R. Kelly’s Historic Pattern of Sexual Assault and Underage Girls

Today, news outlets report “R. Kelly’s accusers are giving testimony to a federal grand jury … alleging the disgraced singer went to great lengths to traffic underage girls for his sexual desires…numerous witnesses testified before the grand jury Wednesday, claiming Kelly’s team secured travel at the singer’s direction to move them across state lines for sexual purposes while they were underage.”

For over 20 years, 52-year-old singer, songwriter, and producer, Robert Kelly, better known by his stage name R. Kelly, has been at the center of numerous sexual assault allegations. In February, R. Kelly again found himself at the center of more allegations and facing another lawsuit. R. Kelly was indicted on 10 counts of aggravated criminal sexual abuse involving four victims, three of which were children between the ages of 13 -17 when the alleged abuse occurred. The charges state Kelly used force, or the threat of force, to coerce the three girls and one woman into partaking in a sexual relationship with him. The acts described in the lawsuit span from 1998 to 2010 and R. Kelly is facing three to seven years in prison for each count.

The grand jury indicted Kelly after an anonymous sex tape with a young female was turned over to authorities. Although the age of the individual has not been confirmed, R. Kelly and the young female are heard referring to parts of her body as 14 years old. The video depicts activity similar to the alleged acts Kelly was arrested for in 2002.

In his first interview since he was indicted, Kelly sat down with CBS’ Gayle King in an attempt to share his side of the story. The interview quickly escalated as Kelly began to have violent outbursts when King asked him about how he felt about the current and past allegations against him. Kelly vehemently denied all allegations and claimed that “he is a misunderstood public figure who has been backed into a corner by the media, opportunist, and public scrutiny.”

In February 2002, then 35-year-old R. Kelly was investigated after another anonymous sex tape was sent to authorities after it appeared Kelly was engaging in a sexual relationship with a young girl. R. Kelly was later acquitted of 14 counts of child pornography. The 14-year-old girl, who was 17 years old when the video surfaced, was identified by her aunt, who confirmed the identity and age of the young girl in the video. R. Kelly also referred to the girl by name in the video. Copies of the sex tape were being sold on the street and Kelly was later indicted on 21 charges of child pornography (i.e., child sexual abuse video recordings). The charges were later reduced and ultimately Kelly was acquitted due to the jury’s uncertainty of the identity of the individuals in the video. The jury stated, “we weren’t totally sure it was the girl, we weren’t totally sure it was him.” 

There also have been numerous sexual misconduct lawsuits against R. Kelly that date back to 1996. Most of the lawsuits, however, were settled out of court. Below is a timeline of sexual misconduct lawsuits and R. Kelly’s inappropriate encounters with underage girls:

  • August 1994, 27-year-old R. Kelly marries 15-year-old protege, Aaliyah Haughton. The marriage license falsely lists Aaliyah’s age as 18 years old. The marriage is annulled a year later.
  • December 1996, a lawsuit claims R. Kelly engaged in a sexual relationship with a 15-year-old, with the relationship ending when she was 18. R. Kelly settled out of court in January 1998.
  • January 2001, Chicago police received an anonymous video tape that appears to show Kelly engaging in sexual acts with a young woman.
  • August 2001, a lawsuit claims R. Kelly initiated a sexual relationship with an aspiring rapper and former intern when she was 17 years old. R. Kelly settled out of court for an undisclosed amount.
  • May 2002, a lawsuit claims R. Kelly secretly taped a sexual encounter with a woman and the tape was being sold on the streets. R. Kelly settled out of court for an undisclosed amount.
  • July 2017, an article surfaces stating parents report R. Kelly is holding at least six women, ages 18 to 31, against their will in his home.
  • August 2017, a woman breaks her nondisclosure agreement and describes her sexual relationship with R. Kelly, which began when she was 16 years old.
  • October 2017, a former Dallas DJ reports being in a relationship that mirrored the article that reported R. Kelly was holding women against their will.
  • May 2018, a lawsuit states Kelly unlawfully gave a woman alcohol, assaulted her, and gave her an STD.
  • January 4, 2019, “Surviving R. Kelly” documentary series premiered on Lifetime documenting several firsthand accounts from women who were sexually abused, manipulated, and groomed by R. Kelly. Many accusers stated that R. Kelly controlled their actions, daily life, (such as body cleansing, bathroom usage, when to eat, etc.), and separated them from their family and friends so that he could maintain power and control over them.

 For more than two decades R. Kelly has abused his power as a recording artist to sexually exploit countless women and girls, yet escaped serious criminal penalties. Thankfully, his track record of sexual abuse and exploitation has been brought into the spotlight. In the bright light of #MeToo, we hope that at long last, Kelly will be brought to justice for his actions.

For more information on various campaigns related to sexual violence, visit our sexual violence webpages.

The Numbers


NCOSE leads the Coalition to End Sexual Exploitation with over 300 member organizations.


The National Center on Sexual Exploitation has had over 100 policy victories since 2010. Each victory promotes human dignity above exploitation.


NCOSE’s activism campaigns and victories have made headlines around the globe. Averaging 93 mentions per week by media outlets and shows such as Today, CNN, The New York Times, BBC News, USA Today, Fox News and more.



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