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?