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The docuseries 'Surviving R. Kelly' brings renewed scrutiny to allegations of abuse

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On January 3, Lifetime aired the first episode of its docuseries “Surviving R. Kelly,” which explores the claims of abuse and pedophilia that have been made against the singer over the years. The first episode broke network records by garnering 1.9 million views and it has continued to make waves since: A growing number of artists are pulling songs on which they collaborated with R. Kelly from streaming services and a criminal investigation into the R&B singer has been opened in at least one state.

“Surviving R. Kelly” may have just been released, but allegations have been made against the pop star for years. Kelly infamously married his protégé, Aaliyah, in 1994, even though she was just 15 at the time. A number of women have sued him in the years since, alleging that he had sex with them when they were minors and/or that he was physically abusive. In 2008, the singer was put on trial for making child pornography, after a reporter at the Chicago Sun-Times received a video that allegedly showed Kelly having sex with a 14-year-old girl. He was found not guilty. In July 2017, BuzzFeed reported that Kelly had “brainwashed” a number of women and was, at the time the report was published, still holding them against their will in a sex “cult.” Kelly has not faced criminal prosecution for any of the allegations laid out in the article.

By chronicling how these allegations against Kelly have been an open secret in the entertainment industry for years, the series' director dream hampton exposes how both Hollywood and the United States legal system have essentially enabled Kelly’s abuse by ignoring it. hampton’s work, however, seems to be a turning point in this complacency:  Earlier this month the District Attorney’s office in Fulton County, which encompasses the city of Atlanta, opened an investigation into allegations of Kelly’s criminal conduct. Police officers also visited Kelly’s apartment in Chicago and interviewed two women whose families claimed in the series have fallen under Kelly’s control — although both women denied they were being held against their will.

Attitudes towards Kelly in the entertainment the industry are also changing. A number of celebrities have come forward to condemn the singer and apologize for collaborating with him in the past, including Celine Dion, Lady Gaga and Ciara. Chance the Rapper, one of the few musicians who agreed to appear in “Surviving R. Kelly,” has pulled his collaborations from streaming platforms and addressed the issue on social media.“[T]he truth is any of us who ever ignored the R Kelly stories, or ever believed he was being setup/attacked by the system (as black men often are) were doing so at the detriment of black women and girls,” Chance wrote on Twitter. “I apologize to all of his survivors for working with him and for taking this long to speak out.”

Kelly isn’t just losing public support, but financial support as well. His record label, RCA/Sony, has supposedly told the star they will not produce any new music or put any more money behind his projects until he’s cleared of all criminal allegations. At least one of his upcoming concerts has been canceled.

Famed feminist attorney Gloria Allred now represents several of the women allegedly abused by Kelly and had a message for the singer at a press conference on Monday. “Mr. Kelly, you may soon join the ranks of Bill Cosby and Harvey Weinstein,” Allred said. “You can look forward to a legacy which will not be your music, but rather the pain and suffering that you inflicted on the many vulnerable teenagers and young women who claim they were victimized by you.”

More articles by Category: Arts and culture, Violence against women
More articles by Tag: Television, Gender Based Violence, Music, Pornography, Sexualized violence



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