Lifetime documentary sparks the conversation of sexual harassment


Surviving R. Kelly has become one of the highest-rated programs for Lifetime in two years, with almost 2 million people tuning in on its release date, January 3. Fair Use: Photo from Getty Images

The six-part Lifetime documentary Surviving R. Kelly aired earlier this month. The series ran for three nights and highlights the stories of multiple women who claim sexual abuse allegations against the renowned R&B singer.

“For the first time ever, survivors and people from R. Kelly’s inner circle are coming forward with new allegations about his sexual, mental, and physical abuse. They are now finally ready to share their full story and shed light on the secret life the public has never seen,” Lifetime’s says of the film.

However, Kelly is no stranger to these kinds of allegations. Kelly’s playboy history is filled with rumors of sexual misconduct, predatory behavior, and pedophilia.

In the aftermath of the documentary, prosecutors now call for potential victims to come forward. The Washington Post reports that Cook County District Attorney Kim Foxx is urging victims to cooperate and share their stories.

“We cannot seek justice without you,” Foxx said at a news conference.

According to The Washington Post, Foxx also has been contacted by relatives of people who are missing. Specifically, the Savage family claims that their daughter Joycelyn is being held against her will.

However, as seen through the documentary, the Savage family are not the only ones affected by Kelly. In July of 2018, Kelly released a song titled “I admit.” The Washington Post reports that “Kelly addresses several topics that have dogged him for years, including sexual misconduct allegations against him, his illegal marriage with a then-15-year-old Aaliyah, and parents who have accused Kelly of brainwashing their daughter.”

The question many people are now asking is that despite the decades of allegations and rumors, why has Kelly’s behavior come under harsh scrutiny only now? A Chicago Tribune article written by Steve Johnson, attributes this to the documentary.

“Part of why the charges against Kelly are gaining traction this time is. . .the power of the visual medium, of actually seeing women who say they were abused,” said Chicago Tribune.

Many accounts of women are revealed in the film, ranging from Kelly’s ex-wife Andrea Lee to Lizzette Martinez, who claims Kelly picked her up as a 17-year-old and took advantage of her. Another likely reason the allegations are being brought to light is the hashtag #MuteRKelly, which was sparked by Buzzfeed articles Jim DeRogatis, a Chicago music critic, wrote back in 2017 documenting developments in Kelly’s narrative and accusations that Kelly had kept young women under his control in what has been titled a “sex cult.”

The hashtag has tied into other movements such as the #MeToo movement and Black Lives Matter. This documentary was created to allow victims to share their stories. Tamra Simmons, one of the executive producers of the film, said that “the Surviving R. Kelly documentary is just like a megaphone in this social movement for women to be able to tell a story they previously thought the world wouldn’t care to hear.”

In the wake of the documentary, more victims are coming forward and more people are putting their support behind the women, including the band Phoenix and Lady Gaga. Celebrities like these have publicly announced their regret of ever working with Kelly. For example, Chance the Rapper told the Chicago Tribune that “making a song with R. Kelly was a mistake.” The New York Times reports also that RCA Records has dropped the singer.