R. Kelly’s ex, media personality Kitti Jones, details abusive relationship to Rolling Stone
Every other hour, it seems, devices light up with breaking news that someone came forward to accuse another high-profile man of sexual harassment and/or abuse. Longstanding sexual abuse accusations attached to Black entertainers, like Bill Cosby and R. Kelly, include mounting claims against Harvey Weinstein and trickle into fresh reports that political analyst Mark Halperin sexually harassed several women.
The oft-gendered fear of retribution is not dissuading some women from identifying abusive sexual experiences and identifying the men they say caused the memories. (None of this is to suggest that the only abusers are men and their only targets are women.)
This week, Rolling Stone released a searing feature about Kitti Jones, a Black woman media personality, who is also R. Kelly’s ex-girlfriend. In the article, Jones accused R. Kelly of sexual abuse—which emotionally scarred her and made her physically ill—battery, economic abuse and food deprivation. She said R. Kelly controlled her social relationships, lashed out at her with scary frequency and took her shopping afterward, as if the experiences were figments of her imagination.
“I suffered in silence. I lived in fear for the last three and a half years,” Jones said. “I haven’t been living my life. I’ve just kind of been existing.” The piece portrays an established woman who took a chance on love—and took time off from her Dallas hip-hop radio career—to be with the man for whom she fell. Rolling Stone also details how Jones reportedly executed her getaway plan and why she decided to publicly expound on her pain now.
Many who are shocked by this and other sexual abuse allegations in the current news cycle do not navigate the world with competing pressures to live freely but also be sufficiently circumspect because victim-blaming gets dispensed like medicine. For others, the timing is telling. Which incident or accusation made way for so many people to come forward? As Josie Pickens inquired here, “What’s next?” Will people, particularly men with professional, economic and situational power, modify their behavior?
It’s not that women expect to live in politically correct bubbles, where we do not meaningfully engage other people, including men. It’s not that we cannot take a compliment or understand the spirit with which many men engage us. However, more men need to learn and practice comportment and fashion their masculinized identities in ways that do not make us targets or collateral damage.
We should live in a world that does not make sexual assault so rampant and accepted that those who experienced comparatively lesser harms, like harassment and leering, feel like the lucky lot.
We should also listen closely when women who survive trauma decide to share their experiences with the world, especially when their traumas fit with other women’s traumas like a patchwork quilt.