Several of the women who have accused R&B singer R. Kelly of sexual assault or physical abuse made a rare public appearance Friday, vowing that they “will not be silenced” and expressing gratitude that their participation in the Lifetime documentary series “Surviving R. Kelly” has shifted public opinion and catalyzed criminal charges against the singer after years of allegations.
Introducing themselves as “survivors,” Kitti Jones, Asante McGee and Lisa Van Allen received a standing ovation at Variety’s “Power of Women” event in New York.
“I’m going to continue this journey. I will not be silenced,” McGee said. “I’ve received a lot of negativity from coming forward, from telling my truth. Just knowing that there are so many women like the three of us up here, that share the same story, I’m going to continue this journey. My goal is to get one woman home, and one girl home, one day at a time.”
Van Allen, one of Kelly’s earliest accusers from more than 20 years ago, said: “It was me before Me Too.”
As depicted in the documentary, she testified against Kelly during a 2008 trial, when a Chicago jury acquitted him on child pornography charges involving an alleged tape of him sexually abusing a 14-year-old girl in the late 1990s. A then-17-year-old Van Allen allegedly also appeared in the tape.
“Rather than people believing me, they actually acted as if I was on trial,” Van Allen said Friday. “But that changed with ‘Surviving R. Kelly,’ and I’m very thankful for [the public] to be the most important jury of all.”
Jones described how she has been “victim-shamed,” but stressed that her and the other accusers’ accounts have been important in exposing the wide range of stories about abuse.
“There isn’t an age or gender or race — abuse has no limit. You’re not exempt from being abused or being a victim. It could happen to anyone,” she said. “It’s been very empowering and liberating for us to be heard and believed.”
The documentary series, which aired in January, helped bring renewed attention to the scores of allegations against Kelly, which include sexually assaulting girls as young as 14, holding girls and women against their will and running a so-called sex cult.
In February, officials in Chicago charged Kelly with 10 counts of aggravated criminal sexual abuse, after launching new investigations into the singer and urging women to come forward in response to the documentary.
Kelly and his attorney have repeatedly denied all of the allegations, including in an explosive interview with CBS host Gayle King last month.