She Said...She Said (A Written Collaboration)

The recent story published this week in a disturbing BuzzFeed story, reported Kelly has five or six women whom he subjects to constant physical, sexual, and psychological control, routinely recording sexual encounters and subjecting his partners to bizarre cult-like behavioral restrictions. These alleged women are reportedly “of age”.  This set off a predicable fire store on social media.   Days later the families of the reported victims gave a press conference that provided more commentary from the masses.   I don’t know if this most recent story is true but what I found to be alarming was the swiftness that his supporters jumped to his defense.   The idea that this “just couldn’t be true” seemed to be dominant and I watched in disbelief as people began to dismiss this allegation as if he doesn’t have a well documented history that is questionable.    I found myself getting angry and upset me and I started to wonder; why are we so quick to dismiss the stories of abuse by black girls and women? Why do we adopt the “you want to defame the black man” instead of “defending the abused woman” narrative? Why are we silent or blind when we know friends and family members who are sexual deviants? Why are we silent when we know there are young girls involved with adult men? Why isn’t it our business?  Why are black women and girls made to be responsible for their victimization?  Why do we continue to ignore sexual abuse in young black girls and black women?  Who will believe us?  I had thoughts and feelings about all of this and joined with my friend and advocate, Kawana Williams in a much needed commentary on a society that continues to devalue Black Women.   Please take a moment to read and comment on this important issue in our community.

She Said... "Who Protects Us"? (PT.1)

By: D. Sanders

D. Sanders

D. Sanders

If you remove this latest allegation of abuse by R. Kelly, you still are left with these facts:

  • He married singer Aaliyah when she was 15 and he was 27
  • Prior to his indictment, he was sued by 4 different women who claim they were in a sexual relationship with him in their teens. They also describe similar stories of manipulation, coercion and control. They all said he controlled where they went, who they saw. He settled those cases for undisclosed amounts.
  • His now ex-wife’s family also stated they were cut off from seeing Andrea during their marriage. They weren’t allowed to speak with her on the phone or visit their house.   During the marriage, his wife filed for an order of protection stating R. Kelly was abusive.
  • Aaliyah’s uncle resigned as his manager, stating he believed Kelly needed help for his attraction to underage girls.
  • Kelly was in a sexual relationship with the 19 year old daughter of his “father figure”, music industry legend, George Daniels who cut all times with Kelly once the relationship was exposed.  Kelly had known the daughter since she was 4 years old. 
  • He famously responded to a BET interview question by journalist, Toure, after his acquittal and said, “When you say “teenage”, how old we talking?”
  • He is on tape urinating and engaging in various sexual acts with an underage girl.

...SO THAT'S STILL NOT ENOUGH HUH?

There are plenty more “rumors”  and court cases but it still adds up to 20 years of allegations. And in spite of all of this he still has  14 albums , sold out tours, public appearances, adoring fans and people continue to support and defend him while demonizing his victims. Even now he is currently on tour with Monica, LeToya Lucket and June's Diary. The tour is called, "Black Panties" and is guaranteed to have stadiums full of female fans of all ages.  June's Diary is a group that has a very large teen following.    There is a clear pattern of pedophilia, abuse, domestic violence, power and control.  This man has no respect for women of any age and a clear sexual attraction to young women and girls. Even now his current girlfriend is 19 years old and reports say they’ve been dating since she was 18. R. Kelly is getting ready to turn 50.  What price has this man paid for his transgressions against black women over the years? Where is the accountability? Why aren't we holding men like him accountable? The recent story of R. Kelly kept my timelines buzzing with opinions that varied on the heartbreaking to the ridiculous.   Every time stories like this surface, my timelines are overloaded with toxic masculinity and rape culture mantras. 

That girl was 15, she knows better. She’s probably just a "fast-tailed girl"

Young black girls don’t get to have childhoods. We are “conditioned” early that our bodies are too adult and if we aren’t careful, we may “make men” feel or do certain things.  When do we tell young boys, men to keep their damn hands to themselves instead of shaming girls for something they can’t control, like how they are shaped?  I cannot tell you how many women I know who were sexually abused at the hands of people they knew and trusted. Many of these women have never told their families. They’ve stayed silent.  Others have told their families only to be told, “well what were you wearing” or “what were you doing” as if that would make a difference in becoming a victim of sexual abuse.  (The motive of sexual abuse is POWER and the sexual act is used as a weapon to inflict pain, violence and humiliation).  Our bodies are more developed at younger ages and we are labeled “Fass” by family members and our community.  A “Scarlet Letter” that silently gives some sick and disturbed men permission to take advantage of our adult bodies and our young impressionable and immature minds while ensuring that black women and girls embrace the idea that somehow “you knew better” or “you were asking for it”.  Women are told “that’s just what men do” instead of telling men “what isn’t appropriate”.    People actually tell their young girls, not to go around “this cousin” or “that uncle” instead of addressing the fact that there is a sexual predator in your family.  There are numerous “R. Kelly’s” in black families and communities.  I remember grown men coming up to me in high school, hitting on me, harassing me, making lewd comments about my body.  I remember telling them how old I was and getting a response similar to “Age ain’t nuthin but a number”.   Grown adult men hitting on me was a regular occurrence in my teenage years.   Disgusting and lewd comments about how I was shaped was a regular occurrence and in my teenage years it gave me such a complex I tried numerous ways to “hide my body”.  I begged my parents for a breast reduction surgery.  I used Duct tape to “bind down my breasts”, wearing 2XL and 3XL shirts and baggy jeans to disguise my developing body.    I had a complex for years, well into adulthood.  The sad thing about it all is that I grew accustomed to it. I developed a “harder exterior” and a smarter mouth to deal with men and their inability to control their words.  I continue to constantly be on guard because I learned early some men can't control their hands.    Even now as an adult, I deal with the lewd comments from men.  I can’t post a picture without someone making a comment about my body and my shape.  Somehow women have to adjust to the fact that "boys will be boys". When do we realize this culture of toxic masculinity is destroying black women and young black girls?   Black women have been hyper-sexualized for ages. We are never seen as victims but we are always viewed as temptresses.  No matter our age, somehow, "we asked for it" or in the words of comedian, Dave Chappelle, "How old is 15 really".  Why is that the question? Shouldn't the question be directed towards a grown man who has an uncontrollable sexual attraction to teenagers?

Hugh Hefner got away with it

ARE YOU KIDDING ME?    No one gets a pass for abuse!!! NO ONE! I don’t care if it’s R. Kelly, Hugh Hefner, Chuck Barry, Roman Polansky, Woody Allen, Little Richard, Ike Turner, Elvis Pressley, Chris Brown, Bill Cosby, Floyd Mayweather, your uncle, cousin, daddy…I don’t give a damn who it is.  If they are an abuser, pedophile, rapist…they all deserve to face the consequences of their actions.  Acting like one justifies the other is just ridiculous and unintelligent.  We are so unwilling to address sexual abuse of our girls in our community.  Many of the above mentioned men are no different than R. Kelly in that they are embraced and even celebrated in spite of their transgressions against black women.   Outside of Bill Cosby, none of these men have faced any real consequences for their actions.

These girls know better they are just money hungry

The hero of The Pied Piper of Hamelin, a poem by Robert Browning (1842), based on an old German legend. The piper, dressed in particolored costume, rid the town of Hamelin (Hameln) in Brunswick of rats by enticing them away with his music, and when refused the promised payment he lured away the children of the citizens. R. Kelly has proudly proclaimed he is the "Pied Piper" of R&B.   Young impressionable teenage girls couldn’t possibly be infatuated with their musical idols and caught up in a web of deceit and manipulation?  (Insert sarcasm).  It's reported that he lavishes his "stable of girls" with the things that come with fame and unlimited financial resources.  A young, impressionable, celebrity struck young girl could easily be tempted by the "glitz and glam" or the promises of "being a star".  That's not new in the entertainment industry.  Celebrities have often used their status to lure and attract.   The infatuation by a fan somehow justifies her abuse?  REALLY?   Many have questioned why parents would accept payouts if they really wanted justice and I can’t help but to wonder what it feels like to have a child violated in that manner, then violated again by the media and the court of public opinion.   Those girls were put through hell in the media and in their own communities. People were more upset at them for coming forward than at the person who victimized them. This is the heart of rape culture.  Where victims are shamed, judged, questioned instead of being heard, listened to and believed.  "She must have done something" for this to happen to her?    Perhaps a parent just wanted their child’s nightmare to end. Perhaps a parent couldn't face the idea of their child being publically shamed by people more obsessed with a celebrity.     I can’t judge because thankfully, I have never been in that position.  I also question a parent who allows their child to share space with this man in spite of his history.  Were they in such denial that they really didn't believe the truth about him?  

If parents raised their kids’ right, they wouldn’t have to deal with this.

Of course, because the only victims of any type of sexual abuse are people who didn’t raise their kids right.  (More sarcasm)  Are we this ignorant to the reality of sexual violence?   There are plenty of rape, domestic violence and other sexual violence victims that would tell you otherwise.   Most victims of sexual violence are victimized by people they know and trust.  Abuse and violence does not discriminate.  It doesn’t differentiate based on class, family structure, income or education.  Ask the many victims of sexual violence on college campuses.   Again, when will the focus be on the abuser and not the victims?  When do we make it a priority to ask the parents of abusers what they should have done in their parenting instead of critiquing the parents of victims? 

These women just want to bring down another black man

Black women have been “Holding down” black men since forever.   Another case where race and gender become weights black women are forced to carry.  African-American women have a "tendency to withstand abuse, subordinate feelings and concerns with safety, and make a conscious self-sacrifice for what she perceives as the greater good of the community, but to her own physical, psychological and spiritual detriment." (Ashbury, 1993, Bent-Goodley 2001, p.323)   Why is it always our responsibility to “come to the defense of the black man” when he has never come to defense of black women?  I addressed this very statement in my blog post, “Must We always Take the Blame”

The validity of our abuse is constantly questioned in the black community.  Black women have been the victims of every form of abuse since the beginning of time.  Sexual abuse towards black women and young black girls is an epidemic and the statistics are alarming.  Consider this…

  • 60% of black girls have experienced sexual abuse at the hands of black men before reaching the age of 18, (Black Women’s Blueprint).
  • 1 in 4 black girls will be sexually abused before the age of 18. (Stone, R.D., No Secrets, No Lies: How Black Families Can Heal from Sexual Abuse,)
  • Thirty percent of black women with documented histories of childhood sexual abuse were sexually assaulted in adulthood. (Siegel & Williams, Risk Factors for Sexual Victimization of Women, Violence against Women 9,)
  • 29% of African American women and 12% of African American men reported at least one instance of violence from an intimate partner.
  • Black women comprise 8% of the U.S. population but in 2005 accounted for 22% of the intimate partner homicide victims and 29% of all female victims of intimate partner homicide.
  • For every black woman who reports a rape, at least 15 do not report (Bureau of Justice Statistics)

Black women have been taught to keep our guards up since birth. Constantly being told that the mere shape of our bodies can “make men” do and feel things as if that is our responsibility. When do we begin to teach men how to take control of their thoughts and actions?  We learned early on that we were unprotected and you wonder why we walk with our faces stern and our guards up high.   Rape, incest, pedophilia and abuse run rampant in our communities and there are countless numbers of black women who have lived with the pain and weight of that and suffered in silence because they knew you wouldn’t believe them. They knew you would blame them. They knew you would find reasons to justify why it happened to them.  Did you read the statistic? 60% of BLACK GIRLS ARE ABUSED BEFORE 18? When does the innocence of a young black girl matter? It’s no wonder women and girls stay silent about their abuse.  They are repeatedly victimized by a community conditioned to think “they deserved it”.   What a sad state of affairs. If you can’t trust your own to protect you, who do you trust? 

It’s the story of loss innocence and black girls whose childhoods were robbed of them, their words filled with pain and trauma fall on deaf ears in our own community. Picked apart and judged by those who are supposed to protect us.  Abusers find refuge in our silence because they know they won’t be held accountable for their actions.  Victims violated repeatedly by their abusers and by a community that doesn’t value or protect them.   Young black girls and Black Women are forced then to become their own alchemists, searching for healing and understanding but lacking the tools to heal from an unimaginable trauma.  And you wonder why our smiles begin to fade and our exteriors harden…It’s our new armor because our world becomes different.  We’re trying to shield ourselves because we were left…unprotected. 

What happened to protecting our innocence?   

 

SHE SAID... "A Tale of Two Cities: Law and Order SVU" (PT.2)

By: Kawana Williams

Kawana Williams

Kawana Williams

In the African-American community, sexually-driven crimes committed against black women are considered especially commonplace. In said community, black men and women have somehow garnered the moral compass and legal savvy to comment on a woman’s individual sexuality and deem a possible sexual predator not-guilty based on their own personal theories. Here are my frustrations about it…..

(insert Law and Order sound effect here)

 At age 34 I can recall, very vaguely, my very first musical encounter with Robert “R.” Kelly. I was not able to piece it together until I was a teenager that the predominant vocalist on “Honey Love,” a song from the “Menace II Society” Original Soundtrack was, indeed, Kelly. Even at a young age, I knew from hearing his vocal abilities that this man has a gift. A gift that not all are blessed with; the ones who are do not always reach the stature of God-dom that Kelly has in his 25+ year career as “King of R&B.” As a fan, I could use this entire blog entry speaking to his gifts as an artist alone. As a classically trained vocalist, I could talk for hours on Kelly’s vocal abilities and how, for a time before my training at both Illinois State University and Fisk University, I would train myself by mimicking the rifts and ad libs within his (and other’s) songs. As a teenager who tried my very best to perfect the forever-fleeky silk wrap and tomboy style of Aaliyah, discovered by and allegedly married to Kelly at the earliest point of her career, I admired how Kelly could give me and other rough girls a reason to be okay with it. His writing skills on her album and leading singles “Back and Forth” and the more infamous “Age Ain’t Nuthin’ But A Number” aided in boosting my admiration for him as an artist. All songs touched by R. Kelly, whether performed or written/composed by him, are nothing short of perfection. And if you need a soundtrack for love-making, one-night standing, Netflix-and-chilling, honeymooning, and/or for sport sexing, any one of his albums in its entirety would serve as such, and understandably so.

R. Kelly has never been shy about his sexual prowess: most of his albums have been named after his very imaginative sex life (3 versions of 12 play, Chocolate Factory, a self-titled album, Black Panties, The Buffet, and several others). What he has always been somewhat elusive to, however, is the age of the “women” in which he is sexually attracted to. The allegations of his being married to Aaliyah flew around both the music industry and among the conversations of John Q. Public. However even with a marriage license between the two of them being released to the public, no one bothered to question his sexual motives around teenaged females….at least, not aloud. Then there are the confirmed rumors of his using the grounds of Kenwood Academy (located in the Hyde Park area of the South Side of Chicago) as his hunting grounds as far back as his days as a member of the R&B quartet, Public Announcement. If you are a native Chicagoan, there is a strong chance that you have either bore witness to, or heard of, an incident where Kelly would use whatever juju he uses to be “chosen” by his unusually young prey. And somehow or another, even with these rumors and eyes swirling around, not once did John Q. Public speak publicly about this issue. And, as per usual, because nothing was brought to the forefront, Kelly continued to hunt for more prey on, or around, that high school campus (and several others) for the better part of two decades. Then, of course there’s the most infamous sex tape that Kelly filmed of himself and an [at the time] underage female, released to the public circa 2001. Even with a visual of Kelly urinating on a young lady who could have easily been the daughter of the viewer, John Q. Public chose to hang onto the legal acquittal of his actions in 2008 than to maintain focus on the moral misdeeds of the “King” or the well-being of the young lady being filmed.

 Within the last 48 hours, allegations of Kelly having a sex cult of sorts have surfaced and, as usual, the opinions about it and the circumstances surrounding it are polarized among African-Americans: either legal action should be taken, or he should be left alone as the women there are so of their own volition. For me, both of these issues are moot in comparison with the pattern of behavior that has clearly been established here. And with the demographic of his lovers both past and present being so young, one must ask themselves a few questions…..the primary one being this:

Why are we not as concerned about these young lady’s physical, sexual, spiritual, mental, and emotional health as we are worried about protecting our beloved Crooner of Crotch Music?

I am going to directly address a few very ignorant and ill-informed comments I have seen on social media as of late. And since the primary defense seems to be that of a legal aspect from a present vantage point, I will attempt to debunk said defense with a breakdown of the aforementioned comments:

Well, those girls knew what they were doing, and they’re with him of their own free will. Why don’t we just leave R. Kelly alone?

The answer is simple and can be answered in two simple words: SEXUAL EXPLOITATION. Typically, when either a male or a female are engaging in sexual acts (either legally with an older person, or illegally via the sex industry), they do not come into the acts when they were of legal age to speak for themselves. It is not atypical for sexual predators to begin primping and priming their prey while they are still minors under the eyes of the law. This is done so that once their prey is of age, any legal stance against them no longer applies. Always remember this: predators are perverted, not stupid.  And let us not forget the most primary point of this response: R. KELLY ALSO KNEW WHAT HE WAS DOING!!!!!!!!!!.......’nuff said.

Well, he WAS acquitted and these ARE allegations against him. Why don’t we just leave R. Kelly alone?

I will say this in order to put this into perspective for the masses:  George Zimmerman (killer of Trayvon Martin), Jeronimo Yanez (killer of Philando Castile), The Rodney King 4 (beaters of Rodney King), and Byron DeLa Beckwith (who, in a second trial decades later, was charged with first degree murder of Civil Rights leader Medgar Evers) were all acquitted of their crimes………let this sink in as we let the R. Kelly acquittal defense sink into oblivion where it belongs. An acquittal means that the defendant had a really good lawyer. Simple. And allegations or not, there are very few times where certain allegations against someone are too consistent and long-standing not to hold some weight.  I am currently 34; these allegations have been floating around about Kelly since before I moved to Chicago at age 9……feel free to do the math.

……..BUT HUGH HEFNER DID IT!!!!!!!!!!! WHY DON’T WE JUST LEAVE R. KELLY ALONE??????

What Hefner is doing and has always done has always been legal in every aspect of the law. As a Playboy Bunny or as one of Hef’s main girlfriends (typically 3 at a time, with one being the primary girlfriend), these facts cannot be denied: each woman employed, or fucked, by Hefner are not only of legal age (as you must be between the ages of 18 and 25 to be a Playboy Bunny), but are actually, and legitimately, earning a paycheck for whatever services that they provide. There is no primping…..there is no priming…..and it is more common than not that the women employed as Bunnies are doing so due to their own conscious choices. And the most important factor of them all: Hugh Hefner is white. Period. Point blank. Bottom line. End of Story. No equivocations. At all. Ever. Anywhere. And at last check, we as a people are striving to live our lives according to our own standards; that is not possible while we are using a white man-led, patriarchal bred society as the measuring stick in order to do so.

Now, morally, I am having trouble with how both men and women are more concerned with wrapping their loving and protective arms around this adult male rather than feeling the need to try and give a damn about the welfare of Kelly’s stable (regardless of their current age). When did we start caring more for men than we did for women? When do we start addressing the deep-seeded sexual trauma within our own communities that are addressed in the same manner in which we are, as a collective, addressing this issue with Kelly? When will it be okay to hold to task those who are bringing harm to our black women and children without using their “blackness” as just cause for us as a collective to continue to support them? When will we stop comparing our fuck-ups to the fuck-ups of another race when it comes to our sexual exploits?

Most importantly: when are we going to address the fact that Kelly himself was molested as a child (having lost his virginity at age 10-11 to a neighborhood women over the age of 18), which typically establishes a precedence for a sexual deviant or predator to become, and remain, such………….but can men even BE molested……………….?

This is another Tale of Two Cities: one being filled with the hangers-on of the Pied Piper as he consistently, and unabashedly, continues to lure their own children to his home and, eventually, his bed. And the other being filled with people looking for their “lost” daughters….wondering if anyone else will give as much of a damn about them as they do.

I am disheartened living in the latter city…….and have been for a while……..