Editorial: Sexual Violence in the Age of #MeToo

American R&B singer R. Kelly pleaded not guilty to 10 counts of aggravated criminal sex abuse in February and sat down to talk about the allegations against him in an explosive March 6 interview with CBS’s Gayle King

The 52-year-old singer faces sex abuse charges over misconduct with four women, three of whom were reportedly minors at the time. All of the Class 2 felony counts convey a maximum of seven years in prison. The singer was also recently the subject of a Lifetime documentary series, “Surviving R. Kelly,” which allowed Kelly’s victims to talk about what they endured in his hands.

Referenced in the documentary is the R&B star’s relationship with the “Princess of R&B.” In 1994, at  the age of 27, Kelly wed late singer Aaliyah who was only 15-years-old at the time. It was later revealed that Aaliyah falsified the information she provided and listed her age on the marriage certificate as 18. Yet it is doubtful that the R&B star didn’t know Aaliyah’s age, especially because other videos suggest he knew her age when he began producing music with her. R. Kelly’s potential wrongdoing with women comes as no surprise, as his escapades have been well-documented for years. It’s only now, in 2019, that we are finally taking notice and paying attention to the true cost of sexual violence.

Just over 10 years ago, a jury absolved R. Kelly of blame. It’s hard to imagine that happening today. During Kelly’s 2008 child pornography trial, which involved a 13-year-old girl, he pleaded not guilty.  The evidence against him was considerably strong and included eyewitness testimonies and video.

As in the Michael Jackson child molestation trial in 2005, the jury in the Kelly case seemed to be willing to look the other way when sexual violence is perpetrated by a famous and well-liked person.

While he still has people who defend him, Kelly has been criticized harshly in the media. His conduct during the interview with King seemed to solidify the notion that the singer does have something to hide and is outraged anyone would dare to question him. In the interview, the singer blamed social media for the accusations made by the women in the documentary, who, according to him, are “lying.” Kelly’s reactions are reminiscent of the outrage over late singer Michael Jackson, who, despite abundant evidence suggesting child abuse, seemed to walk away from it during a different era of understanding abuse.

The media and the #MeToo movement have created a platform for victims such as the women in the “Surviving R. Kelly” documentary to come forward with their past sexual abuse stories easily.

Today’s generation is forcing us to rethink issues. We’re forgiving, but we also hold people accountable, and we give praise to reporters like Gayle King who shine the light on truth and give a voice to abuse survivors.