The conviction of former R&B luminary R. Kelly marked the official collapse of him and his career. Being found guilty of racketeering and eight counts of transporting people across state lines for “any immoral purpose,” in addition to his former convictions from 2019, Mr. Kelly now has a lifelong VIP spot waiting for him in the big house. And by big house, I don’t mean a mansion.
This conviction, while rewarding for the victims, is not all that victorious. Deveraux Cannix, Kelly’s lawyer, implemented a questionable strategy in his attempt to defend his client.
While giving his testimony, Cannix described Kelly’s victims as “groupies who weren’t forced to partake in any sort of sexual activity,” and placed emphasis on the fact that a big star such as he “didn’t have to recruit women for sexual gain.” He then asserted that said victims consented to this behavior due to expensive perks provided by Kelly, such as dinner and free air travel, implying that these women are opportunists who essentially asked for what they went through.
This not only discredits all of the accusations and trauma undergone by these women, but is just another good old fashioned case of victim blaming.
Victim blaming, “when the victim of a crime or any wrongful act is held entirely or partially at fault for the harm that befell them,” has been utilized in rape culture against victims for decades in a distasteful attempt to absolve defendants of liability.
Victim blaming contributes to some of the worst prejudices and stereotypes of the female gender. To be told that it is your fault that you are the victim of a sex crime is absolutely unnacceptable and should cause a sense of fear in women everywhere.
Lawyers use language which places blame on the victims of a crime to lessen the perception of responsibility the defendant has in said crime. The utilization of victim blaming is no stranger to sexual assault cases. You can see similarities between the language used by lawyers in the act of discrediting victims in the Bill Cosby case as well.
Cannix’s tactic of portraying Kelly’s victims as mere mendicants who used the singer for his fame, money and connections completely exploits all that these women were forced to endure. Aside from the discreditation, tactics like this are the reason why women fear coming forward about their sexual assault and abuse stories. Hence why only three hundred out of every thousand sexual assaults are reported.
The R. Kelly trials had first really gained traction right around the same time as the #MeToo Movement in mid 2019. A unifying experience for sexual assault victims everywhere, this movement paved the way of the newfound opportunity for women to come forward about their experience with sexual harrassment and violence.
‘It’s important that women are supported to even feel like they have the strength to come forward and tell their stories. If they’re still victim shaming, victim blaming, and women being afraid to speak their truth, we can never get to a court system where justice can be served.’ Said Drea Kelly, Kelly’s former wife of thirteen years.
Being a woman, I really have a soft spot for the R. Kelly Story. I am no stranger to sexual harassment, so placing myself in the shoes of these women is somewhat easy. The fact that it’s easy is also terrifying.
To gain the courage to come forward about a traumatic experience and then have it completely invalidated publicly sends chills down my spine. It’s an obstruction of justice and entirely disrespects sexual assault victims everywhere.
I guess you could say that Cannix’s attempt to partake in victim blaming failed terribly. The jury’s support of the victims in this case illustrates a powerful picture of empowerment and justice, which was properly served.