Surviving R. Kelly: A Trauma Therapist’s Guide to Self-Care

Trigger Warning- Sexual trauma/Assault

Surviving R. Kelly chronicles the stories of multiple women who survived his

predatory behavior. These women detail R. Kelly’s disturbing strategy to exploit

young girls (stated purposely because young women, they are not), and how the

music industry played an integral part in his systematic targeting of vulnerable

groups. At the interplay of race and gender, there are concerns of power and money.

Using the perfect combination of fear and influence, this man has gone without

reprimand or consequence. His execution, much like his music, was immaculate.

Because of his history of hits and club bangers, some individuals believe his acts

cannot coexist with his artistry. Yet, they do. For you, the black girl or black person

struggling with your survival story, this time of media coverage may be especially

triggering. What do you do when the writer of your favorite songs also rewrote the

childhoods of many into darkness? What do you do when family member X ardently

supports a child predator just because they know every word of “I Believe I Can


As a trauma survivor and trauma therapist, being at the crux of the work can be

exhausting. Many will tell you to speak up or speak out, but that may not be

therapeutic for you. I encourage you to check in with yourself about your specific

needs, whether they include expanding or contracting your boundaries.

It is OK to take a break from social media. Acknowledging the pressures of being

“woke” about black communal issues is a part of understanding cultural context, but

sleep is a form of self-care. You don’t HAVE to know everything about everything.

Turning off social media, news, and access to you may be your self-care regimen of

choice. Connecting to family, friends, and partner(s) that you trust might be how you

stay sane, but whatever you do, take care of you first.

One thing I’ve offered my clients during this time is more grounding tools.

Grounding is a form of coping that includes managing intense emotional feelings

while being present in the moment. Trauma is a metaphysical injury that tells the

brain that a traumatic event is happening now, rather than when it actually

occurred. Reminding your mind of present details can help refocus the brain on the

moment. Specifically, grounding tools may include concentrating on the main five

senses. What do you see right now? What are you hearing? Smelling? Channel into

this very moment.

More than anything, get in touch with a trauma therapist for continued growth and

maintenance. You are not alone, and there are a number of highly skilled clinicians

that are willing and ready to support you through your journey. Personally, I seek to

help my clients not only survive their trauma (they’ve already done that), but to

thrive in life. Surviving is no longer enough.