Social media and the #MeToo movement have empowered the women who have gone public with sexual abuse allegations against R&B superstar R. Kelly, says a lawyer for one of his accusers.
“Now victims can tell their story and no one can keep them off [the Internet],” said Gloria Allred, attorney for Faith Rogers, who has accused the singer of sexual battery, false imprisonment and “willfully, deliberately and maliciously” infecting her with an STD.
“Some of the men feel that’s unfair, but they can use the Internet to respond,” Allred said in an interview with The Crime Report.
Allred, one of the country’s leading women’s rights attorneys, said the growth of the #MeToo movement has helped remove the fear of women in many areas of American business, media and culture from challenging powerful men.
“The (movement) is a gate keeper for major mainstream broadcast media,” she said.
Allred said Rogers is hoping for her day in court to testify against the singer.
“I do believe that she wants an opportunity to testify, and she is cooperating with law enforcement,” she said.
However, Allred noted that victims who testify under oath open themselves up to rigorous examinations.
“It’s one thing to speak out publicly, but it’s another thing to testify under oath,” she told said.
“The typical person has never been on the witness stand testifying under oath. It’s not a normal conversation in a public court room. On a witness stand you take an oath to only answer the question. Just answer the question.”
“And another one. And follows ups.”
Kelly, one of the best-selling music artists in the U.S., has faced numerous charges of sexual abuse over his career. But the scandals surrounding him gained new impetus this year after the release of the Lifetime documentary “Surviving R Kelly,” a six-part docuseries that chronicled allegations of abuse, predatory behavior and pedophilia against the singer.
In one apparent response to the series, he was dropped this month by RCA Records.
Allred said it “appears” there will now be an open investigation by the New York Police Department (NYPD) into Rogers’ allegations.
Allred told The Crime Report that she and Rogers met last week with a detective and sergeant from the NYPD’s Special Victims Unit who seemed “professional and interested,” but have yet to confirm an investigation.
(Allred also represents several other alleged victims who have come forward.)
Kelly responded to Rogers’ May 2018 lawsuit by posting private photos of Rodgers without her consent on social media and sending a letter to Hills threatening to reveal his and Rogers’ personal correspondence and to provide witnesses to speak about Rodgers’ sexual activity, reported USA Today.
One threat was contained in a letter Kelly wrote to Lydia Hills, then an attorney for Rodgers, saying, “If she persists in court actions, she will be subject to public opinion during the discovery process. My law team is prepared to request a production of the medical test results proving the origin of her STD claim, as well as 10 male witnesses testifying under oath about her sex life (and) complete records of her texts and FaceTime exchanges.”
Kelly’s lawyer, Steven Greenberg, has threatened to file a defamation lawsuit against Lifetime, claiming the women in the film were defaming his client for personal gain.
The fallout from the show is continuing.
A few days after the documentary aired, the Fulton County (Georgia) District Attorney reached out to Gerald Griggs, an attorney for the family of Joycelyn Savage, another of the women featured in “Surviving R. Kelly,” raising the possibility that the singer may face a new criminal investigation in Georgia, according to news reports.
Activists who had been calling for Kelly’s dismissal cheered RCA’s decision to part ways with the singer, even while still criticizing the company for its slow reaction to the burgeoning claims of sexual assault and misconduct by one of its stars.
“After years of profiting from R. Kelly, despite their knowledge of his sexual abuse of black girls, Sony’s RCA is finally acting,” Arisha Hatch of the Color of Change, a civil rights advocacy group, said in a statement.
Time’s Up, an advocacy group focusing on sexual harassment, has called on streaming services like Spotify and Apple Music to remove his music. “All allies in the fight against sexual violence,” the group wrote on Twitter, “must take a stand on this toxic issue.”
However, others contend that RCA Records’ decision to drop Kelly was hardly a punishment.
“What may seem like a major blow to Kelly’s career, or at least a significant victory in the popular movement to diminish his influence, is actually neither,” wrote Amy Wang for Rolling Stone.
Though details of the split between Kelly and his label have not come to light, a record company letting go of an artist typically just means it won’t release music from them in the future — yet both parties will continue to profit off of all past music releases as long as those releases are in distribution, she said.
“Regardless of either major music company’s recent PR move, R. Kelly is likely making exactly as much money as he was before — if not a lot more.”
The sexual abuse allegations and law suits against Kelly date back as early as 1996.
The first accuser was a woman named Tiffany Hawkins, who filed a suit against Kelly, as well as his record, publishing and management companies, claiming personal injuries and emotional damage arising from an alleged sexual relationship with Kelly, which she says began when she was 15 and ended when she was 18.
In 2000, Jim Derogatis and Abdon M. Pallasch published their first report in the Chicago Sun-Times on allegations of Kelly having sexual relationships with girls as young as 15.
According to the story, Chicago police had twice investigated allegations that Kelly was having sex with an underage girl but dropped the investigations because the girl would not cooperate.
Then, in 2001, Derogatis anonymously received a video tape that appears to show Kelly having sex with an underage woman, he later reported in the Sun-Times. The paper was also criticized for giving the video to the police and for inaccuracies in the reporting.
The same year, Tracy Sampson, an aspiring rapper and former intern at Epic Records, filed a lawsuit against Kelly claiming that he initiated a sexual relationship with her when she was 17.
The case settled out of court for an undisclosed sum.
Megan Hadley is a senior staff writer for The Crime Report.