Three months after BuzzFeed published a disturbing story alleging that R&B legend R. Kelly was holding young women in what one observer described as an abusive sex cult, one of the women in question has come forward with a story of the abuse she says she suffered at Kelly’s hands.
Please be advised that some of the details below are graphic.
In an exhaustively detailed interview with Rolling Stone, former radio DJ Kitti Jones describes embarking on a two-year relationship with Kelly, one marked by verbal and physical abuse. (In a statement to Rolling Stone, Kelly denied all of Jones’s allegations.)
The two met in 2011, Jones says, and shortly afterward, she quit her job, sold her car, and moved in with Kelly. At the time she believed Kelly was monogamous, and he had promised to give her a stipend that was twice her salary as a radio DJ. "As long as you don't see it or find anything suspicious, you just assume you're the only one until it's right in your face," she told Rolling Stone.
But once Jones was living with Kelly — and had given up her connections to her old life, placing her firmly under Kelly’s control — things changed, Rolling Stone reports:
Almost instantly upon moving to Chicago, Jones says, Kelly began governing nearly every detail of her life, starting with the requirement that she wear baggy sweatpants whenever she went out and text near-constant updates on her whereabouts. (A source who knew Kelly confirmed the singer's demands on Jones to Rolling Stone.) Jones says she was forced to text either the singer or one of his employees for even the slightest request. (Sample text message: "Daddy, I need to go to the restroom.")
Jones says that Kelly began to physically abuse her after she had been living with him for about a month. She thought about leaving him after the first time he hit her, she says, but she was ashamed that she’d given up her career for a man, and she didn’t want to hurt Kelly’s reputation. (It’s extremely common for victims of abuse to want to protect their abusers.)
Over the next year, Jones says, Kelly’s physical abuse occurred more and more frequently. He also began to starve her, periodically depriving her of food for as long as two and a half days.
In January 2013, Jones says, Kelly moved her into his recording studio with some of his other girlfriends. The women were instructed to inform on one another if any of them broke Kelly’s “rules,” but were strictly forbidden from exchanging any personal information — even their real names. (They used Kelly-provided nicknames.) Kelly allegedly spoke of having “raised” some of his girlfriends; Jones recalls him saying of one, “I raised her. I've trained this bitch. This is my pet.”
Jones says Kelly began to force her to have sex with his other girlfriends, adding that she once vomited afterward. "Ninety-nine percent of the time, I didn't want to do it and I would tell him I didn't want to do it," she says. "It was the most horrible thing. People look at it and go, 'Oh, you're grown.' No. You have to actually be there to know exactly what it felt like for a person to overpower you and make you feel like there's nothing for you outside of him."
By August 2013, Jones says, she had become suicidal. "I can either kill myself or kill him,” she recalls thinking.
She had a young son who normally lived in Europe with his father, and he was visiting the US. She asked for and received permission to visit him, she told Rolling Stone, and after she left, she never returned to Kelly.
Now she’s trying to get her life back together. She has a job, she’s trying to get back into radio, and she wants to set up an organization she’s calling Stop Protecting Your Abuser.
Jones’s account of her experience with Kelly matches the behavior described in BuzzFeed’s story from earlier this summer — the pattern of grooming followed by violence once the alleged victim is firmly under Kelly’s control, the forced sex between the women — and Rolling Stone published multiple text messages that support Jones’s story.
Jones is also the second of R. Kelly’s alleged victims to make her story public. In August, Jerhonda Pace broke her nondisclosure agreement to discuss the months of abuse she says she experienced while living with Kelly in 2009, in an account that closely matches Jones’s story and the details BuzzFeed made public in its initial report. (Jones told Rolling Stone that Kelly asked her to sign a document protecting him from legal action and that she refused.)
But it’s worth noting that the outrage against Kelly is muted compared to the outrage against movie mogul Harvey Weinstein, whose own pattern of alleged sexual harassment and assault was recently made public, and who was promptly fired by his board, expelled from the film Academy, and denounced by half of Hollywood. Kelly canceled a few dates on his planned concert tour, but it seems he is still living his life with few problems. And some observers have suggested that he’s able to do so because he mostly targets young black women.
“The R. Kelly situation sits perfectly at the intersection of class, insane privilege, sexism, and specifically sexism toward black women and girls,” said culture critic Jamilah Lemieux when I spoke with her this July. “If the majority of his alleged victims had been young white women, it’s just hard for me to believe he would have been able to go on so long virtually unchecked.”
Says Jim DeRogatis, the reporter who has been most instrumental in covering Kelly’s history of sexual assault, “The saddest fact I’ve learned is: Nobody matters less to our society than young black women. Nobody.”
You can read Rolling Stone’s full interview with Jones here.