#minorsextrafficking | Black Voices: We need to hold abusers accountable within the community

R&B singer R. Kelly was found guilty of all charges, including sexual exploitation of a child, sex trafficking, bribery and racketeering, on Sept. 22, according to NPR. Most of his victims were Black women and children. 

Misogynoir, a term coined as the intersection of racism and sexism towards Black women within the justice system and entertainment industry allowed Kelly to get away with 25 years of abuse against Black women and children. 

The first publicized accusation of Kelly’s abuse started with rumors of an inappropriate relationship between him and teenage R&B singer Aaliyah in 1994. Kelly emerged into the singer’s life as a “mentor” and the producer on Aaliyah’s first studio album “Age Ain’t Nothing But a Number.” 

As their relationship began to be publicized, it became clear that Kelly preyed on Aaliyah. Then-27-year-old Kelly illegally married Aaliyah in 1994 when she was 15 years old. While Kelly denied their marriage, USA Today reported records corroborated its existence. 

Kelly should have been held accountable for illegally marrying Aaliyah when this news was first publicized, but he wasn’t. He was allowed to continue his abuse against many Black girls and women for the next two decades.  

In 2002, Kelly was arrested for child pornography but was released on bail, going to trial six years later. He was acquitted after the jury deliberated for less than a full day, even with video proof. 

It wasn’t until the six-part Lifetime documentary “Surviving R.Kelly” that many saw the details of his crimes and showed just how much of a monster he was. This documentary essentially led to Kelly facing charges almost three decades later after his first publicized action of predatory behavior. 

The justice system consistently fails sexual assault and abuse victims due to misogyny. Going to the police can be antagonizing because, oftentimes, they don’t believe sexual assault victims. Sexual assault victims have filed lawsuits against the police because they neglect to investigate rape and sexual assault cases. 

These encounters with the justice system are worse for Black women because of misogynoir. 

According to the American Psychological Association, Black women and children are at a disproportionate risk of sexual violence. A study says one in four Black girls likely will be sexually abused before the age of 18 and one in five Black women are survivors of rape.

Racist stereotypes of Black women, such as being perceived as “aggressive” or “angry,” have caused their experiences as victims and survivors of domestic and sexual violence to often be disregarded, a United States Department of Justice study said. 

While people tried to shift the blame to the parents of Kelly’s victims, they weren’t the only ones who were aware of crimes. Why did no one within the entertainment industry confront Kelly about his crimes? It’s not likely that his peers were unaware of his crimes after everything that came to light. 

Kelly’s continued abuse of Black women and girls displayed the neglect the U.S justice system has when it comes to sexual assaulters and abusers. Not only did the justice system fail, but Kelly’s peers within the entertainment industry failed the Black women and girls he abused. 

It is important that people — specifically men within the Black community — hold abusers accountable no matter how important or influential they may seem to be. The influence they possess doesn’t negate the harm they’ve caused. 

Accountability doesn’t start with the government justice system. Accountability starts with community. It is the duty of the community to ensure that Black women and Black girls are protected.

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