“We’re grown girls, but we’re still little girls that cry silently. If you weren’t there, you’ll never understand it,” says Jovanté Cunningham, one of R. Kelly’s alleged victims in Surviving R. Kelly Part II: The Reckoning.
If Surviving R. Kelly, Part I was a devastating—if long-overdue—moment in both criminal justice and television history, Surviving R. Kelly Part II: The Reckoning was a painful exploration of how victims are perpetually disbelieved; even with ample corroborating evidence. The insults of denial, threats and further assaults are often as devastating as the initial abuse, as evidenced by the continued testimony of several of R. Kelly’s accusers.
Because like climate change, victim-blaming is real.
“We were doing all of these things to put the young women on trial, instead of the person who [allegedly] abused them,” says Brittany Packnett Cunningham in the first episode of the docuseries’ second season, which features even more of Kelly’s purported victims, family, staff members, and industry insiders. Of especially disturbing note in this installment is not only the loaded mention of Destiny’s Child member Michelle Williams but the addition of sisters Lindsey Perryman-Dunn and Jen Perryman-Emerich—two naysaying white female former employees of Kelly who gave newfound urgency to the plea “believe victims.”
But while everyone isn’t a believer in Kelly’s guilt, it’s significant that in response to the second season’s airing on Jan. 2-4, there was reportedly a 40 percent increase in calls to series partner RAINN (the Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network). The figure marks a significant and encouraging increase from the 20 percent bump in calls following the series’ first release in January 2019—and hopefully, the beginning of the end of the silence that keeps sexual predators perpetrating and thriving.
“We are so thankful for our partnership with RAINN as part of our Stop Violence Against Women Initiative and to see the jump in calls during the airings of Surviving R. Kelly Part II: The Reckoning,” said Lifetime’s SVP of Unscripted Programming Brie Miranda Bryant in a statement. “It’s amazing to know the documentary has encouraged important and necessary conversations to happen and we are extremely proud of our survivors for their courage, who by standing up for themselves, stand for so much more.”
While the documentary may offer some relief to Kelly’s accusers, the influx of calls is deeply significant for other victims and those who might be vulnerable to sexual abuse.
As sexual assault and kidnapping survivor and Kelly’s former hair-braider Lanita Carter said during her heartwrenching interview: “The only thing I can do is just say my truth.”
“We are proud to have partnered with Lifetime on this project and are encouraged that our work with the media continues to empower survivors of sexual violence to seek the help that they need to heal,” said RAINN’s press secretary, Erinn Robinson. Hopefully, Kelly’s purported predation will finally become the cautionary tale that prevents other potential victims from similar fates.