Conviction of R. Kelly | Richmond Free Press


For years, if not decades, allegations circulated that R&B superstar R. Kelly was abusing young women and girls, with apparent impunity.

Most of them were young black women. And black girls.

And that, say the accusers and others who have called for him to be held accountable, is part of what took the criminal justice system so long to spin, ultimately leading to his conviction on Monday in his trial. for sex trafficking. What he did, they say, is also due to the efforts of black women, who don’t want to be forgotten.

Speaking out against sexual assault and violence takes a heavy toll on anyone who tries it. Those working in the field say the barriers faced by black women and girls are even higher by a society that hypersexualizes them from a young age, stereotyping them as promiscuous and judging their physique, and in a country with a story of racism and sexism that has long denied their autonomy over their own bodies.

“Black women have been in this country for a long time and (…) our bodies were never ours to begin with,” said Kalimah Johnson, executive director of the SASHA Center in Detroit, which provides services to survivors of sexual assault.

“No one allows us to be something worthy of protection, a human in need of love and sacredness,” Ms. Johnson said. It is as if “there is nothing sacred in the body of a black woman”.

A jury of seven men and five women found R. Kelly, 54, guilty of all nine counts, including racketeering, on their second day of deliberations. R. Kelly wore a face mask under black rimmed glasses, standing still with downcast eyes as the verdict was read in federal court in Brooklyn, NY

Prosecutors alleged that the entourage of managers and assistants who helped R. Kelly meet girls – and keep them obedient and silent – amounted to a criminal enterprise. Two people have been charged with R. Kelly in a separate federal case pending in Chicago.

He faces decades in prison for crimes including violating Mann’s Law, an anti-sex trafficking law that prohibits anyone from crossing state borders “for immoral purposes.” Judgment is scheduled for May 4.

One of R. Kelly’s attorneys, Deveraux Cannick, said he was disappointed and hoped to appeal.

“I think I am even more disappointed that the government brought the matter up in the first place, given all the inconsistencies,” Cannick said.

Several accusers testified in detail during the trial, alleging that R. Kelly subjected them to evil and sadistic whims when they were minors.

For years, the public and media seemed more amused than horrified by allegations of inappropriate relationships with minors, starting with her illegal marriage to R&B phenomenon Aaliyah in 1994 when she was just 15 years old.

His records and concert tickets continued to sell. Other artists continued to record his songs, even after he was arrested in 2002 and charged with making a recording of himself sexually abusing and urinating on a 14-year-old girl.

Widespread public condemnation only came when a widely watched documentary series “Surviving R. Kelly” helped make his case a signifier of the #MeToo era and gave voice to accusers who wondered. if their stories were previously ignored because they were black. women.

“To the victims in this case, your voices have been heard and justice has finally been served,” acting US lawyer Jacquelyn Kasulis said on Monday.

At trial, several of R. Kelly’s accusers testified without using their real names to protect their privacy. Jurors were shown homemade videos of R. Kelly engaging in sex acts that prosecutors said were not consensual.

The defense called the accusers “groupies” and “stalkers”.

Mr. Cannick, R. Kelly’s lawyer, asked why women stayed with him if they thought they were being exploited.

“You made a choice,” Mr. Cannick told a woman who testified, adding, “You participated of your own accord.”

In a 2017 study by the Georgetown Law Center on Poverty and Inequality, adults were asked about their perceptions of black girls compared to white girls of the same age in terms of their education and protection needs, as well as their knowledge of adult subjects. like sex.

At all ages, black girls were seen as more mature than white girls, needing less protection and more knowledge about sex. The gap was largest between blacks and whites for girls aged 10 to 14, followed by girls aged 5 to 9.

“We don’t like black girls, and they are dehumanized, and they are also blamed for the sexual violence they have suffered to a greater extent than white girls,” said Rebecca Epstein, executive director of the center and one of the leaders of the study. authors.

For years, girls suffering from R. Kelly’s hands were treated more like a punchline than a parody, even in a child pornography trial where a video, allegedly of him mistreating a girl, was broadcast. He was acquitted in 2008. Lisa Van Allen, who testified against R. Kelly in 2008, told ABC’s “Good Morning America” ​​in an interview aired Tuesday that she “almost cried” when she learned of Monday’s verdict. “You know, that’s what I was looking for in 2008,” Ms. Van Allen said. “So I would say the difference this time around is that there is the power of numbers. A lot of people have come forward. “

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