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New US documentary puts R Kelly abuse accusations back in the spotlight

By | Published on Tuesday 8 January 2019

R Kelly

There has been renewed scrutiny of the various abuse accusations made against R Kelly following the screening last week by US TV network Lifetime of a six part documentary series called ‘Surviving R Kelly’. The show focussed on claims made against the musician by a number of women, including allegations of mental and physical abuse and sex with underage girls.

Although he has made no official comment on the show, a source who spoke to an ongoing supporter of the controversial singer told TMZ that Kelly was “disgusted” by the programme and plans “to sue everybody who had anything to do with [it]”.

Many of the accusations made in the show were not new, although this is the lengthiest TV investigation into them so far, and the first made for US TV. The programme already made headlines last month before being aired, when a preview screening attended by many of the women involved was evacuated due to a gun threat.

As well as women who say they were directly abused by Kelly, the family of a woman said to currently be held in his alleged ‘sex cult’ – Joycelyn Savage – also contributed.

Shortly before the airing of the first episode, The Blast reports that her father, Timothy Savage, called police to report that he and his family were being threatened by Kelly’s manager, Don Russell. According to the police report, Russell told Savage in a text message that “it would be best for him and his family if the documentary does not air”.

Other contributors to the series included Kelly’s younger brother and a former tour manager, while the documentary was also notable for having celebrities speak out against the musician.

Chance The Rapper and John Legend both appeared in order to denounce Kelly. In an extended version of his interview, published by Rolling Stone, Chance expressed regret at working with Kelly in 2014 and 2015, saying: “I made a mistake and I’m happy that those women are getting voices now and I can grow to understand better what my positioning should be or should’ve been when that opportunity came”.

Legend responded to praise for his involvement in the show on Twitter, saying: “To everyone telling me how courageous I am for appearing in the doc, it didn’t feel risky at all. I believe these women and don’t give a fuck about protecting a serial child rapist. Easy decision”.

Yesterday, Facebook deleted a page set up to discredit the women who have made accusations against Kelly. In the few hours it was online, a number of posts were uploaded to the page, including alleged text message conversations between the musician and one of his accusers. In a statement, Facebook said: “The page violated our community standards and has been removed. We do not tolerate bullying or sharing other’s private contact information and take action on content that violates our policies as soon as we’re aware”.

As well as renewed interest in the allegations against Kelly, the broadcast of the documentary has also reportedly resulted in increased streams and sales of his music. A rep for Spotify apparently told The Blast that plays of his tracks increased by 16% after the first episode of the show was broadcast. Kelly, of course, was the key artist targeted by Spotify’s subsequently dropped ‘hateful conduct’ policy last year.

As yet, no new criminal charges have been brought against Kelly, and the one time he did go to court facing accusations of having sex with an underage girl he was acquitted. It remains to be seen if his reported plans to “sue everybody” come to anything.