BROOKLYN, New York — A woman who testified in court that R. Kelly sexually abused her when she was 17 said that Kelly told her and two other people he should be allowed to have sex with “very young girls” because he is a “genius.”
The now-39-year-old woman, who identified herself by the pseudonym Stephanie, said Kelly made the remark during dinner at a restaurant with two rappers he worked with, and that Kelly spoke unprompted. She was the third alleged victim to testify in the federal trial against Kelly, who has been charged with racketeering and sex trafficking. Prosecutors have contended that Kelly abused at least 22 women and men — some of whom were teens when they met the singer — and Stephanie’s testimony suggested why Kelly allegedly sought out young victims for years.
“He mentioned that he likes very young girls and that people make such a big deal of it. ‘Even look at Jerry Lee Lewis,’” Stephanie testified Kelly said, referring to the rock ’n’ roll singer who married his 13-year-old cousin. “‘He’s a genius and I’m a genius. We should be allowed to do whatever we want. Look at what we give the world.’”
Stephanie told the court that she first encountered Kelly when she was 16, at the Rock ’N’ Roll McDonald’s in Chicago in 1998, where she was with her boyfriend, best friend, and her best friend’s boyfriend. An employee of Kelly’s gave Stephanie a slip of paper with Kelly’s number on it, even after she told the man she was 16. “He said, ‘R. Kelly wants you to call him,’” she said.
Stephanie had no intention to call Kelly and threw out his number, she said. But the following summer, they crossed paths again. Stephanie was working at a hotel, and she heard Kelly was making an appearance at a Nike store around the corner. Her best friend was an aspiring singer, and Stephanie thought introducing the two might help jump-start her friend’s career. She ran into Kelly just as he was exiting the store, and the two began talking.
About a week later, Kelly and the 17-year-old had their first sexual encounter. She went to his studio, where she was escorted into a room. It was hours before Kelly showed up, she said, at which point he sat down close to her on the couch, laid his head on her shoulder, and apologized for the delay. They then had sex, she said, which Kelly initiated.
At the time of their meeting, Stephanie said she had low self-esteem and had already experienced sexual trauma from a family member and a former boss. “It was the hardest time of my life,” she said. “I was very vulnerable.”
Stephanie kept seeing Kelly about once or twice a week for the next six months, she said, almost always in that same room in the studio where they first had sex. Though she never lived with him, as many of his other alleged victims did, Kelly still exerted intense control over her, she said. He would frequently raise his voice at her, frightening her, she said.
“He was either very nice and charming, jovial, or he was very controlling and intimidating,” she recalled. “He could put the fear of God in me very quickly.”
Sex with Kelly was “humiliating,” Stephanie said, describing how he controlled every part of the encounter, even instructing her on how she should moan. He would frequently ejaculate on her face, she said, leaving her feeling “disgusted — less than.” At times, he would make her assume a specific sex position and then leave the room and make her hold it for hours, yelling at her if she moved, she said. “I would just be completely naked with my butt in the air, just waiting there for him to come back,” she said.
In one instance, Stephanie said she was in the car with Kelly after he had played a basketball game when he made her give him oral sex, despite the fact that there were two other people in the car. “That was really disgusting because he’d just played basketball for an hour,” she said. She was embarrassed and tried to do so quietly, but Kelly told her to make more noise while doing it, she said. “Obviously he wanted the people in the car to know,” she said.
Stephanie, like several other alleged victims, said Kelly filmed their sexual encounters. “I was really scared, and I really didn’t want to do it, but I said OK,” she said. The first time Kelly said he wanted to film their sex, Stephanie said she confided in a friend. “She said, ‘Get out of there,’” she said. “[But] I did as he asked…because I felt like I didn’t have a choice.”
In October 1999, Kelly flew Stephanie and her friend to Orlando for a long weekend, she said. Kelly did not contact her until the last day, when she said he picked her up and took her to the studio. There, Stephanie said, Kelly made her perform oral sex on him while he filmed it with a handheld camera, an experience she said left her feeling “humiliated.” Kelly drove her back to where she was staying, and she cried the whole way, she said.
It was at this point that Stephanie said she decided to stop seeing Kelly.
“I felt used and humiliated and degraded,” she said. “I just didn’t want to be abused anymore.”
But, she said, he still had the tapes of their sexual encounters and she was terrified they’d get out. She asked him three times to give her the tapes or to destroy them, she said, but eventually she came to believe that Kelly had “no intention” of doing so. She never spoke to him again, and never saw him again until Thursday, in the courtroom.
Her testimony on Thursday was the first time Stephanie has spoken publicly about what she said Kelly did to her. And even though more than 20 years have passed since then, the memories of those six months still haunt her.
“That was the lowest time of my life,” she said, dropping her face into her hands and weeping. “I’ve never been treated like that before or since.”
“He humiliated me, he degraded me, he scared me,” she said. “I’ll never forget the way he treated me.”