Justice for R. Kelly as alleged victims heard
This editorial appeared in the Chicago Tribune.
Chicago R&B superstar R. Kelly was indicted Friday on sexual abuse charges, finally bringing into the courts a growing set of accusations that portray him as a predator.
It is a long-awaited step that nonetheless came fairly quickly after this winter’s Lifetime documentary “Surviving R. Kelly” turned up the heat, exposing alarming allegations against the performer to a wide new audience.
Kelly is charged with 10 counts of aggravated criminal sexual abuse for alleged misconduct against four victims, three of whom were under age 17 at the time, between 1998 and 2010.
Disturbing news coverage of Kelly dates back more than two decades. He was acquitted of child pornography charges in 2008, but until now had not faced any other sex-crime related charges. Allegations swirled, but he played on. The Grammy Award-winning Kelly, whose “I Believe I Can Fly” won him mainstream popularity, has sold 32 million albums.
This winter, though, demands for justice thrummed. “Surviving R. Kelly” portrayed him as operating a sex cult involving girls who were kept isolated from family. #MeToo provided a social movement in which women could speak up and feel supported. Cook County State’s Attorney Kim Foxx invited potential victims to come forward, and her office says it was inundated with tips. High-profile attorney Michael Avenatti provided her office with what he says is a tape of Kelly having sex with a then-14-year-old girl.
There was more to this winter’s crescendo. A #MuteRKelly movement began, and his label, RCA Records, dropped the singer last month. A range of artists renounced him. Jim DeRogatis, the Chicago music journalist who has pursued the Kelly story for two decades, drew national attention for his persistence.
The court system will determine if Kelly is guilty of any crimes. But his arrest means that long-standing allegations against him will receive the legal attention they deserve. We hope the accusers can finally tell their stories, and that justice will be served.