Op-Eds Opinion

Holding our ‘heroes’ accountable: Speaking up against abuse

By Kathleen Morris
Staff Writer

There’s a famous saying that warns people to never meet their heroes. The reason? Because they’ll always disappoint you. But in light of two bombshell documentaries brimming with reliable testimonies, it seems that you don’t need to meet your heroes for them to be disappointing.

Two examples of this fall from grace are Robert Kelly (more famously known as R. Kelly) and Michael Jackson. Both stars have been household names for decades. Their music served as the backdrop to school dances, weddings, road trip mixtapes, and so much more. But given recent events, it’s become imperative that we take a step back and separate the art from the artist.

In the six-part Lifetime documentary entitled Surviving R. Kelly, several women detailed claims of imprisonment, sexual assault, and underaged abuse at the hands of Kelly.

This documentary debuted back in January, and the experiences told by these women were harrowing and consistent, so much so that it gave them enough credibility to make cracks in Kelly’s long built career. Since then, Kelly was dropped by his record label, and several radio stations have stopped playing his music. What’s more, Kelly has been charged with ten counts of felony aggravated criminal sex abuse.

While Kelly will soon be having his day in court, Jackson, who died in 2009, has been subject to the court of public opinion. HBO recently aired director Dan Reed’s Leaving Neverland, named after a sprawling property purchased by Jackson back in 1988.

This documentary, totaling four hours, interviewed two of Jackson’s alleged victims: James Safechuck and Wade Robson. These two say that Jackson sexually abused them when they were young boys.

The documentary included interviews from them and their families, in which details that have been described as shocking and graphic were aired for the world to see. According to a Rolling Stone article, the documentary, “details this history of allegations, and the way it personalizes them to a startling degree is hard to shake off.”

But these claims are not brand new. It’s long been a thing of pop culture that Kelly had a secret cult, in which he groomed and abused young girls. In 2008, Kelly was tried and acquitted of allegedly having sexual relations with a 13-year-old.

He allegedly paid monetary settlements to several women who’ve accused him of abuse over the past 20 years. Jackson was also no stranger to controversy and speculation. He’d been accused of sexually abusing children in the past, settling a case in 1993 for over $20 million.

In 2005, a criminal investigation surrounding other claims was launched, leading to a trial. However, like in Kelly’s case, Jackson was acquitted.

One may wonder, why now? Why are people seeming to pay more attention than usual? It might be because we are starting to take the claims of victims more seriously.

Starting in 2017 and all throughout 2018, there was a seemingly endless scourge of celebrities being called out for inexcusable behavior. Not only that, but they were actually being met with real consequences.

It’s no wonder that when two documentaries against two of the biggest names in music drops, people paid attention. We’ve learned that when a victim speaks out, we ought to listen. Of course, this rule hasn’t held up every single time.

One needs to look no further than the Kavanaugh hearings from last year to see that. However, there is a light at the end of the tunnel. And even just by speaking out, people can inspire change.

According to the Rape, Abuse, & Incest National Network (RAINN), the National Sexual Assault Hotline had a 27 percent increase in calls when the Surviving R. Kelly documentary aired. Though these recent revelations in regards to well known names like Jackson and Kelly may be troubling to many, there’s something to be said about the power of speaking up.

Photo courtesy people.com

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