R. Kelly Faces 10 Counts of Sexual Abuse

Singer-producer Robert Kelly spent the weekend in jail following charges of sexually abusing four women. R. Kelly turned himself into Chicago Police on February 22 and his bail was set at $1 million – $250,000 per alleged victim – though the singer was unable to post his $100,000 bond in the wake of mounting financial issues.

Kelly was indicted on 10 counts of aggravated criminal sexual abuse involving four alleged victims between 1998 and 2010. The indictment identifies Kelly’s victims as “three children older than 13 but younger than 17” and one adult, with whom the singer engaged in sexual acts using force or threat of force. Kelly could face three to seven years in prison for each count. Kelly, 52, has denied all allegations.

On February 14, attorney Michael Avenatti tweeted that he gave authorities another video tape that allegedly shows Kelly sexually assaulting a 14-year-old. Additional investigations are ongoing in Atlanta and New York, Vulture reported, noting that Kelly also faces charges of kidnapping and illegal transport of a minor, threats, and financial crimes (including $170,000 in unpaid child support).

This is not the first time Kelly has faced charges of sexual violence; the singer has been mired in controversy surrounding allegations of abuse and assault for over 20 years. In 2008, he stood trial for an abusive sex tape that allegedly depicted him assaulting and urinating on a teenage girl. Kelly was acquitted after the victim and her family refused to cooperate with authorities. In 1994 at age 27, Kelly secretly married 15-year-old singer Aaliyah and claimed he didn’t know she was underage. He wrote and produced Aaliyah’s debut record, "Age Ain't Nothing But a Number."

Yet Kelly has remained a beloved R&B icon and continues to perform – though the most recent accusations have put his European tour on ice, while Kelly has been removed from Spotify and dropped from record label RCA/Sony. “R. Kelly has a particular kind of love, which acts as a currency in the Black community. He is singularly, like, an R&B artist. He makes Black music for Black people,” Dream Hampton, producer of the Lifetime docu-series Surviving R. Kelly, said on NPR’s Fresh Air.

Hampton’s docu-series reignited interest in Kelly’s long history of abuse, and resulted in additional women making allegations of sexual assault. She believes that Kelly has been able to get away with decades of abuse because of the ways shame about assault and fear of police brutality are compounded to keep victims quiet. “We find that Black girls, more than women, we find that most sexual violence survivors aren't believed. And Black women are absolutely disbelieved, not just in the court system, sadly, but in our own communities,” Hampton told Fresh Air host Terry Gross. “Black people know what it is to be over-policed. And I don't know that we're going to find justice by turning to that system. This is also a system that doesn't treat sexual survivors or victims of gender and sexual violence fairly regardless of race. So those things combined create a not-guilty verdict for [R. Kelly].”

Hampton suggested that the deep well of love and support for R. Kelly within the Black community comes from “a knee-jerk reaction to protect Black men, always at the expense of Black women.”

“I hate that Black women are required to, like, pull out all of their receipts and their love for Black men just to advocate for Black women,” Hampton continued, adding that she has felt threatened and unsafe since Surviving premiered. “It should be enough to say that I love Black women who, turns out, are Black people.” Kelly pleaded not guilty on Monday, February 25, and will be arraigned on March 8.


About the Author

Jessica Lipsky is the content editor for The North Star. Her work as an editor and reporter has appeared in Newsweek, Salon, Vice, Billboard, Remezcla, Timeline and LA Weekly, among others. She regularly pens authoritative features on subculture, broke several music industry-focused #MeToo stories and also writes on the business of music.