'Surviving R. Kelly: The Impact' addresses victim backlash, sexual abuse trauma

Last Updated: Tue, May 14, 2019 23:30 hrs

[USA], May 5 (ANI): In the wake of Lifetime's documentary series titled 'Surviving R. Kelly', which chronicled the allegations of sexual misconduct against singer-songwriter R. Kelly, a follow-up special examines the reaction to the claims along with the reaction from the music industry at large.

'Surviving R. Kelly: The Impact' showcases journalists, activists, criminal justice attorneys and mental health professionals taking a look into the conversations about the abuse allegations that have surfaced since the show aired, reported The Hollywood Reporter.

It opens with host and broadcast journalist Soledad O'Brien, calling 'Surviving R. Kelly' the most talked-about documentary of the year. It was seen by nearly 26 million people. Stressing upon her place as a journalist and a woman, she noted the importance of telling this story.

Various brief clips from the prior documentary are featured, with one woman declaring, "The breaking point was when he slapped me and choked me until I blacked out." As the women speak about being humiliated and abused by Kelly, he is described as a "monster."

The 52-year-old singer, who was acquitted on child pornography charges in 2008, was indicted before a Cook County grand jury in February, this year and charged with 10 counts of aggravated criminal sex abuse involving four victims, three of which were reported to be minors.

Each charge carries a potential prison sentence of three to seven years, which is emphasised in the special follow-up of the prior documentary.

Kelly has constantly denied all the allegations against him and pleaded not guilty to charges that he sexually abused the victims dating back to 1998. Accusers have continued to speak out against him since the documentary debuted.

'Surviving R. Kelly: The Impact' examines how Kelly was viewed as a "hero" early on in his musical career. Journalist Shani Nixon describes him as a "phenomenon" and meant a great deal to many people in the Chicago community.

The special follow-up looks at how the allegations made against the singer Kelly "exploded" in the middle of the #MeToo and Time's Up movement, with O'Brien noting that "a fuse was lit" amongst those active on social media.

Hashtags emerged on social media suggesting Kelly should be "muted" from all major streaming services and protests occurred outside Sony Records where people demanded Kelly be dropped from his music deals.

O'Brien talks about how Spotify introduced a mute button where users could opt to remove an artist from their own personalised preferences, but also notes that according to Nielsen Music, Kelly's own streaming numbers nearly doubled after the original documentary aired.

When interviewed in the Lifetime special, 'Surviving R. Kelly' executive producer Tamra Simons said, "I personally think they spiked because people want to go back and hear the lyrics, some people didn't know who Kelly was, they had never heard his music."

The singer was dropped from Sony and its subsidiary RCA in mid-January, which the follow-up views as a necessary and natural step to the #MuteRKelly movement.

The special follow-up also showcases footage of Kelly's victims, one of whom claimed she was not allowed to use the bathroom when being held by Kelly. Kelly's attorney, Steve Greenberg, asked on Dateline on NBC, "Did any of these women ever complain about this at the time? The allegation is absurd, so you can't go to the bathroom? What do they do, pee on themselves? I mean, these people are no captive in a house, they go to concerts, they're backstage, they're not locked in a cage or kept in a dungeon."

Asked by Dateline's Andrea Canning if he believed that the women are lying, Greenberg said, "Yes, every one of them." He adds that they "participated in the documentary out of a desire for fame."

The follow-up also examines the way in which Cook County attorney Kim Foxx held a press conference three days after the airing of 'Surviving R. Kelly', encouraging victims to come forward. This move was heavily criticised by Greenberg.

Attorney Michael Avenatti submitted recovered video evidence in the case in February that allegedly showed Kelly engaging in sexual activity with underage girls, which furthered the investigation with Foxx's office.

The Impact also shows Kelly's former wife Andrea Lee, who has spoken publicly about the abuse and recruits clinical psychologist Candice Norcott to list some of the ways people stay in violent and abusive relationships for too long. She mentioned economic isolation and the many ways that it became too overwhelming and difficult to leave.

O'Brien concludes that 'Surviving R. Kelly' has initiated necessary national conversations about "recognizing and breaking free from abusive relationships" and has also raised awareness about sexual trauma.

The special follow-up premiered on Lifetime on May 4. (ANI)