“R. Kelly: The Sex, The Soul, The Sales- and the Scandalous Marriage to Teenage Superstar Aaliyah” is how Vibe Magazine first reported the illegal marriage between R. Kelly, 27 and Aalyiah, 15 in 1994. In the twenty- seven years between Kelly’s first reported crime and last week’s guilty verdict, his repeated acts of violence against women and girls went unpunished. As with Epstein and Weinstein, Kelly’s fame and wealth immunized him in part from criminalization or consequences. But, as Kimberlé Crenshaw wrote in the New York Times, “Mr. Kelly’s victims were hiding in plain sight throughout his long and destructive tour of abuse for the simple reason that people in the overlapping worlds of entertainment, law and media have been trained to see Black girls and women as dispensable.”
On September 27, 2021, R. Kelly was finally found guilty by a federal jury in the Eastern District of New York on eight counts of violating the Mann Act, a federal anti-sex trafficking law, and one count of racketeering. Prosecutors accused him of exploiting his fame over the course of more than 25 years to lure women and underage girls into sex acts with him and others.
Despite the verdict, the legal battles are not over for survivors of R Kelly. Kelly still faces criminal charges in the Northern District of Illinois, including child pornography and obstruction of justice. He also faces criminal charges for two counts of engaging in prostitution with a minor in Minnesota. He should instead be charged with trafficking because the victim was under 18 and the federal definition of trafficking encompasses all commercial sex acts with someone under the age of 18.
The CSE Institute supports and commends the victims that have come forward and testified at R. Kelly’s trial. This is a case that, as Crenshaw put it, “should prompt us to examine the deeper devaluation of Black women and girls that empowered him to prey on them at will. Without such a reckoning, the neglect and abuse that rendered his victims so vulnerable in the first place will only continue.” The reckoning is now. Black women and girls are not dispensable, and the CSE Institute will never stop calling for perpetrator accountability.