Lifetime returned to the legal maelstrom of disgraced R&B star R. Kelly on Thursday (Jan. 2) with the premiere of their follow-up series, Surviving R. Kelly Part II: The Reckoning. The new three-part special comes after the original Surviving R. Kelly series aired in January 2019. The first episode of the sequel further explores the allegations brought against Kelly over the years, and the network of enablers that helped the 52-year-old cover up his actions.
Thursday’s premiere opened with a deeper dive into R. Kelly’s formative upbringing on the southside of Chicago, told by his brothers Bruce and Carey. The two detailed the abuse they experienced as children from a family friend, Eli Henry. The episode went on to disclose that Henry allegedly bought the silence of the brothers’ mother for $5,000 when the authorities got involved. Bruce and Carey also mentioned that the three brothers were sexually abused by an unnamed female family member. They then hypothesized that these two incidents negatively impacted Robert’s perception of sex. “For a man to molest my brother and [redacted name] to molest him, that changes the game,” Carey said. At another point during episode, an archived interview of R. Kelly was played in which he referred to the sexual abuse as “a generational curse.”
The episode also featured more stories from other alleged victims and their families, who did not appear in the first season, including that of Tiffany Hawkins. Hawkins was 15-years-old when she first met Kelly, whom she said she had a sexual relationship with until she was 18. Hawkins was the first woman to file a lawsuit against R. Kelly in 1996 that was later settled outside of court after the judge declined to prosecute Kelly.
“I honestly can’t think of a time I was with R. Kelly and we didn’t have sex. It was all the time. I hated it. But I did it. I felt like it’s what I had to do,” Hawkins recalled.
Tiffany Hawkins was the first girl R. Kelly ever abused and settled in court with. She gave a 7 hour deposition under oath and won the case. He went on to settle in court with MULTIPLE teenage girls and lost all of the cases. Who still defends this man?!— r. kellys infected toe (@kelly_plea) January 3, 2020
R. Kelly supporters appeared in the series as well, including his former assistant Lindsey Perryman-Dunn, former sound engineer Dyan Ely, and former Jive Music executive Jimmy Mayne.
In one of the more shocking moments of the episode, Carey Kelly recalls an occasion in which he had borrowed a movie from Robert. The tape turned out to be one of Kelly’s many alleged recordings of himself engaging in sexual acts with underage girls. “I put the tape in, and what’s on this tape is the little girls that he done filmed over. He asked these girls on tape, ‘How old are you?’ It was like he was interviewing them. And they were like, ‘13,’” Carey described. Instead of turning the tape over to the authorities, Carey ultimately gave it back to R. Kelly, who burned it. “There were white girls that were 13. In the system, that’s a different ball game. He would’ve been gone.”
The bombshell revelations in the season’s premiere ignited an intense debate online. People from both sides of the proverbial aisle weighed with their thoughts across social media.
Robert’s mom accepted 5k not to appear in court and speak out against a man who sexually terrorized her sons. He would go on to pay girls and their families for the same thing. #SurvivingRKelly— jamilah (read bio before DMing) (@JamilahLemieux) January 3, 2020
This docu-series is showing us the intersection of racist feminism and black male misogyny. So when people tell you, when black women tell you that we need to center our own needs, this is what we're talking about. #survivingRKelly— Kenyette Tisha Barnes (@LegisEmpress) January 3, 2020
Unfortunately, Carey just summed this whole thing up. Had the tapes with the underage white girls been exposed, he would've been UNDER the jail. They would've demolished his house, put his body there, and built a jail on top of him. #SurvivingRKelly pic.twitter.com/7yTE1tlElu— Cain in this Thang (@acain119) January 3, 2020
I don't think telling the painful stories of how R. Kelly was sexually abused as a child discounts what he did as an adult when he switched from victim to victimizer. To me, it gives it all deep roots.#SurvivingRKelly— Shaun King (@shaunking) January 3, 2020
This is so fake.— . (@oldheadforlife) January 3, 2020
Do I think he’s a rapist? Yes.
Do I think all these girls are victims?
The second episode of Surviving R. Kelly Part II: The Reckoning airs tonight on Lifetime at 9/8c.
Photo: Michael Loccisano / Staff