In Surviving R. Kelly, Crime+Investigation’s compelling new documentary series, women from the R&B star’s inner circle have come forward with disturbing new allegations about his sexual, mental, and physical abuse.
Kitti Jones, R. Kelly's ex-girlfriend who appears in episode 5 of the series, talked to Crime+Investigation about the documentary and the abuse she alleges she suffered at the hands of her former boyfriend.
From the start of his career, there were always rumours about R. Kelly and his suspect sexual behaviour, as Kitti explains:
‘In the 90s he had allegedly married Aaliyah. I was a young teen at the time and I didn't care whether it was true or not because I still saw this grown man still walking the streets so I thought it was something fabricated for tabloids. Later he had gone to trial for the sex tape (R. Kelly was accused of filming a sex tape with an underage girl) and he got off again. I thought, “Oh OK he must not have been that serious because if it was really true that he did this to a little girl, he would be in jail.”’
At the time of their meeting, R. Kelly was a free man, a best-selling artist - Kitti met him at an afterparty while she was working as a DJ for Dallas hip-hop and R&B station - and the rumours had faded into the background.
'Basically, at the time I met him in 2011, there weren't any women or young girls standing by any allegations. No one was out accusing him of anything. He was found not guilty at trial three years prior to me meeting him. We continued to play his music at my radio station. I didn't have a strong opinion about anything from his past because myself and most of the public at the time in black radio we had basically given him a clean slate. We still supported him and I didn't go digging for dirt until I gotten quite deep into the relationship’
Once I actually moved there and gave up everything, that's when the abuse began.
After their relationship became more serious and Kitti gave up her job and moved to Chicago to be with R. Kelly, signs of his abusive and controlling personality began to manifest itself. She recalls:
‘The gradual change was just him telling me who I could speak to - I couldn't look certain people in the eye - telling me what my wardrobe should be like. He would implement rules a little bit at a time when I was visiting and then once I actually moved there and gave up everything, that's when the abuse began.’
As it was such a gradual process, Kitti didn't notice at first how R. Kelly began to take over her life.
‘I didn’ t think anything of the rules at first I guess, I thought OK this is your personal runner when you need anything this person is going to go get what you want. I didn't know I couldn't walk freely through the home and make bacon and eggs if I wanted to until I started living there and those were the things that he would tell me. Wait until I come and get you or if you need anything, text this runner. At the time the runner would go and get my things even personal items I needed from the store as a woman, toiletries and things like that so.’
But things progressed, she alleges, from R. Kelly trying to control her to physically abusing her. He first became physical with her after she confronted him about the sex tape, after having finally watched it. Kitti still finds it difficult to talk about the alleged abuse and she still gets triggered when talking about the moment she decided to leave. Her courage in speaking about her experiences is amazing, especially when it's personally so upsetting for her.
He did allow me to eat eventually after I apologised.
Kitti describes the breaking point and how she eventually managed to escape:
‘I had already passed out earlier that year from not eating for a few days and I pretty much had my last straw…I hadn't eaten a few days, he was eating in front of me this particular day and he asked me not to stare at him. We had gotten physical it was one of the first times that I felt strong enough to fight back. A couple of days had gone by again. He did allow me to eat eventually after I apologised.’
After this incident, she plotted her escape. She told R. Kelly that she wanted to go to Texas to visit her son and buy him clothes for the new school year. R. Kelly gave her $4,000 and a return ticket. She left and never returned.
R. Kelly is an abuse survivor himself, as outlined in episode 1 of the series, and if he is guilty of even half the cruel things he is alleged of doing, how can he justify it? Kitti has a startling reply to the question.
'One thing I find hard is people making excuses for him and his childhood. I would say that one of the things that he used to say to make me feel sorry for him.'
It seemed to Kitti, he was using his experience of abuse as another way to control the women in his life:
'He did confide in me about his abuse as a child and I think he kind of used that with a few different of us. I met some of the girls after (who had been involved with R. Kelly) and we all spoke, we exchanged stories and I couldn't believe that a person who had gone through something like that as a child would use his abuse to work on the heart of people and then turn around and do that to others.'
In Kitti's eyes it was unconscious abuse, he actively revelled in it and knew what he was doing was wrong and he enjoyed it:
'I think he's well aware of what he's doing, there have been times when he thought it was funny, once he had introduced me to other girls in the house there would be times where he would play tapes of him abusing other women to me and he would think it was funny. He would even have one of the girls crawl about on the floor and call her a pet, call her a dog, make her repeat things that were degrading so he was in it as a game, he was fully aware.'
Though it must have been a difficult experience for Kitti taking part in the documentary, dredging up painful memories, making her relive terrible experiences, the response to the series has more than made up for it.
‘The support that we've gotten is overwhelming, I can't even put it into words, I didn't expect it to have a huge impact, I'm still getting hundreds of emails and it's a week later. My calendar is filling up fast, the sexual abuse hotline has surged tremendously from the first night it premiered here in the US, so it's been a very empowering journey, having our voices heard.'