R. Kelly's Reported "Cult" Is Just the Latest in a Long History of Sexual Misconduct Allegations

R. Kelly's history of sexual misconduct makes the story of his "abusive cult" all the more frightening.

R. Kelly Performs At Oracle Arena

Image via Getty/Tim Mosenfelder

R. Kelly Performs At Oracle Arena

For some, R. Kelly is just a legend in the world of R&B, known for his songwriting and a long-running series of hits over a decades-long career. However, he's just as infamous for his long history of alleged sexual misconduct, which has been something of public knowledge for 20-plus years. Most of the claims center on his predatory pursuit of teenage girls, including Aaliyah, whom he fraudulently married when she was just 15. (As recently as last year, Kelly was spotted dating a 19-year-old woman.) On Monday morning, BuzzFeed published a story about Kelly reportedly holding women—including a teenager—in an "abusive cult" that controls every aspect of their lives.

In 2013, The Village Voice spoke with journalist Jim DeRogatis, who'd been covering R. Kelly's rumored sexual abuse in Chicago for years for the Chicago Sun-Times. (He wrote today's BuzzFeed story as well.) These are documented cases that, for one reason or another, were ignored by the masses, seemingly because R. Kelly could churn out quirky, seductive sex anthems. It seems like every few years, another piece comes out to shine the light on R. Kelly's behavior, and Monday's BuzzFeed story is just the latest instance in a long-running trend.

For those unaware of how long this has been going on, this is a timeline of Kelly's numerous sexual assault allegations and predatory relationships, and the ways in which Kelly has tried to skirt the evidence. It's a disturbingly familiar story to those that know about his history. For those that are just reading the details of the BuzzFeed story for the first time, it's clear that this is just the latest chapter in an ongoing practice. 

Aug. 31, 1994: He illegally marries Aaliyah

When Aaliyah began her career, it was as R. Kelly's protégé. Kelly wrote much of her first album, Age Ain't Nothin But A Number—a title that, in retrospect lent little subtlety to his intentions for their relationship. When they were married, Kelly was 27 and Aaliyah was 15; a marriage certificate falsified Aaliyah's age as 18.

The marriage was annulled in February of 1995, with an agreement rumored to have been signed that neither side would speak of the issues. In 1997, Aaliyah reportedly sought to have the marriage records expunged because of her age at the time of the marriage.

Dec. 5, 1996: The Tiffany Hawkins case

At the end of 1996, Tiffany Hawkins' lawyers sent R. Kelly a notice that they would be filing a lawsuit against him. The suit accused Kelly of having a sexual relationship with Hawkins in 1991, when she was 15 and Kelly was 24. Hawkins also claimed that Kelly had her participate in group sex with other underage girls. Another woman, who went unnamed, said both she and Hawkins were singing back-up vocals for Kelly. They were under the impression that Kelly would help their careers in exchange for sex—a long-running trend in his relationships—with Kelly reportedly suggesting that Hawkins drop out of school to take her music career head-on.

Hawkins' lawsuit was looking for $10 million in damages; it was reported by the Chicago Sun-Times that Kelly settled for $250,000 in 1998.

Aug. 2001: The Tracy Sampson case

A former Epic Records intern, Tracy Sampson filed a civil suit against Kelly, saying he had sex with her when she was 17 years old. (It was her first time having sexual intercourse). She was an aspiring artist, and in her lawsuit, she said she was "lied to" by R. Kelly.

"I was coerced into receiving oral sex from a girl I did not want to have sex with," Sampson said. "I was often treated as his personal sex object and cast aside. He would tell me to come to his studio and have sex with him, then tell me to go. He often tried to control every aspect of my life including who I would see and where I would go."

Kelly settled this case out of court for an undisclosed sum.

Feb. 3, 2002: The sex tape leaks

In the most damning piece of evidence against R. Kelly that's come to light to date, a tape was leaked to the Chicago Sun-Times that alleged to show Kelly having sex with (and urinating on) an unidentified girl, who was said to have been 14 years old at the time of the recording. At the time, Kelly denied that he was the man in the video (although many mentioned the gold records visible in the background of the clips).

In June 2002, Kelly was hit with 21 counts of child pornography stemming from the tape. His Florida residence was searched, and images of Kelly engaging in sexual acts with an underage girl were allegedly found on a digital camera. These images on were said to be same as the ones on the tape he was indicted for. He was arrested in January 2003 for those charges, but they were dropped in March 2004, after a circuit court judge suppressed the images

A full five years after the tape was initially leaked, in February  2007, Kelly's case went to court. After numerous delays, including everything from the judge getting injured during a fall to a debate over whether the sex tape would be played in public, opening statements were heard on May 20, 2008. The case was completed on June 9, 2008—R. Kelly was found not guilty

The woman who was allegedly on the tape (who was now 23 years of age) would not cooperate with the district attorney, and neither she nor her parents testified against R. Kelly.

Apr. 29, 2002: The Patrice Jones case

In her lawsuit, Patrice Jones said that, when she was 16, she had a nine-month sexual relationship with R. Kelly after meeting him in December 1998. According to her lawsuit, they had sex about two to three times per week, roughly 20 to 30 times before she turned  17, in locations that included his studio, his tour bus, and various hotels. She realized she was pregnant in June 1999, and alleged that Kelly forced her to get an abortion that he paid for the following September.

Jones claimed she suffered from emotional distress over the abortion; she sought $50,000 in damages. While denying any wrongdoing, Kelly settled with Jones for an undisclosed sum.

May 24, 2002: The Montina Woods case

Montina "Tina" Woods filed a civil suit against Kelly, accusing him of setting up a hidden camera in a room to secretly tape their sexual acts. Woods said she was one of the women found on the sex tape, marked "R. Kelly Triple-X," that was being heavily bootlegged, and that her encounter with Kelly took place at his studio.

Woods' case was different in that, instead of underage sex claims, she was suing for invasion of privacy. Kelly settled with Woods for an undisclosed sum.

Sept. 18, 2008: The Touré interview

In a 30-minute special on BET, Touré spoke with R. Kelly about his life, his career, and most importantly, the sexual assault allegations he faced. During the interview, Touré asked him one simple question: "Do you like teenage girls?" Instead of simply saying "no," R. Kelly replied: "When you say teenage, how old are we talking?"

Dec. 16, 2013: The Village Voice interviews DeRogatis about Kelly

In the same year that saw Kelly perform at Pitchfork Music Festival and release his album Black Panties, the brutal details of his alleged misconduct came into the public conversation again when Jessica Hopper interviewed Jim DeRogatis for the Village Voice. The two discussed the lawsuits and allegations in detail, and also discussed why something so hurtful could go unremarked upon.

Dec. 21, 2015: R. Kelly leaves the "HuffPost Live" set

During his press tour for his 2015 album The Buffet, R. Kelly got upset on the set of HuffPost Live. He felt that he was being "disrespected" by the line of questioning from host Caroline Modarressy-Tehrani, who asked if his past sexual abuse allegations may have hurt the sales of The Buffet. He said it was like being in a "deposition," and he threatened to leave if he didn't like what she asked.

After an awkward back-and-forth, he gave Modarressy-Tehrani one more question. She asked, "What do you say to the multiple fans, the many fans who are watching and listening, that say there have been multiple accusations against you, against young women in Chicago, and they are concerned about your past and that it's impacting them from purchasing your music sales?" During the end of the question, Kelly began to talk over the host and then he got up and left.

Check out the exchange below.

Jan. 20, 2016: The GQ Interview

GQ got some truly chilling responses out of Kelly during its sit-down interview, including a look into Kelly's own history of being abused as a child. 

When asked about the identity of the man in the 2002 video, Kelly said, “Well, to be honest with you, man…however, whatever, whenever. When a person is found not guilty, they're found not guilty. And it doesn't matter if it's a murder case, it doesn't matter what case it is, when they're found not guilty, they're not guilty. And I think that a lot of haters out there wanted to see me go down."

Later, Kelly said he "cannot have those kind of conversations," because of his lawyers. When pressed about that being true during the actual trial period, Kelly said "they could come back to haunt me. Things could come back and they can just restart all over again. And I have to protect myself."

The allegations in the BuzzFeed piece describe another form of "protection." R. Kelly has created a situation that gives him total control of the women he sleeps with, including what they wear, who they contact, how they use social media, and even when they may go to the bathroom. 

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