Monday, November 30, 2015

R Kelly: Fame, Talent and Child Sexual Assault

Awards show season is upon us and Sunday night brought the Soul Train Awards to BET.  Generally speaking every awards show has some controversy, but last night's Soul Train Awards was closed out by R. Kelly, creating a firestorm across social media.

R Kelly was tried and found not guilty on child pornography charges in 2008.  He was first charged in 2001 after a homemade pornographic tape surfaced showing Mr. Kelly engaged in various sex acts with an (alleged) minor.  His defense team successfully argued that the age of the of the girl in the video could not be ascertained conclusively. 

Those are the recorded facts of the case.  For many people, who were quite vocal on social media last night, those facts are all that matter.  For many other people, a acquittal in criminal court does not equal innocence, and they argue that no amount of musical talent, celebrity, or money cleanses Mr. Kelly of the fact that he routinely sexually assaulted minor girls.

I have written extensively before about Woody AllenJerry SanduskyJosh Duggar and numerous other predators.  As a 21 year veteran child abuse investigator I've investigated teachers, priests, lawyers, doctors and police all who were serial predators.  They all have a lot in common with R Kelly.  

Serial predators like those I mention have some amount of wealth or influence or both. Their wealth gets them the best attorneys, hush money and most importantly gifts to help along in the grooming.  R Kelly clearly had an excellent legal team as evidenced by his acquittal.  He had wealth and fame to impress the impressionable children and to pay off their families if necessary. 

Chicago authors and activists Mikki Kendall and Jamie Nesbitt have written and tweeted extensively about R Kelly's predilections.  Not only was Kelly's limo seen around neighborhood schools, but his crew would routinely approach young black girls with invites to see Kelly.  These predatory behaviors didn't start in 2001. They go as far back as at least 1993. Nor did they stop in 2008 as several people can attest to. 

This brings up another point, in the case of R Kelly as is all to often the case elsewhere, the victims are girls and boys who are targeted for a very specific reason.  In the case of Kelly, those girls were young and black.  Black girls are sexually victimized as minors at a far higher rate than white girls and in general a higher rate than other girls of color. 

There are many theories as to why this is, but in the main it's because black girls are sexualized at a much younger age.  Again, I'd refer you to Mikki Kendall on Twitter and the hashtag #FastTailedGirls. Viewing black girls as sexual objects at a young age is disgusting, but unfortunately true. It's because young black victims are less likely to be believed.

These views of black girls are also why they're trafficked at much higher rates and at much younger ages, but that's a column for another time. 

In cases like Sandusky, the predator specifically went after boys who were in his youth program. Boys who were troubled, whom he bought off with gifts and trips.  Boys who he thought no one would believe.  

Woody Allen allegedly sexually abused his young daughter.  Josh Duggar abused his sisters while they were sleeping.  Again, preying on people whom they could portray as confused or mistaken. Children who most likely would not be believed. 

One other point to make in the Kelly case.  Many people have made mention of consent. For those who saw the sex tape, many thought that the young girl 'knew what she was doing' and therefore consented.  This is not unlike the Rob Lowe sex tape with the minor girl in 1988. 

People assume that girls in their teens are in control and want to be involved with these adult men. What they don't understand is that their 'consent' is purchased with gifts, celebrity and threats.  It may appear that they were willing participants but their will is compromised by the wealth, power and fame of the abuser.  The abuser threatens to ruin  the girl, or threatens that no one will believe her. Fear is a powerful motivator in these cases. 

The R Kelly case demonstrates that wealth, celebrity, and the very specific targeting of a very specific type of child, can and often does let a predator go unpunished.  

Regarding the controversy that was rekindled by Kelly's appearance Sunday night, I can only say this, no amount of fame, talent or money will change the fact that he's a predator and his targets are still roaming Chicago playgrounds.