Will the Justice System Finally #MuteRKelly?

R. Kelly was arrested in Chicago under a 13-count indictment on Thursday on new charges including child pornography, enticement of a minor and obstruction of justice. Today, prosecutors in Brooklyn also charged the performer with a five count indictment accusing him of leading an organization that engaged in the kidnapping, exploitation and trafficking of women and girls from 1999 to 2018.

“R. Kelly’s Enterprise was not only engaged in music,” Homeland Security Special Agent-in-Charge Angel Melendez said in a statement on CNN. “Fr two decades, the enterprise, at the direction of R. Kelly, preyed upon young women and teenagers whose dreams of meeting a superstar soon turned into a nightmare of rape, child pornography and forced labor.”

The latest string of indictments against Kelly allege that he recorded videos of himself having sex with minors, paid minors and their families to lie to investigators about his crimes and transmitted a sexually transmitted disease to a woman without her knowledge. But as shocking as the latest charges are, they’re also not necessarily news.

Kelly has been racking up charges since February for sex crimes dating back to 1968, and his long history of using his power to manipulate and harm young women has been out in the open for decades—yet he has also evaded accountability. In 2008, 14 counts of sexual abuse were dropped against Kelly after prosecutors failed to convince a jury he was the man in one “sex tape” depicting him with a minor.

Both Kelly and his legal team have continued to argue his absolute innocence, pinning him as the victim. “I need somebody to help me not have a big heart,” Kelly yelled at Gayle King in a now-notorious CBS interview, “because my heart is so big, people betray me and I keep forgiving them.” Kelly went on to claim that having a heart that is too big is his only crime. He also went on to physically storm the space on camera.

But after years of the public dismissing his dangerous behavior, the past months have given survivors of R. Kelly’s “enterprise” a voice.

The parents of girls once ensnared in Kelly’s trafficking operation and survivors of his teen “sex cult” have begun speaking out. The groundbreaking documentary series “Surviving R. Kelly” also initiated a shift in Kelly’s public standing that was long overdue; in the months since its release, other public figures have distanced themselves from him and spoken out against him. The #MeToo movement has also added to the momentum of the movement to #MuteRKelly, causing a fundamental shift in the way survivors of sexual violence are treated and perceived across society.

Now it’s time to see if the legal system is finally ready to catch up.

About

Greta Baxter is currently working as a summer editorial intern at Ms. Magazine. While majoring in Political Science and Law at Sciences Po Paris she was the anglophone culture section editor of her schools newspaper, The Sundial Press, and the head of editing and visuals of HeforShe Sciences Po. As a passionate intersectional feminist, she is especially interested in the relationship between gender and health as well as how gender bias and discrimination is embedded in political and legal systems. When she is not talking about gender and looking at what steps forward and backward are being made around the world, she is probably arguing about why sweet breakfast foods are superior to savory breakfast foods. You can follow her on Twitter!