At 10 years old, I had a half-day at school. The building was less than a 15-minute walk home. It was late-morning in Queens, New York. Most days, I got picked up, but as I was preparing for middle school, my mom said I could walk home. Aimlessly on my trail, I got catcalled. The only thing that distanced me from this older man asking me to come to him was the field in front of my house, but it would’ve taken him seconds to run across it and grab me. Looking back, a verbatim recount is difficult, but the sexual tension on his part was suffocating and intimidating. My mother happened to be home. I told her what took place, and she got in her car and went after him, only a few blocks away. Her threats made him never come near me, let alone look in my direction, ever again. However, that situation and similar ones could’ve had a more traumatic ending.
When I was 12 years old, I had an 18-year-old man make me his “baby.” We met at an after-school program, where he was one of the mentors and felt I “was too mature for my age.” Initially, I brushed him off because I thought he was corny, but he befriended me. He was charming, silly, enticing and the epitome of “tall, dark and handsome.” By his standards, “Ky” (I’ll refrain from using his name) protected me, defended me towards those against our “relationship,” fell for me, and pursued me in every possible way. My obscure perception of love caused me to “love” him with all of me. His emotional hold over me caused me to make him my first everything. The day he took my virginity at 17, he wrote me a love letter and stayed in my life until I was 22.
At 13 (pictured above)— while “Ky” is still in the picture— I was pursued by a 22-year-old man who felt talking to me was acceptable because I “looked older than I was.” John stopped me in my tracks. Ever meet a man too fine for you to know better? That was him. His green eyes sparkled with hints of lust and manhood. His golden brown curly hair reeked of bad timing. His perfect smile blinded me as I entered something I was not ready for. He asked for my name in exchange for his. He asked for my age and seemed shocked, yet unbothered. We exchanged numbers and subtle glances. I left unaware of what I was getting myself into, but fully smitten. Our first date was around Halloween. I’d turned 14 a month prior, and my high school was one stop from his job. So, I met with him when I was supposed to be at my after-school program. I was far too nervous, but he made me laugh. I was good at keeping secrets; I arrived at the program moments before my mom, and nobody ever found out. Oddly enough, I saw John in church one Sunday. He claimed he was a regular, but that was the first and last time I ever saw him there. Before Thanksgiving, he asked me to come over. I laughed it off and said no. I had chores and I was more afraid of my parents finding out I hadn’t finished my chores than actually being with him. That was the last time I heard from him.
At this age, on the surface, I was such a goody-two-shoes. I read books and did well in school. I kept a diary. English and math were my cups of tea. I was developing a love for R&B and hip-hop. I still loved horror and thriller movies. I was a huge fan of Gossip Girl Degrassi and That’s So Raven. As the youngest child from both of my parents, I was very guarded, and my parents kept me involved. I was always either at drama rehearsal, dance practice, after-school, or some other extracurricular activity. I was an incredibly naive wallflower. I thought everyone was a good person. I was (and still am) really sweet. I kept my head down and only spoke when spoken to. I was cautious and selective with what I said and who I said it to. My sisters were significantly older, and I was just the "baby." I toyed the line of rebellion; I discovered the budding world of social media. I snuck on the phone and talked to high school boys, catfishing before it became a thing. At the end of the day, it all seemed innocent and I refused to do anything, publicly, to render a bad rep.
I was vulnerable and submissive. I was innocent and accepting. I compromised easily. I said no, jokingly. I was a hopeless romantic, blinded by sunshine and butterflies. I grew up a lot because of Ky, overwhelmed by the urge to submit because I was indebted to his “teachings.” These men could have taken full advantage of me at any moment. My story could’ve been parallel to the women whose innocence were snatched and manipulated by R. Kelly.
If Ky had asked me to marry him, I would have. I gave Ky any and everything he wanted, even when it almost killed me. I forgave him. I took him back. I protected him. My naivety was a combination of choosing to be oblivious and being in “love.” I handed my virginity to him on a silver platter. I was his best kept secret. He had other women, his own children, but I was his on demand. Had I been more of a rebel, I would’ve been at John’s apartment in a situation I had no business being a part of. I could’ve been like Aaliyah; Ky was my “best friend” too. He knew all of me. As he would say, he “put me up on game.” By the time I was actually of legal age, I was “too young” to be taken seriously, he said, and yet I almost let him impregnate me. At one point, he told me, “I don't know if we'll end up together in the future, but if we do, give me two kids.” For years, I was determined to give him what he wanted. I romanticized the f**k out of him and that relationship while being in high school. I was his secret and he was mine. Only a handful of people knew the full extent of my relationship with Ky. I couldn’t be judged; I was the “good girl.” Mya followed the rules, Mya did what she was told. I purposefully kept these two worlds from colliding. Even when I had a boyfriend at 18, Ky was around, and during the course of balancing those relationships, I often had to choose between the lesser of two evils. My boyfriend viewed me as a trophy. I was his pawn with no voice, no power, nothing. My purpose was to make him look good. And Ky was my escape.
I know, far too well, what it’s like to “love” a man so much that you want to be the one to better him, to bring him back from the monster he’d become, when in reality, he was just good at maintaining a facade. Ky’s tactics were calculated. He broke me emotionally. By my early twenties, I wanted to show Ky what genuine, unconditional love looked like, make him whole, heal the brokenness he refused to acknowledge. I wanted to be his lover, his therapist, his best friend, his everything. I was always the sympathetic, forgiving, patient, compliant one. I allowed men to lay their burdens at my doorstep and he was able to live freely while I internalized his demons and lost my mind seeking ways to bring him solace.
Thankfully, the adults in my life did not fail me. I chose to keep those around me from becoming privy to what was happening because I had gotten used to being the emotional hoarder and I couldn’t allow them to see me in that light. That explosive text conversation saved me. Sadly, however, R. Kelly’s victims were not as fortunate. The adults in these women’s lives made a slew of wrong turns. The adults in Aaliyah’s life did the same. The adults in R. Kelly and his brothers’ lives failed them as well.
I won’t be able to listen to any R. Kelly “hit” without thinking about which young girl the song was written about or whose daughter was his latest victim while he built his success on their backs. What we all used to whisper about during attempts to separate the man from his music has been intertwined this entire time, and we saw that in Surviving R. Kelly. There’s far too much evidence, witness testimony and people who need to be held accountable, for us, as a culture, to ignore this any longer. There are so many victims who dismiss their trauma and cry silently. I was one of them. This could be you. This could be someone you know. Stop disregarding the blatant red flags. It’s not love. It’s not mentorship. It’s not innocent flirtation. It’s sickening. It’s controlling. It’s coercion. It’s an intentional, carefully executed ploy.
Everything has been surfaced. It’s all out there. So, the real question is … now what?
(Photo: Dade County Jail/Getty Images)