The culture around the shame of the victims prevented women from reporting earlier the abuse they experienced at the hands of R Kellysaid the singer’s ex-wife, Drea Kelly.
A jury in New York on Monday found R Kelly guilty of being the ringleader of an organized crime and sex trafficking scheme that preyed on women and children.
Kelly, 54, was found guilty on all nine counts after decades of avoiding criminal liability for numerous misconduct allegations.
Drea Kelly, who was married to Kelly for 13 years until 2009, said it was “great that we stepped up,” but that the most important thing is what happens outside of the courtroom.
“[It’s important] that women are even supported to feel they have the strength to come forward and tell their stories, ”she told ITV’s Good Morning Britain on Tuesday. “If they are still victims who shame, blame the victims and women are afraid to speak their truth, we will never be able to reach a judicial system in which justice can be done.”
Drea Kelly, who has three children with the disgraced R&B star, has previously spoken of being emotionally and physically abused by him. “I’ve always said that if any of his victims were blonde and blue-eyed, it wouldn’t have taken that long,” he said. “Women of color tend to be the lowest on the totem pole when it comes to issues of domestic violence and sexual abuse.”
She referred to their marriage as “a life of constant fear … walking on eggshells … bullying, not knowing what version of him you’re going to have.”
The panel of seven men and five women began deliberating on the charges Friday afternoon after a six-week trial in Brooklyn that heard shocking testimony detailing Kelly’s abuse of women, girls and boys.
The allegations against Kelly drew attention in the 2019 Lifetime documentary Surviving R Kelly, which explored claims that an entourage of supporters protected Kelly and silenced her victims for decades. Witnesses at the trial said that Kelly had forced them to obey brutal and perverse whims when they were minors.
Jerhonda Pace, one of the top six accusers at the trial, was the first to testify about the relationship she had with Kelly when she was 16 years old. She said Kelly physically abused her multiple times for breaking his “rules,” even not recognizing him when he entered a room. “That’s when he slapped me and strangled me until I passed out,” Pace said. “When I woke up, I was on the floor.”
Gloria Allred, an attorney for some of Kelly’s victims, said of all the predators she had hunted, including Harvey Weinstein and Jeffrey Epstein, “Mr. Kelly is the worst.”
Kitti Jones, an ex-girlfriend of Kelly who split from him in 2013, said Tuesday that she was “disgusted” by the amount of evidence. “I kept my time with him and some of the abuse a secret from family and friends, so I was not aware of the long list of other people who had experienced similar things,” he told GMB. “Just hearing how it had evolved over time … hearing new stories … it really upset me.”
Jones encouraged women with similar experiences to speak up. “There is no expiration date by which a person must show up. All truths deserve a platform. Create your own if you don’t have one. If it takes you a year, a week, 10 years, as long as it’s your truth, no matter when you’re ready to tell it, tell it. “
Kelly’s conviction has been hailed as an “important moment for accountability” in New York Attorney General Letitia James’ #MeToo movement.
Oronike Odeleye, co-founder of the #MuteRKelly campaign, told the New York Times the verdict was the “culmination of the movement of so many women who have been trying for so long to be heard.”
Kelly, whose birth name is Robert Sylvester Kelly, faces up to 20 years in prison. Sentencing is scheduled for May 4.