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Jury hears how R Kelly cut victims off from their families in ongoing sex abuse trial

By | Published on Wednesday 25 August 2021

R Kelly

The jury in the ongoing R Kelly trial heard yesterday how the musician controlled his alleged victim’s relationships with their families – and also how he coached his then girlfriends in the wake of the ‘Surviving R Kelly’ documentary, so that they could defend him in the media. This insight came from the continuing testimony of one of the star’s accusers, referred to in the legal proceedings as Jane Doe #5.

The second alleged victim to speak at the New York trial, Jane Doe #5 told the court on Monday how she first met Kelly at a concert in Orlando, aged seventeen. Knowing that she was keen to pursue a career in music, Kelly invited the witness to an audition, where he immediately made sexual advances. The witness ultimately moved into the musician’s home, living a life under his strict rules for five years.

On both Monday, and during her continued testimony yesterday, the witness talked through many of the rules she and Kelly’s other girlfriends were forced to follow. Breaking the rules would lead to punishment, including spankings and beatings, and being forced to make humiliating videos.

On one occasion, the witness said, after admitting she had discussed intimiate details of her relationship with Kelly with some of his other girlfriends, she was forced to have sex with another man as punishment.

The witness also discussed how living under Kelly’s rule impacted on her relationship with her family. She told the court that, eventually, she was completely banned from talking to her parents about her well-being.

Kelly would often be present when she spoke to family members on the phone and would instruct her what she could write in text messages. He would also tell her and his other girlfriends that they were “worthless” to their parents.

This aspect of Jane Doe #5’s testimony is important because of one of the key arguments being presented by the defence, which is that Kelly’s girlfriends were always free to leave his properties and yet they chose to stay.

Defence lawyer Deveraux Cannick made that exact point when cross-examining Kelly’s accuser yesterday. The witness confirmed that, in theory, she could have left her life with Kelly at anytime and returned to her family home. But instead she continued to live at Kelly’s properties until he was in jail.

However, one expert speaking to CNN explained how abusers often seek to control every aspect of their victims’ lives – and cut off meaningful contact with other family members and friends – so that, although in theory a victim can escape the abuse, in reality that is hard to do.

Sarah Vinson, a forensic psychiatrist, told the news channel how it becomes challenging for victims of abuse to escape their abuser, or even acknowledge the abuse.

“It’s harder for her to see that when this man is making decisions on details of her life – details like what she can wear and when she can go to the bathroom”, the psychiatrist explained. “When you’re financially dependent on somebody – and when that person has systematically weakened all of your other relationships in your life and isolated you – it can be hard to recognise it and change your circumstance”.

Jane Doe #5 was still living with the musician at the time the ‘Surviving R Kelly’ documentary aired in January 2019. It was that programme, of course, that resulted in a number of formal investigations finally taking place into the rumours and allegations that had surrounded Kelly for decades.

The witness told the court how, in the run up to its broadcast, Kelly told her and his other girlfriends that the documentary contained false information.

His girlfriends were then trained how to “properly” answer any media questions that might be asked as a result of the programme. Jane Doe #5 was one of two women who defended Kelly when he was interviewed by CBS’s Gayle King as controversy built in the wake of ‘Surviving R Kelly’.

The trial continues.