As the #MeToo movement picked up momentum, 24-year-old mother Jerhonda Pace became increasingly angry. And no, it wasn’t because she sided with Hollywood’s purported sexual predators. She was upset that her own sexual assault story was being ignored.
In 2017, just six weeks before the New York Times published the bombshell report on Harvey’s Weinstein’s alleged misconduct, Pace had come forward with gut-wrenching accusations against R. Kelly. She claimed that at the she had lost her virginity to the R&B singer at the age of 16, and was “trained” to please him sexually. Though Pace had gone to authorities with her claims, as well as several pieces of evidence, including a T-shirt allegedly stained with Kelly’s semen and a nondisclosure contract she had signed, the woman said investigators did not take her seriously. So you can imagine the frustration she felt as she witnessed other sexual assault victims receive so much support within the last several months.
“I was livid, because when their stories came out, they received so much attention. It was just crazy, and I was like, ‘What about R. Kelly’s victims? What about us?’ Nothing happened for us,” Pace recently told Buzzfeed. “[…] I didn’t feel that [any of the investigators] were passionate about it and that they were going to pursue it the way that it needed to be pursued. I was told that they want more witnesses to corroborate my story, which makes no sense: I’m the victim; I have the proof: He was paying me, I have the contract he signed, I gave them the DNA T-shirt, I gave them everything proving I was there, and they were like, ‘We need more people to say that they saw you [with Kelly].’”
Pace has shared her story with various media outlets, including the daytime talk show The Real. Though Kelly has faced sexual misconduct allegations for years, such as the 2017 “sex cult” scandal,” Pace claims that her willingness to speak out against the singer has resulted in serious backlash. All the while Kelly is working as a musician, performing concerts under Sony Music.
“It angers me. It pisses me off to know that he’s still progressing; he’s still out there making moves and doing everything that he wants to do. He’s still a free man, yet he has abused so many black women, and they are being ignored,” she said. “I still have people sending me messages on Instagram, calling me a liar and talking crap about me and telling me they are not going to stop supporting [Kelly]. They’re like, ‘No, this is Rob [Sylvester Kelly]—he’s the king of R&B. You knew what you were doing; you consented.’ They pretty much are victim-blaming and victim-shaming. I’ve been dealing with that, and it’s been a lot of stress.”
Thankfully, Pace has received support from her family as well as Tarana Burke, the activist who founded #MeToo in 2006.
“I already knew that there wasn’t going to be that much press coverage, because it’s a black woman trying to uplift the black community and give us more opportunities, and that isn’t going to gain much coverage,” she said in regards to the support she received from Burke. “[…] Blacks are always black, and we’re always at the bottom of the barrel. They are just as important as white girls, and that’s why I fight so hard for my babies.”
You can read Pace’s full story at Buzzfeed.