At the dawn of a new decade, television network Lifetime is pulling back the curtain once more to investigate the controversies surrounding grace-fallen R&B singer and accused sexual predator, Robert Kelly.
Following Surviving R. Kelly, the bombshell docu-series unveiled in January 2019, Kelly was scourged with sexual violation charges throughout the entire year. Criminal indictments against Kelly include (but aren’t limited to) sex-trafficking, kidnapping, witness intimidation and child pornography—all varying at state and federal levels. The 52-year-old weaved in and out of police custody before finally stagnating behind bars amid a final bail denial in October 2019.
Thus, the harbinger documentary will receive a sequel on its one-year anniversary with Surviving R. Kelly Part II: The Reckoning. Rolling out in the same fashion as the original, the new documentary will unfold over the course of three days, beginning January 2, 2020. New information, perspectives, legal and psychological expert intel, and heart-wrenching testimonies from survivors will also be featured in the series.
Of these accounts comes the story of Faith Rodgers, who met Kelly at the age of 19. Rodgers’ story begins in March 2017 after his concert in San Antonio where she met him for the first time at a party. The two exchanged contact information, and after a few months of calls and texts, he flew her to New York to attend another one of his shows, as Rodgers recollects. The morning after his performance, Rodgers recalls him entering her hotel room and intimidatingly pressuring her into sex, which she initially rejected but eventually submitted to, as shared with CBS News. Thereon, Rodgers recounted the nightmarish sexual and verbal abuse she suffered at the hands of the 52-year-old during their year-long relationship.
She remembers horrendous experiences such as Kelly holding her captive in rooms (and on one occasion, in a van for eight hours), non-consensually recording sex with her on his iPad, and even infecting her with herpes. Rodgers has not only divulged such information in the original Surviving R. Kelly series, but also brought the accusations before the court of law, in which she began a lawsuit against Kelly in May 2018 accusing the singer of sexual battery, mental and verbal abuse, and knowing infliction of an STD.
For Surviving R. Kelly Part II: The Reckoning, Rodgers— this time with both of her parents— returned to share more insight on her story and the aftermath of intimidation tactics used to silence her. Additionally, she spoke with BET about the significance of Surviving R. Kelly’s sequel series, life after the brave choice to speak her truth, and advisories to young women who are involved with older men.
BET: Was there any single moment, experience or epiphany that happened in which you knew you had to share your story about Robert? If so, what was that moment?
Rodgers: I wouldn’t call it an epiphany, but I became more involved with him and he started revealing more things to me. I started noticing a lot of the behavior I had read about online, and I thought it was so extreme. He was actually like that. Then, [I saw] girls [my] age were not acting like normal girls should with each other. Everything was just extremely controlled. At that point, in my head I knew that maybe I should just let the parents know. Like, she’s not kidnapped and it wasn’t so much that she was being held against her will, but she’s head-over-heels brainwashed by this guy.
Aside from Kelly and the letters he sent threatening an exposé against you, was there anyone else who discouraged you from coming out with your story?
Of course, he had people from his campaign that tried to contact me or use third parties to get to me. People threatened that they have secrets, or to put out lies and things like that. I had some friends who had their reservations about me speaking out. I had some family that also doesn’t agree with me speaking out. Then, there’s people like old classmates and acquaintances that have opinions about what you’re doing. So, there was a lot of discouragement. But I had already made the decision [to speak out] and move forward, so it didn’t really matter.
Many women are championing you for not only speaking transparently about what he’s done to you in the past, but also being forthright about how he’s attempting to silence you currently. At any point, did you ever feel weighed down by public pressure?
Absolutely. There were times where [I felt] pressure from all sides—family, friends, the public. There were times where I was like, ‘Okay, I don’t want to do this [anymore].’ But I knew I had to keep going because there are people watching me. There are people waiting to see me fight through. There’s also just the pressure of trying to live like a normal human being and not wanting to be associated with this, and the pressure of walking into a room and not being judged. There’s pressure from all sides— positive and negative pressure.
Despite all of the testimonies, evidence, and victims that have spoken out, there are those who still stand by Kelly and trust his claims of innocence. What would you say to the fans of that mindset?
I don’t really have much of a response to his fans. Everybody has an opinion, and it’s not on me to convince every person that he’s a bad person. I shared my story and that’s all I could do. I hate walking into a room and feeling like I have to make somebody believe me or like me. If they don’t like me because they like a music artist who they probably won’t ever meet, it’s just not worth my time. I spend a lot of time going back and forth with people on the internet and peers around me that had things to say. It makes you a negative person, and all of that negativity consumes you. I really try to pay it no mind. Those who pop up on my page everyday are nothing but a block to me. It’s really just about how strong your mind is.
'The Reckoning' will present new perspectives, insights and stories from survivors of Kelly’s abuse that we had not seen in the first Surviving R. Kelly release. In your opinion, why is it important that we hear these cases as well?
I think it’s important because the first part was to bring awareness and have people come forward and share their stories. You also can’t pick and choose what bad things you want to excuse, so I feel like it’s important to hear all sides and all stories—not just one side. I feel a lot of people do that, so it’s important to bring it back to where it all started, which was to spread awareness and get people to share their stories. And they did.
Among other things, Kelly is notoriously known for preying on and grooming extremely young women. For girls who are currently in or considering entering a relationship with a significantly older man, what red flags would you advise they look out for?
The red flags I would look out for is an overly-controlling guy, especially when you’re dating someone that’s older than you. You’re young, so you definitely don’t want to feel like you’re being controlled, especially if it’s always about what you wear, who you’re with, etc. Someone who’s always on your case.
There is a difference between being concerned and being controlling, and I think many of us as young women can’t see the difference. We associate being controlled with being loved, [as if] that’s how a man shows that he cares about you. A lot of the time, especially in the media, there’s a false narrative told about men who are crazy about women. Everybody wants somebody that’s crazy about them, but that can really hurt you in the end. Once somebody manipulates your mind, that’s when they have total control. So, you really have to recognize how someone is making you feel. That’s the case for anybody who is making you feel badly about anything—that’s a red flag.
Follow your intuition, be strong in your decisions, be careful in your choices. I also would not recommend anyone who is 19 to date someone who is 50-years-old. I would never recommend that.
Kelly has been behind bars for the greater part of 2019, and much of that is credited to the first installment of Surviving R. Kelly. What further actions do you hope to see after The Reckoning is released to the public on January 2nd?
Honestly, I don’t wish [anything bad] on anybody. I think everybody needs to be held accountable for their actions. It wasn’t just a cakewalk for people who spoke in the documentary. We faced backlash, being judged, being laughed at, being criticized. So, everybody had to lay in the bed that they made as far as being in the documentary and who it was about. At this point, I just hope the courts do what they need to do.
This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity.
(Photo: JOHANNES EISELE/AFP via Getty Images)