Reaghan Mulligan | Newsroom Manager
October 1, 2021
After a trial that lasted over one month, Jurors found popular R&B singer R. Kelly guilty on charges of both sex trafficking and racketeering—a type of organized crime in which an illegal arrangement is repeatedly utilized to collect a profit of sorts. With a past full of sexual assault allegations, the 54 year-old singer’s recent charges come as no surprise to the many women and men pushing for the ‘guilty’ verdict. Kelly’s sentencing will occur on May 4, and may result in imprisonment for at least multiple decades.
R. Kelly’s sexual and romantic interaction with minors explicitly began in 1994, when the then-27-year-old singer married 15-year-old Aaliyah Haughton. Decades later, Kelly has amassed a multitude of sexual assault allegations and countless legal actions taken against him for reasons involving sexual harassment and child pornography, amongst other chargers. In February of 2019, Kelly was charged with 10 counts of aggravated sexual abuse, and later that year in May, he was charged with 11 new counts of abuse.
“He [R. Kelly] used the power of his celebrity to recruit vulnerable underage girls for the purpose of sexually abusing them,” Attorney Gloria Allred, who represented three of R. Kelly’s victims, said. “These were crimes against children and some adults.”
In 2017, activists launched #MuteRKelly, attempting to silence the beat of sexual offenses and pushing for the boycott of his music; this resulted in music platforms discontinuing promotion of Kelly’s music and stars once close with the artist condemning his actions. This period of time coincided with the rise of the #MeToo Movement, fueled by extensive sexual assault allegations surrounding film producer Harvey Weinstein.
It goes without saying that his track is nowhere near clean, yet Kelly somehow escaped long term retribution all the while maintaining a steady following.
“R. Kelly thought that he could get away with all of this, but he didn’t,” Allred said. “Despite the fact that he thought he could control all this, he was wrong.”
The suspiciously large number of sexual assault allegations—and other sexually deviant crimes—adding up against powerful men in industries from politics to music to media, begs the question: Why do men in power get involved in actions like this, and why do they get away with it all too often?
“There’s definitely a trend of famous men and men in power taking advantage of younger women,” senior Magdalena Alexander said. “It is seen time and time again in Hollywood, so much to the point where it’s become a joke in TV shows and movies.”
Unlike the trial of R. Kelly—where the long list of victims may finally receive an overdue sense of justice—too many sexual perpetrators get away with their crimes, keeping a life of fame and following despite the twisted truth.
Once-adored men such as Harvey Weinstein, Bill Cosby, and James Franco faced multiple sexual assault allegations over the past decade, the former two facing jail time. Although Cosby’s sentence was cut short in 2021, Weinstein still sits behind bars, carrying charges of third-degree rape and first-degree sexual assault.
The film producer, comedian, and actor continue to carry a cult-following despite their convictions and accusations, emphasizing the way in which men who take advantage of their media presence continue to be given a platform that allows them to further their influence.
“I think what’s sickening is the fact that many of the famous men we see abusing and assaulting younger women are aware of it,” senior Emma Hettmann said. “They know that their status and image will give them the chance to successfully dismiss accusations and continue preying on the vulnerable.”
Although many of these perpetrators began their sexual crimes post-introduction to the limelight, their platform only strengthened the power they held over their victims. The idolization society imposes upon certain celebrities coupled with an absurd sense of immunity curated by fame only makes crimes like these so much more likely.
Not only do these popular influencers take full advantage of their power in order to pursue any and all women they desire—no matter the age—but their surplus of fans act as a blockade to criticism, preventing many victims from attaining justice and, more often than not, completely erasing allegations.
“The stinging feeling of betrayal that ensues is a lingering one,” Hettmann added. “I felt it once when hearing about SWMRS’ Joey Armstrong abusing a member of The Regrettes, and once again when hearing about GRLwood’s Rej Forester raping their bandmate. To this day, I can’t listen to either artist’s music without tasting the bitterness left by their actions. It really is heartbreaking.”
In this day and age, it feels casual to hear news about an actor or singer having inappropriate sexual relations with their younger fans or coworkers. The normalization of these actions, and the lack of reaction against the offenders ensures the facilitation of further offenses in popular industries.
Despite allegations, and in some cases jail time, following a surplus of famous men, many of them still retain their following to this day.
Allegations of serious crimes involving assault, rape, and other forms of sexual harassment should not be disregarded, no matter the influential status of the offender. Frequent fans must not allow the idealization of celebrities to fog the view of the truth, and society’s efforts to reprimand all perpetrators of sexual crimes no matter their platform must increase.