When Lifetime’s Surviving R. Kelly series premiered nearly a year ago, its collection of testimonies from women who say they were abused by Kelly set something off in its viewers and law enforcement that no new piece of reporting from the past few years had done. Despite the investigations, interviews, and public history of Kelly’s incidents with underage girls, it was only after Surviving R. Kelly that police in several states began to hone in on its allegations. Kelly currently faces charges for racketeering, child pornography, and sex crime charges in multiple states.
On January 2, the second installment of Surviving R. Kelly premieres, picking up where the first left off. Here are a few big takeaways from new episodes.
Surviving R. Kelly Part II: The Reckoning features many of the women from the first installment, including Jerhonda Pace and Jovante Cunningham, plus commenters like Tarana Burke. But it also notably features reporter Jim DeRogatis, who first reported on the allegations that Kelly was abusing underage girls back in 2000 and has followed the story ever since, later reporting on allegations of Kelly’s “cults” for BuzzFeed and gathering his reporting in his book Soulless. The docuseries also features Gloria Allred, who represents clients suing Kelly for sexual abuse, as well as State Attorney for Chicago’s Cook County Kim Foxx. New stories from women like Kelly’s former hairdresser Lanita Carter also highlight that the series’ first installment was just the tip of the iceberg, as more women break NDAs and come public. And Dominique Gardner, whose mother Michelle Kramer helps her leave Kelly in the first installment of the series, now tells her story.
Some of the more shocking interviews in Surviving R. Kelly are with two former members of his staff: Lindsey Perryman-Dunn, former personal assistant and general manager, and her sister Jen Emrich, former staff member to R. Kelly. Both are adamant that all the women are lying. “Do you know what they’re upset about? That they didn’t get the limelight until they were on Lifetime television,” Perryman-Dunn says of his accusers. Perryman-Dunn says that the women should have “gone to an emergency room” and called the police if they were hurt or in danger, even as the docuseries shows that women who did file police reports or go through institutional channels were failed by authorities. And while Emrich denies knowing who is behind the now-removed Facebook page “Surviving Lies,” which was created after the series aired in an attempt to “expose” Kelly’s accusers by posting text messages and personal information, Emrich says she coached Kelly to “speak out” and that she supported the page. She’s been posting supportively on Instagram about Kelly since the series aired.
The docuseries interviews Tiffany Hawkins, an aspiring singer who sued Kelly in 1996 for suffering “severe emotional harm” after he forced her to have sex with him starting at age 15. Hawkins ended up settling the case, but her lawyer says that she initially wanted to file a criminal case, and the Illinois state’s attorney brushed it aside. “I called and called and called the office of the state’s attorney, not a word back,” Ian Alexander, Hawkins’s lawyer, says in the series. DeRogatis also writes in his book about the state’s attorney declining to press criminal charges: “More than two decades of predatory behavior might have stopped there, in 1996.”
Women who spoke out in the series say they were targeted, threatened, and blackmailed after it aired
The show interviews women who spoke out about being abused by Kelly and the extreme consequences of speaking out, even as Kelly supporters claim they’re just doing so for fame and attention. Jerhonda Pace recounts an incident at the mall in which a stranger tried to instigate a fight after learning she was that “bitch from the documentary.” Faith Rodgers, who says she was told by R. Kelly via letter that he’d have 10 men come forward to testify about having sex with her after she sued the singer for sexual abuse, was the most candid about the harassment she faced after the series aired. She had to change her number, her family was forced to move after being threatened, and following a threat made on the series’ New York screening, Rodgers was approached by a young woman in her hotel who attempted to blackmail her with revenge porn. “Pull the plug or you’ll be exposed,” she was told.