In The Wake Of Surviving R. Kelly, Are Men Finally Ready To Say #HimToo?
It’s been over a week since Surviving R. Kelly reignited the debate over whether or not we should #MuteRKelly.
The correct answer is to mute his a– and throw the remote away.
But one of the more popular defenses I’ve heard in favor of letting the alleged statutory rapist sing is that R. Kelly can not be fully held responsible for his actions because he too was a victim of childhood sexual abuse, allegedly at the hands of his own sister. And as the old expression goes: “hurt people, hurt people…”
On the surface it all seems like complete bullsh-t. Specifically, it sounds like a deflection by R. Kelly sympathizers to make us feel sorry for a man who for decades has systematically (thanks to his inner circle) abused and ruined the lives of dozens of young Black women and girls.
But what if it’s not an attempt to redirect conversation away from Kelly’s guilt? What if this was a chance for men, particularly Black men, to confront their own trauma and say, “#HimToo?”
For the record, I am not trying to give any R. Kelly sympathizer a pass. Like the singer, those who take the abuse of Black women and girls so lightly do not deserve the benefit of the doubt. However, it would be equally disturbing if we were to dismiss what is a serious, yet less spoken about issue of childhood sexual abuse of young men, all because of bad timing.
According to the website for the Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network (RAINN), in 2016 alone, Child Protection Service agencies across the country found “strong evidence” that nearly 57,329 children were the victims of sexual abuse. And while statistics suggest that girls are more likely than their male counterparts to be abused, it is also true that one in 53 boys under the age of 18 will also experience sexual abuse or assault at the hands of an adult.
And this is not the first time this subject has been covered. If you’ll recall, in 2013 I wrote a piece entitled, “Why What Happened to Chris Brown was Sexual Abuse.” I sought to draw attention to an interview in which the troubled singer casually confessed to having his first sexual experience at the age of eight with a teenage girl. In that piece, I also mentioned how Ne-Yo, best known for coercing women into tubal ligation, once bragged about “losing” his virginity at 9 years old. And I noted how Lil Wayne, a chronic lean abuser and rapper, admitted that he too had been “seduced” by a grown woman at the age of 11 years old.
Many of these celebrity men may look back at these premature sexual experiences with much older women as some sort of testimony to their own prowess. But what if this forced experience with sex at a young age really did mess them up? And what if the reason why so many of these men, who are known for being abusive in their own right and problematic towards women, ended up being this way because of unresolved hurt?
A week after Surviving R. Kelly aired, former Scandal star Columbus Short took to Instagram to confess that he too had been a victim of child abuse:
It’s sad. It doesn’t justify anything that he’s done as an adult man but I was molested by my babysitter and she—she would make me do things that were really, really uncomfortable. I was scared to speak out. But I’m not scared anymore. And I think it’s time, in our community—the only way to kill it is to speak on it. And hey, I’m a talented man that was molested. I was touched and it’s affected me in ways that I can’t even explain. For all those out there that have—it’s okay to speak out. It’s a lot of us. I’m praying for R. Kelly.
While not an excuse, the abuse he experienced could offer some insight into how the troubled actor became a monster to some of the women in his life. With that said though, he did offer up prayers to R. Kelly, but not the women who Kelly is solely responsible for hurting. So who knows if he is being sincere or just looking for attention.
Still, if one good thing comes out of this documentary airing, aside from the arrest and prosecution of R. Kelly, it could be men taking a hard look inwards and beginning to face the trauma that they experience. And maybe this self-awareness will lead them down the road to actual healing, specifically, therapy. Maybe…