R. Kelly Is Accused Of Holding Young Women In A Sex 'Cult,' Report Says
By Rachel Cromidas in Arts & Entertainment on Jul 17, 2017 3:33PM
CHICAGO, IL - MAY 07: R. Kelly performs during The Buffet Tour at Allstate Arena on May 7, 2016 in Chicago, Illinois. (Photo by Daniel Boczarski/Getty Images)
R&B musician and Chicago-native R. Kelly is facing new, disturbing accusations of sexual abuse of young women, according to an in-depth report from Buzzfeed News that says he has been entrapping women with aspiring music careers in a cult-like home in Atlanta.
The story, which includes audio recordings of R. Kelly (whose legal name is Robert Sylvester Kelly) reportedly talking to one of the young women, comes from Chicagoan Jim DeRogatis, the veteran journalist credited with bringing to light original stories of R. Kelly's alleged abuse of minors. Nearly a decade ago, DeRogatis was sent a videotape of the singer which helped lead to child porn charges against the singer, who was ultimately found not guilty.
Parents of young women who were invited to live in R. Kelly's Atlanta "guest house" while working on their music say Kelly is running a "cult" more so than mentoring aspiring artists; they accuse him of physically abusing their daughters, requiring them to have sex with him, and restricting their abilities to communicate with their families and others in the outside world.
DeRogatis's report focuses on one 19-year-old woman in particular who met R. Kelly backstage at a concert two years ago while accompanied by her mother, who goes by J. in the article. J. told DeRogatis that she knew of the sexual misconduct allegations against R. Kelly, but figured her daughter would be safe as long as she was around. Her daughter now lives with R. Kelly in his Atlanta home, and J. is struggling to get her daughter to come home based on strong suspicions that her daughter is being abused.
DeRogatis says the accounts of three women who used to be part of R. Kelly's "inner circle" back up the mother's story, saying R. Kelly has put up six women in suburban Chicago and Atlanta homes, where he controls "every aspect of their lives":
Three former members of Kelly’s inner circle — Cheryl Mack, Kitti Jones, and Asante McGee — provided details supporting the parents’ worst fears. They said six women live in properties rented by Kelly in Chicago and the Atlanta suburbs, and he controls every aspect of their lives: dictating what they eat, how they dress, when they bathe, when they sleep, and how they engage in sexual encounters that he records.
The last time J. saw her daughter was Dec. 1, 2016.
“It was as if she was brainwashed. [She] looked like a prisoner — it was horrible,” she said. “I hugged her and hugged her. But she just kept saying she’s in love and [Kelly] is the one who cares for her. I don’t know what to do. I hope that if I get her back, I can get her treatment for victims of cults. They can reprogram her. But I wish I could have stopped it from happening.”
Jones and McGee told DeRogatis that they both had lived with R. Kelly, and had sexual relationships with him, during which time R. Kelly allegedly restricted their use of phones and social media, controlled where they went, when they ate and how they dressed, and required them to call him "Daddy." They say that several other women involved in the story began living with R. Kelly at 18 or 19, and they were "trained" by a 31-year-old "den mother" at R. Kelly's homes in how to sexually please him. That woman is reportedly the best friend of the girl who appears in the original videotape R. Kelly was tried over.
The women also claim that R. Kelly films his sexual encounters with the women in his circle. Mack and Jones also told DeRogatis that R. Kelly has been known to physically and verbally abuse the women.
Nonetheless, it appears R. Kelly's alleged behavior does not necessarily violate the law: police in Illinois and Georgia have performed welfare checks in the past year without incident, and in January one of the women told Cook County law enforcement that she was "fine and did not want to be bothered." The age of consent in Illinois is 17 and it is 16 in Georgia, meaning that all of the young women in Kelly's circle are legally allowed to have sex with the 50-year-old singer. Kelly has been the subject of "numerous" civil suits that led to cash settlements out of court, DeRogatis writes, including a recent settlement with a 17-year-old aspiring singer from Chicago.
The Buzzfeed report also includes two disturbing recordings of R. Kelly reportedly talking with J.'s daughter:
On the tape, it’s not just what Kelly said that shows his pattern of behavior with the women close to him. It's how he said it, which is immediately clear from listening to the audio.
“I miss my baby,” Kelly told the woman, before asking her what she was wearing. After she replied, he told her: “I want you to get in the habit of telling me what color panties you got on every day,” he instructed repeatedly, revealing in his own words the early stages of their power dynamic and the demands her parents say have become criminal. When she tried to turn the conversation to a song she was working on, however, Kelly seemed less engaged.
“Hello?” she asked him at one point, to make sure he was still listening. After a few minutes, Kelly changed the subject. “I’m more interested in developing you. Songs are not an issue. We can always do a hit song.”
The Buzzfeed stories is well worth reading in full; it contains the accounts of two other parents also trying to reach their daughter who also lives with R. Kelly. The final word goes to Linda Mensch, a Chicago civil attorney who represents R. Kelly. In an email she wrote that the accusations amount to defamation:
“We can only wonder why folks would persist in defaming a great artist who loves his fans, works 24/7, and takes care of all of the people in his life. He works hard to become the best person and artist he can be. It is interesting that stories and tales debunked many years ago turn up when his goal is to stop the violence; put down the guns; and embrace peace and love. I suppose that is the price of fame. Like all of us, Mr. Kelly deserves a personal life. Please respect that.”