Last week, Chicago prosecutors charged R. Kelly with 10 counts of aggravated sexual abuse. In his arraignment this morning, R. Kelly pleaded not guilty to all charges. The singer is currently sitting in a Cook County jail cell, reportedly unable to come up with the requisite $100,000 bail.
These recent events mark a turning point in a years-long cultural reckoning with R. Kelly, and his allegedly extensive history of abuse. In 2008, Kelly was charged with 14 counts of child pornography surrounding what appeared to be a 27-minute sex tape with an underage girl; he was eventually declared not guilty on all counts. Lisa VanAllen was one of 14 witnesses to identify R. Kelly as the man in the tape, and testified against Kelly in June of that year. She claimed she’d been forced into a three-way sexual encounter with Kelly and the girl on the tape, who Kelly had told her was 16. According to a New York Times report of the proceedings, the “defense team called her a liar and extortionist and compared her, literally, to Satan.”
In a new opinion piece for the New York Times, VanAllen reflects on her testimony, expresses solidarity with Kelly’s other alleged victims, and shares her hope for the future.
“I knew he was wrong, I knew the truth needed to come out,” writes VanAllen. “And yet still I felt like a bad person for testifying against my abuser. Black people don’t go to the police, I thought to myself. Despite everything I had endured, and knowing that Rob had a serious problem with young girls that needed to be exposed, I still felt like a sellout.”
“It’s been a long time coming,” she continues, “but here we are. The documentary, the #MeToo and the #MuteRKelly movements and the brave people speaking their truth or organizing for change have led to new indictments against Rob and opened peoples eyes. If convicted, he could face up to 70 years in prison. More than 10 years after I nervously faced Rob in court, I know one thing: This will not end the way it did before. It cannot.”