Is ‘Surviving R. Kelly: The Impact’ Triggering Enough Change?

On Saturday evening, Lifetime aired another installment of its game-changing exposé series on the singer R

Photo: Instagram/survivingrkelly, LifetimeTV

Photo: Instagram/survivingrkelly, LifetimeTV

On Saturday evening, Lifetime aired another installment of its game-changing exposé series on the singer R.Kelly and the allegations of sexual violence against him. Surviving R. Kelly: The Impact, hosted by award-winning journalist Soledad O’Brien reviewed the immediate outcomes of the three-part, six-hour documentary series —  including Kelly’s arrest, police investigations, and an interview with Gayle King.

The episode highlights several critical reactions to the documentary, including that of Kim Foxx, the State Attorney in Cook County, Chicago. A black woman survivor of sexual assault, Foxx took seriously the allegations of the victims in the series and launched into an investigation against Kelly.

“Please come forward,” Foxx sternly urges other witnesses and victims of Kelly in a press conference shown in The Impact.

It was not long before attorney Gloria Allred stepped up with two new women accusing R. Kelly of sexual misconduct, including two women who said they were taken advantage of at ages 15 and 16-years-old by Kelly.

The shocking press conference was then followed by the revelation of Michael Avenatti about the existence of another videotape in which R. Kelly is engaging in sexual acts with a 14-year-old girl. The Impact highlights how the initial documentary series alluded to the existence of many tapes featuring R. Kelly’s sexual behaviors. Fortunately, he was charged by Foxx with a felony charge shortly after the new videotape was revealed.

Still, despite the “aftermath” of the series,  new allegations coming out and Kelly being charged and jailed twice (for the allegations and for unpaid support) — so much of what has happened feels disappointing in comparison to the raw emotions many felt after watching the series.

The Impact briefly showcased a clip of a juror from the previous R. Kelly trial who admits that he “voted against” the women accusing him because he did not like them. The show goes on to detail how many women’s cases are ultimately lost because of implicit bias like this — especially when it is Black women coming forward.

It goes further in pointing out that women who have come forward against a high-profile and wealthy defendant, can be precarious. High profile defendants usually have the resources to research and then personally “eviscerate” the victim’s character, according to Danny Cevallos, an NBC News legal analyst.

The documentary endlessly showcased Kelly’s lawyer refuting any and everything the victims had to say about Kelly and his behaviors, while also highlighting all the other ways victims can be discredited.

O’Brien herself closes the documentary by listing the many unanswered questions in this case, and it leaves viewers wondering, is this it? After the shocking allegations and all the painful memories victims have had to recall, somehow the impact feels slow-moving and cumulative at best.

While culture tends to move along quickly from the top stories of the day, bustling from one celebrity scandal to the next, this is one that should not be forgotten.

“He can still release music on his own, he can still perform club dates,” said Dan Rys of Billboard.

We found hope in all the survivors who spoke out and overcame their own pain to share this necessary story. We can only now offer them that same hope by continuing to fight for his arrest.

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#MeToo Me Too R. Kelly Sexual Abuse Sexual assault
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