RKelly has been trending on the internet not just this year but for a period spanning 20 years over the paedophile, child pornography, sexual assault, domestic violence and abuse allegations. (We won’t be using the term allegedly a lot in this article because look if it quacks like a duck, looks like a duck, you get the point)
To fully unpack this issue and most importantly why and how it relates to us we need to do a quick run-down of the documentary (full links will be at the bottom of each article)
We are introduced to RKelly as a child, his shy, can’t read or write all he has is music, low income family etc. We also find out that his brother was molested but RKelly (Robert) told him not to speak about it and we later learn than RKelly himself was molested as child too.)
Why is this especially important to us as Zimbabweans and as society?
We have become so desensitized from abuse because it happens so often in our homes that it’s considered normal.
I recently sat through a conversation in a local salon that featured Artist, Enzo were there were rumours that his wife beat him because of the state of his video and the women who were dancing in it and one young woman replied, ‘Well Enzo has no problem with it because he says he did something that displeased her and therefore he deserved it and he probably would do the same if she did something wrong.’
And this sparked shock in me because no one stood up for him and said, ‘No that’s wrong he wouldn’t do that.’ Instead it sparked a conversation about how ‘Haaa Varume Vanorova Kani! (Men Beat) and they then proceeded to share stories on why a man would beat you and what would cause him to do it and this got me thinking. Am I the only one who notices what’s wrong with this conversation?
Now you have to realize this, abuse is a cycle. What we see from most abusers is that they themselves grew up in abusive homes and it’s almost conclusively true in our community so much so it’s not shocking to hear that a woman is getting abused, it’s only shocking when a dead body is found but we forget that this behaviour stemmed from somewhere but no one stopped to check it and stop it in its wake.
From this point we progress through RKelly’s rise to stardom and his rise to fame. Then we begin to hear stories of him hanging out at high schools and hanging out at the mall to pick up girls. (High School Girls are typically between the age of 13-18)
In the Docu Series we hear comments like, ‘I always heard stories of RKelly hanging out at High Schools and I always wondered what he was doing there.’ (Really?) Then we hear another comment which was, (He would come the school and he would always leave with a girl)
Now we’ve already talked about the dangers of normalizing situations but does this sound familiar at all?? No?? Let me help you: Blessers!
In the past few years it’s become a trend for people to be talking about Blessers who were previously known as Sugar Daddies who bless or date young girls, a lot of the times teenagers.
We’ve seen the headlines, we’ve read the articles. We hear of these men who stop their cars for young girls in uniform, we’ve even gone as far as to shame these girls and some girl schools found in our city but why are we letting these men stop their cars for these kids? Why do we paint it as okay but are shocked when we are told of the high levels of rape and abuse in our country when it is happening often right in front of our eyes without anyone even batting an eye. I’ve even seen posts that read, (Ama 2000s are now ripe for picking) we argue that she’s over 16 but when did we forget that his a grown ass man with full control of where he puts his dick and she is indeed still a child?
They asked this, ‘Why didn’t anyone notice? The answer is we all noticed but no one cared because we were black girls.’
We hear in the documentary them talking about RKelly would say, ‘go out and get some girls’ and now I know you’ve heard this statement said all the time, men will be like, ‘Tsvaga Mabhebhi Ka,’ some call them mbeda and very few times does anyone stop to check how young these said girls that are spoken of as simple objects are. No one even stops and says no, it’s done, quickly and in the open without anyone batting an eye.
The famous Aaliyah.
Now the story of Aaliyah happened in 1994 and just to show how absolutely insane this is, this was 25 years ago. Aaliyah met Robert when she was 12 years old. (Let me repeat that 12) Later some dancers saw the two having sex in his trailer which then led to a marriage between him and Aaliyah when she was 15. RKelly forged the marriage certificate and said that she was 18 but the parents later found out about the marriage and the marriage was annulled.
Two things here, this pattern started 25 years ago, understand this man has been having sex with minors for longer than I’ve been on this earth but he is still a free man.
Number two is this wasn’t a secret, this marriage was leaked to the papers along with the forged marriage certificate and the story but collectively as a society we still continued on to listen to and celebrate his music for years to come only for people more who still haven’t watched the documentary but are interested in another piece of gossip to still speculate on, the moral vs legality clause and whether he indeed should be punished for what he has done. The guy did release a song titled Age ain’t nothing but a number.
Which begs to ask the question: Are men proud of their sexual exploitations?
We had this conversation about how as a society women are raised to be pure and to stay virgins and men are praised for getting laid but no one has ever reconciled that if she is slut who is she being a slut with? And if he is just having sex then who is he having sex with?
Our men grow up feeling entitled to sex, some even feel like they aren’t enough of a man if they aren’t having any sex and often enough this is seen as a trophy. The more a man goes through a long series of women the cooler he is, the more his praised for it.
We’ve heard of the, ‘she wanted it’ phrase all too often. Here in Zimbabwe I’ve even often heard, ‘Women say no when they really mean yes.’
I’ve talked to girls who’ve been raped and been met with the same resistance and are told, ‘if it’s your boyfriend its not rape.’
Earlier this week these are numerous conversations from different whatsapp groups rising from this RKelly debate(names and numbers have been removed)
Here is one common thread, it’s almost unheard of for people to talk about this topic seriously, a lot of people will justify sex with a minor. Two a lot of people will go the step further and justify rape but it isn’t rape just because you don’t call it rape right? Wrong!
Second of all are we really still defending him?
We look at this story with outrage and people say well if his guilty why hasn’t he been arrested. Why hasn’t anything been done but even here in our own country we see the same patterns and the same abuse happening on a daily.
Approximately 250 million girls are married before they reach age 15. In Zimbabwe a country that continues to fail the girl child, According to the Sunday Mail 2 July 2017, the statistics of child marriages are as follows: Mashonaland Central 50%, Mashonaland West 42%, Masvingo 39%, Mashonaland East 36%, Midlands 31%, Manicaland 30%, Matebeleland North 27%, Harare 19%, Matebeleland South 18%, and Bulawayo 10%.
Why are Child marriage rates still so high in our country when we all know its happening and it’s not uncommon to hear of 12 year olds even 11 year olds here who are exchanging sex for money or are being married off their families?
This story of RKelly isn’t meant to be another entertainment story to fill up your WhatsApp and get you laughing for a few seconds stop and think are you too a part of the bigger problem? Or you be a part of the change?
Full link to the part one of the docu series:
Part 2 to follow!