Now that I have your attention! I often wonder why we as humans are so open to talk about sex in such detail without realizing that what’s meant to be pleasure, can also cause pain. After watching and carefully analyzing Lifetime’s documentary Surviving R Kelly I instantly felt a sense of empathy for the women, as well as R Kelly. Now before you ask, “how can you feel sorry for him?” let me explain. In no way am I defending his actions, however, I am explaining the psychology of his behavior.
We can’t talk about R Kelly without addressing child sexual abuse, mental illness, sexual exploitation, and human trafficking. These are the multiple issues that our society face daily yet fail to address.
R Kelly’s actions was a result of his childhood trauma. As his innocence was taken away and not receiving counseling, in turn not only made him not trust others, but caused his reckless behavior toward women and girls. As an adult, it appeared as if he developed sadistic behavior – a psychological disorder that refers to causing pain, humiliation, fear, or some form of physical or mental harm to another person to achieve sexual gratification (DSM 5).
According to the CDC one in four girls and one in six boys has been sexually abused in the United States. We too often make the mistake of believing that girls are the only victims of sexual abuse, when in fact boys are victims as well. Although it’s more common for women and girls to speak out, boys and men are sometimes ashamed to admit it. What I’ve learned from being a Social Worker is, within the black community, therapy/counseling is taboo, therefore, “what happens in the family, stays in the family.” No one speaks out when that family member, family friend, or neighbor crosses the personal boundaries that’s uncomfortable. But the most important question is “Are we taught about inappropriate touching?”
We live in a society and generation where sex is glorified, and exploitation has become normal. So exactly what is considered inappropriate these days? From reality tv, to the music we listen to and support, is constantly exploiting black women. Sexual exploitation is one of the most common forms of human trafficking worldwide. Women and girls are exploited in the sex industry and literally being treated as objects.
Where I’m from (Detroit MI), human trafficking is ranked at number 2 in the nation. Girls are not always being taken by force but coerced and manipulated. Predators seek out the weak and vulnerable. Does this sound familiar? Surprisingly, human trafficking is happening everyday within our own community and no one is paying attention, or are we naive because we don’t want to believe the sickness of people? R Kelly, like many others can be diagnosed with pedophilia – psychiatric disorder in which an adult experiences a sexual attraction to children (DSM 5).
As I reflect and process the emotions displayed on Surviving R Kelly, I believe we all have a moral responsibility to protect children against harm. Education is key, and we must talk to our children about the dangers of the world.