SACRAMENTO — Will R. Kelly’s true legacy be his lyrics or his alleged lewd behavior?
Many say R. Kelly and his handlers have long used the success of one to conceal the other.
The Lifetime network’s docuseries “Surviving R. Kelly” features a string of women who say they were sexually abused and manipulated by the adult singer when they were just teens. Aspiring artists and backup dancers say at the time they believed Kelly could boost them to stardom.
Movie star Rosanna Arquette spoke out about what’s been revealed in the docuseries as she made a return trip to Sacramento to work with the Stronger California Advocates Network in backing increased protections for victims of sexual violence connected to their work.
Assembly Bill 9, just re-introduced after a 2018 veto by Gov. Jerry Brown, would give such victims three years instead of one year to report and seek justice after an incidence of workplace harassment.
Arquette, one of the first of more than 80 accusers of the now-indicted film producer Harvey Weinstein, said she knows how calling out an attacker can scar your psyche and damage your career.
“We were kind of on a blacklist and just suddenly just something happened,” she told FOX40.
Her California partners want those on the receiving end of abuse to be able to seek protection without more loss.
“That sexual harassment isn’t the price of a paycheck,” said Jessica Stender, senior counsel at Equal Rights Advocates. “That women can go to work without fear.”
For his part R. Kelly has denied knowing the women in Lifetime’s piece while the once hopeful starlets have detailed similar stories of being seduced into sex, separated from their families and sequestered near the singer in lockdown conditions. They claim they were forced to urinate in cups while waiting for permission to go to the bathroom.
One of the earliest such associations that first raised eyebrows about Kelly was his 1994 illegal marriage to the late singer Aaliyah when she was just 15 after meeting him at 12. The groom was 27.
In his own memoir, Kelly writes about being just 8 years old when he was invited to watch and then participate in and film sex acts with different adults who were in and out of his troubled home.
Now, using his position of authority, he’s accused of much of the same.
It’s taken decades and a mounting list of voices but now two states are investigating criminal charges against the current RCA Records recording artist based on the claims of even more women.
“I think they’re all waiting, all these men are going, ‘OK, when is this going away?'” Arquette said. “I’m here to tell you that it’s never going away. It’s going to continue until you change your behavior.”
The airing of “Surviving R. Kelly” is also triggering flashbacks for many who have survived sexual trauma.
At WEAVE, or Women Escaping a Violent Environment, advocates say during times like this they usually see an uptick in contacts on their website and online message boards.
Experts there also say the docuseries provides a chance to have age-appropriate discussions with the kids in your life about their personal power in sexual situations.
“This is another opportunity to talk about body autonomy and say who gets to hug you, who gets to have access to your body and having very open conversations about consent,” said Julie Bornhoeft, WEAVE’s chief strategy and sustainability officer.
If you need help talking about a new or past instance of sexual violence, you can call WEAVE’s 24-hour hotline at 916-920-2952.