What We've Learned From The "Surviving R. Kelly" Documentary That Exposes His Alleged Sexual Abuse
Surviving R. Kelly, a documentary series by American pay television channel Lifetime, details the R&B singer’s child abuse and pornography allegations. While nearly everyone has forgotten about the infamous “pee tape” in which the singer was seen in sexual relations with an underage girl, Kelly’s alleged secret marriage to the then 17-year-old Aaliyah when he was 27, and rumors of numerous cover-ups, the documentary invites viewers to take a closer look at what appears to be a systematic form of abuse that happened right under everyone’s noses.
The six-part docuseries include interviews of around fifty women who survived abuses, a number of the singer’s ex-girlfriends, an ex-wife, former backup singers, a former security personnel, a star witness, and a longtime personal assistant.
Also interviewed were journalists, law enforcement officials, and psychologists. All of these individuals paint a disturbing—if not damning—picture of a music icon who is beloved and admired by many to this day. More importantly, Surviving R. Kelly gives survivors a voice to share their stories, so they can reclaim and redirect their narratives while also helping those who have gone through similar devastating experiences.
The show is now part of the #MuteRKelly and #MeToo movements aiming to make the singer accountable for his many allleged inexcusable misdeeds. So what can we learn from all this and how can we help stop the abuse of vulnerable women and children? What can we do when faced with a situation that can be deemed sensitive?
Don’t dismiss abuse of any kind.
Don't look the other way when confronted by scenes of abuse. Don't wait until something happens to you or to someone close to you. Don't sweep the issue under the rug when it should be addressed by being reported to the authorities and calling out abusers.
Be trauma informed.
According to Psychology Today, a person who went through a traumatic event could process it in many different ways. A traumatic experience can also affect how this person functions at a physical, emotional, mental, and behavioral level. For example, others can act normal and not show any extreme emotion. This doesn’t mean the he or she isn’t suffering. When dealing with someone who endured abuse, don’t be judgmental. Don’t victim-blame. Show compassion by honoring the person’s privacy. Don’t pry unless the survivor opens up. Keep in mind that retelling harrowing events can be stressful and emotionally draining.
Remember, there’s always someone willing to help.
Many survivors of child abuse don’t speak up until much later because of fear and shame. They fear being harmed by their abusers and they're afraid of being judged by everyone, including their loved ones. Some also don’t say anything for a long time because they’re too young to recognize what abuse even is. In Surviving R. Kelly, many of the women interviewed didn’t speak up until after many years, when they realized that they have loved ones to protect from similar circumstances. If you encounter someone who may be in an abusive situation, remind him or her that there are always people who are willing to help.
Photos from @lifetimetv