if the girls were all white instead, would we have acted sooner? I believe we would have.

The fact that these women are women of color somehow makes their claims less credible. That is completely absurd.

On the surface, some of the girls did take their own steps towards entering Kelly’s life in hopes of furthering their career. They did not ask to be brainwashed or assaulted both sexually and physically.

What is happening to them is not their fault.

Our society has a hard time believing women when it comes to sexual assault. Our culture looks at rape as if it is equivalent to a Big Foot sighting. Totally bogus. Throw that on top of our culture that supports white people first and the music industry’s tendency to sexually exploit women, and we have the perfect storm.

None of this makes what happened okay. If Kelly was found guilty on all 14 charges of making child pornography back in 2008, it’s quite possible he’d never start his cult.

We can’t dabble in the what if’s forever though. We have to be proactive and right the wrongs we let fly for so long. It’s time for accountability. If we changed our laws to help victims of brainwashing, imagine how many terrible incidents could have been appropriately dealt with?

Why don’t we change the legal age of consent? Our law allows these young women, and men in other cases, to make extremely sensitive decisions regarding their sexual health at 17 in some states but won’t let them drink until 21.

Why don’t we start believing all women instead of making them prove their abuse?

There are so many alternative pathways we could have collectively taken to protect these girls and we didn’t. Turning a blind eye to abuse does not absolve us of responsibility. It makes us an accomplice, complicit.

I don’t know how this situation can be completely repaired. Kelly’s arrest would be a start. Then we have to get these girls and other victims the help they deserve. What I do know is we need to stick together. So many women, our sisters, have fallen victim to this predator and they need us to stand up and support them. To be their voice in areas that may be choosing not to listen.

We need to act.

Image courtesy of Pitchfork

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Also published on Medium.

Davyn is a journalism student at Arizona State University. During her free...