I fear for black boys too after watching ‘Surviving R. Kelly’

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I fear for black boys too after watching 'Surviving R. Kelly' | Honeycomb Moms | Credit: Bailey Torres / Unsplash

When I watched the initial episodes of Lifetime’s “Surviving R. Kelly” docuseries, I felt what it seems like everyone else felt.

I was disgusted. The series, which puts into context decades of sexual crimes the famous singer/ songwriter is accused of, starts with Kelly’s brother admitting that family members molested him when he was only 6-years-old.

Kelly, similarly, said  he was 7-years-old when family members molested him.

They were children, no less innocent than my 1-year-old son, Donovan, sleeping in the very next room from me.

In fact, I initially missed part of Dr. Candice Norcott’s analysis because Donovan woke up crying and chewing his fingers the way he normally does when his gums are bothering him.

Digging deeper into ‘Surviving R. Kelly’

I got Donovan and brought him to my room then paused the docuseries. There’s no way I wanted him to even pick up on the tone of what I was watching.

I wanted to protect him, to soothe him and get him back to sleep safely in his crib, and that’s what I did.

I wondered if the boys I was learning more about on TV had someone to protect them. I wondered if they felt safe.

Norcott explained in the docuseries how molestation confuses sex and power for children. They grow up thinking they can only be victims of sexual abuse or perpetrators of it and that the latter is preferred.

By the time Kelly was in high school, even his music teacher described his language as aggressively sexual.

The later years in ‘Surviving R. Kelly’

And as he aged, the little boy in the beginning of the story faded more noticeably into the background. Kelly’s alleged victims became the focus.

Woman after woman described him as a sexual predator. Even the commercials that interrupted the series were about protecting women against sexual violence.

It was easy to forget about the 7-year-old boy molested at the start of the series, so in the moment, I did.

I focused on the women who spoke out about the abusive and controlling man Kelly allegedly became.

I felt writer Mikki Kendall’s words in the docuseries like a blow to the gut when she described why it was so easy to overlook so many stories of abuse.

“People will say, well why didn’t anyone know this,” she said. “The answer is that we all know this. No one cared because we were black girls.”

No one cares about black boys either

I could’ve stopped watching right then and there. She hit the nail on the head. I’ve made it my life’s mission to share the stories of black girls and women because of exactly the kind of neglect Kendall described.

But that neglect isn’t limited to black women. I can’t help but think about the other victim in the R. Kelly story, the one who was robbed of his innocence and was later accused of doing the same to others.

I think about that little boy at the beginning of the story, and it’s hard not to think about my little boy at the beginning of his story.

I can’t rest assured Donovan won’t have his innocence taken too soon. Far too often, the exact opposite happens to young boys.

Robbed of innocence

A friend on the playground shows them nude pics or so-called role models pressure them to feel sexual urges before even nearing puberty. There’s seldom any outrage over those losses because society deems them normal.

Even when black boys are molested, there is no place for them in American sympathies, no brotherhood, no movement.

The commercials flashing across the screen during the R. Kelly docuseries made no mention of male sexual assault victims, and those kinds of commercials seldom do.

For better or worse, the women are the focus. But the cycle of alleged abuse that hurt so many women in Lifetime’s story started with a little boy who was hurt.

What happens to my little boy if his innocence is taken too soon? Who roots for him? Who fights to save him? And who does he become?

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I fear for black boys too after watching 'Surviving R. Kelly' | Honeycomb Moms | Rape victims come in all shapes, sizes and genders. Read more about how to empathize with boys who are victims of sexual assault or rape.

16 thoughts on “I fear for black boys too after watching ‘Surviving R. Kelly’”

  1. Sadly so many people who were molested as a child they seem to not be right as an adult. They are always addicted to something or channel their pain in some type of way. I didn’t watch but this is a good topic

  2. wow, this is a really unique take on the story and a very astute point to bring to light. i can see why after reading what you have done in your career in your about me section how you are so thoughtful in your words. i can understand your fears for your precious baby. i worry about my girls so much, but as a person of color i know things are not the same for your family and you have different challenges i can’t imagine as a white woman from california. i promise to root for your son, and fight for him, and all babies and children.
    may you and yours be blessed!

  3. Great job summarizing the feature from an unpopular perspective! I haven’t watched the show and I don’t plan on it. However, it is so important to have these discussions as it relates to our young black men — especially since our boys are treated like men long before they even cross that developmental threshold. Thanks for sharing!

  4. I am so disappointed in the ladies who have been commenting on R. Kelly! I cant believe women are making excuses for him and his behavior. I have unfriended so many people over the last few days because I cant deal with this

  5. The story of R. Kelly life from victim to predator is one that the black community only talks about behind closed doors but it is highly prevalent in our community. Unfortunately, it’s in our churches, schools, homes etc. I can’t watch the series. It’s too disturbing for me.

  6. I have not watched Surving R. Kelly. When I became a mom I had hard rules for my son. I gave him power over his own body. I never made him hug people he didn’t want to hug.

  7. I am currently watchin the first episode and I feel the same. Boys are no more safe from sexual abuse than girls. I fear our assumption that they are is what makes them targets. I always watch my boys just as much as I watch my girls.

  8. Yeah thats the hidden secret in society, you hear lots of #MeToo from women but many men wont come out and admit their sexual abuse. I hate that R.Kelly got molested by men and women as a child but he didnt have to grow up and inflict pain on young girls. He needs mental help but most importantly he needs to pay for his crimes!

  9. I think you bought out a great point. I wrote a long FB post and I mentioned lots of things pertaining to the documentary. I said my heart went out to him. Many people could not agree with me, but I stand my ground when I say I feel sorry for the 7-14-year-old little boy that was raped and molested by his sister. Yes, he is currently wrong but we have to look at the why of situations to understand certain circumstances. I think it is important to watch boy boys and girls because it could be happening to anybody. Great post!

  10. So heartbreaking, there’s a reason I shy WAY AWAY from topics like this. I have never been an R. Kelly fan, and as much as his past does not excuse his behavior, it does add context. Boys or girls, parents have to be so protective of their children, who’s around them, family or not.

  11. I couldn’t watch it. I know that all monsters start somewhere. I read about his victims years ago, and I was never able to manage listening to his music again. I am very protective of my kids, but I can’t keep them in a bubble. Even though they are homeschooled, the things they hear and see from other kids has been… interesting. I often wonder what these other kids have been exposed to, why, and who they will grow up to be – or hurt.

  12. I couldn’t watch it. I’m sick to my stomach reading about it. I wonder too for boys. I’m s mother of a son. Transparency is important.

  13. This is so sad! I haven’t watched it yet, it’s really unfortunate what some children have to go through, when the innocence of a child is taken too early what becomes of him, this vice needs to stop.

  14. Watching this docu-series and reading the follow-up articles and things on social media, I am DRAINED. This man is despicable. I don’t understand how he isn’t in jail… under the jailhouse.

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