Mute R. Kelly, Unmute the Conversation: Honoring the Voices of Survivors

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Published: March 11, 2019

R. Kelly Survivors

Walk with me up the steps and into one of the largest buildings you have ever seen. Notice all of the different books that canvas the walls. The walls are high and hundreds of feet in length, almost endless. This place is a library. Not just any library, a very special library. Please keep in mind the main rule of this library: silence is golden.

Welcome to the Library of Sexual Violence.

To be a cardholder, you have to be committed to upholding the rules of sexual predators. This includes, but is not limited to: ignoring survivors, slut shamming victims, taking the side of the sexual predator, never reporting sexual violations, accepting misogyny, disregarding allegations, and refusing to dive into this difficult topic.

In this library, there are tons of stories from victims that we seldom open up to, hear or read. It’s where stories and experiences go to collect dust. With countless pages of victimization, there are so many stories we have lost track of. Many stories predate the digital age; they even predate the dewy decimal system.

No one checks anymore, we just make room for more stories to be shelved. On the other hand, we are in a unique moment in history to perhaps create some renovations to this library, change the rules, open some of these books, reevaluate these stories and perhaps heal some of the authors of these unfortunate experiences.

Thank you, R. Kelly, for being a catalyst to this conversation. I watched you in your interview with Gayle King. I watched as social media outlets made a mockery of your responses. If we can’t take your interview seriously, I guess I’m not surprised why we don’t take victims’ stories to heart.

I took the time to listen carefully as you explained how you had “beat your case.” Yet here we are, with you facing 10 counts of sexual abuse and us enjoying a Saturday Night Live skit of your unfortunate interview.

I know that people will deem you worthy of this negative attention. They’ll say that you deserve jail time, but they won’t be saying how we can learn from this experience.

While we’re laughing at you, we’re not hearing the stories and tears of the girls you have violated. We’re ignoring a music industry that fed you children; we’re overlooking your handlers; and we’re dismissing those who continued to purchase your music.

FREE RADIANT DIGITAL ISSUE NO 06_1

Not long from now, another assault story will probably be catalogued, thanks to the two young women you have seduced into defending you. This is how it works after all. We cultivate a society of defenders, and then we examine what happened 20 years later.

We must no longer imagine predators as unattractive strangers, desperate, angry [men] who are often from spaces of poverty without networks and education.

If we are lucky we will use your narrative as a road map to measure our challenges, missteps, and make corrections along the way. If it weren’t for the docu-series, Surviving R. Kelly, how many more victims might be swallowed up as just another rumor? While young girls and women may be safer from you, I know all too well someone else’s story will end up on these walls, in this library.

The Surviving R. Kelly series turned out to be a trigger point for so many to regurgitate their own suppressed stories; stories that had been forgotten about in the library. There are lessons, language, and legalities to be learned in this library. It’s all here.

What We Can Learn From All This

First, we must no longer imagine predators as unattractive strangers, desperate, angry [men] who are often from spaces of poverty without networks and education.

They are not demons or necessarily aggressive. At least that’s what we see on television and in the news outlets. The news would never profile celebrities, athletes, politicians, and millionaires as potential sexual predators. This is not who they tell us to look out for.

Perhaps this is why we find it so hard to believe that sexual predators are often privileged, people of means, attractive, charming, sexy, and educated. Someone who makes amazing music; someone we can relate to; someone we’re connected with; and sometimes even someone who’s female.

And we all know that in law, when juries see a developed black girl, they no longer identify her as a child. And sadly, black children do not have the same privileges or protections as their white counterpart.

Second, we should be informed that sexual predators are not created equal, nor do they have equal desires. So often I have heard R. Kelly being profiled as a pedophile, but this is not accurate. He should be classified as an ephebophile.

Pedophiles are never interested in developed young people. They have a distinctive interest in underdeveloped children or children who have not experienced puberty.  Why does this matter? Because sexual predators like R. Kelly understand the difference between violating a child and violating a young girl at the intersection of womanhood.

Legally there is an age of consent, with statutes that differ from state to state. And we all know that in law, when juries see a developed black girl, they no longer identify her as a child. And sadly, black children do not have the same privileges or protections as their white counterpart.

Since 60% of African American girls experience sexual assault by age 18, (according to Black Women’s Blueprint) and African-American boys are also vulnerable, we should be keen on the type of predators that aim to take advantage of our ignorance.

Last but not least, I cherish an opportunity like this to break down paraphilias with you, so we can enhance not only our language but also our awareness of adaptations of sexual predators.

Pedophile: adults usually attracted to a child prepubescent age.

Hebephile: adults attracted to a young person ages 11-14.

Ephebophile: adults attracted to a young person ages 15-19.

Pederasty: homosexual relationship between an adult male and a pubescent or post pubescent young person.

Yes, this library is not only full of stories but knowledge that we are often not privy to. We have so much to learn in these walls, of these stories and experiences. Let’s be mindful that the books and stories that exist in these walls deserve a space of recognition and understanding.

It’s time to talk and sing about our traumas. Let it all out, because predators depend on everyone’s silence as R. Kelly depended on ours. They rely also on the silence of our churches, our community, our loved ones, and the media.

RELATED: Breaking the Silence on Nigeria’s Rape Culture— Wana Udobang

This space should become an echo chamber where we receive the resounding voices of survivors past and present, and share our stories for strength, understanding and perseverance.

The current suffering will continue if we fail to take the time to safe house our own voices.  It’s time to talk and sing about our traumas. Let it all out, because predators depend on everyone’s silence as R. Kelly depended on ours. They rely also on the silence of our churches, our community, our loved ones, and the media.

Thank you for going on this journey with me. Your stories are welcome in this space, but more importantly your voice is required. There should be no more additions to these shelves.

Do not empower the predator with your silence, empower the resistance with your voice. Mute R. Kelly; unmute the conversation.

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About Frenchie Davis

Frenchie Davis is an authority on Human Sexuality with a focus on the African-American community. Frenchie combines her love and expertise of social services, education, and pop-culture to Entertain, Educate and Enhance the emotional and sexiological intelligence of her audiences.
Frenchie offers her audience a passport to understanding how sexuality impacts spirituality, sexual agency, sexuality development and diversity. Frenchie understands how imperative it is to dissect, evaluate and engender daily sex-positive interactions to create a sex-positive culture.
When you combine a Masters of Education in Human Sexuality with 15 years of facilitation and speaker experience you are not only informed, but also transformed. Frenchie works both nationally and internationally through workshops, lectures, blogging and TV appearances and shares her platform on her edge cutting sexuality talk show, “Libido Talk” on WBAI 99.5 FM of New York City.

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