R. Kelly Is Allegedly Running An Abusive Cult, Because Powerful Abusers Can Get Away With Anything

by Hannah Rose

R&B singer R. Kelly is in the headlines for doing awful, creepy shit (again) after a Buzzfeed article hit the internet alleging that Kelly is running an abusive cult. These allegations are supported by claims from the parents of two different women, a 21-yr-old from Georgia and a 19-year-old from Florida, who are now living with Kelly. Three former members of Kelly’s inner circle – Cheryl Mack (previously his personal assistant) and Kitti Jones and Asante McGee (who both said they lived with Kelly and had sexual relationships with the star at different times over the past five years before leaving) supported the parents’ claims.

While the full names of the young women and their parents have been withheld for safety and privacy reasons, the parents tell similar stories. Their daughters met Kelly at a concert and afterwards were contacted by Kelly under the premise of him advancing their music careers. However, without the parents’ knowledge, their daughters continued their relationships with Kelly and became sexually involved with him. Soon enough, both of the girls were living with Kelly and ceased contact with their parents. Now, if girls of consenting age chose to ditch their lives and families to live with a superstar, they’re legally allowed to, even if it’s morally wrong on the superstar’s part. . . but, this is where the R. Kelly situation gets really fucked up. According to Mack, Jones, and McGee, there are six women living on R. Kelly’s properties in the Chicago and Atlanta suburbs, and they are routinely subjected to physical and emotional abuse – “he controls every aspect of their lives: dictating what they eat, how they dress, when they bathe, when they sleep, and how they engage in sexual encounters that he records.”

Kelly reportedly confiscates the women’s cell phones (they’re only allowed limited use on ones he provides), doesn’t let them leave their assigned rooms without permission (the properties are always guarded by a burly driver in a black SUV), and makes them dress in jogging suits that conceal their figures. They’re even made to turn and face the wall when other men are present. Jones claimed Kelly held her against a tree and slapped her because she had been too friendly with a male cashier at Subway. The Georgia woman’s college roommate remembers her telling a story where she laughed when a cab driver (sent to pick up some of the women and bring them to a club to meet Kelly) told a joke, was reported by one of the women in the cab to Kelly, and when she arrived he “bent her over and he whupped her behind because she laughed at the cab driver, who happened to be a man.” And in true creepy-as-fuck R. Kelly fashion, he films his sexual activities, McGee and Jones said, and shows the videos to men in his circle

Parents of both girls have made continuous efforts to involve law enforcement in their attempts to get their daughters back, but these attempts have been unsuccessful so far. The girls have denied mistreatment when police have attempted to investigate, which (given the context of Kelly’s history and the claims from former insiders) seems a likely product of fear for their safety or subscription to brainwashing tactics that blur the difference between love and abuse (a la Stockholm Syndrome). “I got trapped,” said former insider Jones. “I had people telling me I was an idiot. But it took me a long time to realize they were right, and I’m talking now because I hope I can help some of these other girls.” 

Kelly has a history riddled with allegations of sexual misconduct. When he was last tried in 2008 after a videotape surfaced of him allegedly having sex with his 14-year-old goddaughter, he was acquitted of 14 counts of making child pornography. (The same reporter that wrote the Buzzfeed article was also the one that turned the tape over to the police after receiving it anonymously.) The trial, however, only focused on the tape, and excluded claims made by other girls and their parents that Kelly abused his power to pursue illegal sexual relationships with underage girls. These claims have spurred a dozen or more civil lawsuits that were settled out of court with cash payments from Kelly, which were followed by nondisclosure agreements upon acceptance of the settlement. Also relevant is Kelly’s 1994 marriage to his then-15-year-old protege, Aaliyah, for whom he wrote the album Age Ain’t Nothing But a Number.

Yet despite all of this sexual predator bullshit, R. Kelly is still out in the world running a cult that’s abusive in all forms of the word and making plenty of money in the meantime. While he’s not in his “I Believe I Can Fly” and Trapped in the Closet prime, record companies, television shows, and other celebrities continue to work with Kelly. Lady Gaga, Justin Bieber, Rick Ross (who’s also had a sexual assault controversy), and Chance the Rapper have all featured R. Kelly on songs since 2013. As Buzzfeed reported, Lil Wayne, Ty Dolla Sign, and Juicy J were featured on Kelly’s 2015 album The Buffet, Kelly performed on The Tonight Show With Jimmy Fallon last December, and he recently starred in a digital campaign for Alexander Wang

The lack of consequences after decades of allegations against R. Kelly is yet another example of the seriously flawed treatment of those accused of sexual misconduct and their victims. One of the groups that Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos is meeting with to get advice on how college campuses should handle sexual assault is the National Coalition For Men, a group that BUST reported “has made headlines over the years for publishing photos, names, and bios of women who have accused men of rape; bringing lawsuits against networking groups for women; and for their president, Harry Crouch, saying of Ray Rice beating his girlfriend unconscious, ‘if she hadn’t aggravated him, she wouldn’t have been hit.’” And DeVos’s top civil rights official at the Department of Education, Candice Jackson, recently said that 90% of women who make rape accusations are lying about them, despite statistics that say otherwise. Serial rapist Bill Cosby, who’s accusations date back to the ’60s, just got handed a mistrial for drugging and sexually assaulting Andrea Constand, which one juror blamed on her crop top.

The accused get off the hook legally, silencing the voices of the victims. And the industry either denies or ignores the allegations and continues to work with these men, proving that you can get away with just about anything if you have enough power and money. In fact, you can even become president

Photo: Screenshot of R. Kelly from “Ignition (Remix)” music video.  

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Founded in 1993, BUST is the inclusive feminist lifestyle trailblazer offering a unique mix of humor, female-focused entertainment, uncensored personal stories, and candid reporting that tells the truth about women’s lives.

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