To be labeled Robert “R.” Kelly’s “girlfriend” is to be tangled in a highly disturbing web, it seems.
Following Kelly’s first interview since his arrest on multiple counts of aggravated sexual assault, Gayle King also interviewed two of the self-proclaimed “Pied Piper’s” girlfriends, Azriel Clary, 21, and Joycelyn Savage, 23, in an explosive discussion that left many worried about the pair. Their unwavering (and often volatile) defense of the singer was reminiscent of abuse victims’ patterns.
Now, that steadfast support of Kelly’s by his girlfriends has apparently reached a new level. Well, that is, based on what we’ve recently become aware of.
Lizzette Martinez, who is among the first of Kelly’s alleged victims, spoke with People prior to the release of Lifetime’s distressing documentary, Surviving R. Kelly.
“I was the beginning of the predatory behavior. I was… I met him after he married Aaliyah. I had it bad but what I hear today is that he’s taking this to a whole other level and I’m so worried about the young women in the house,” recalled Martinez. “I mean my anxiety is constantly through the roof because I hear the parents, I hear there’s a plan in place. That he’s put it in place that if something goes down they’re all going to take pills and kill… I just can’t.”
On Tuesday evening, Chicago Police swarmed the 52-year-old singer’s Trump Tower condo after they received an anonymous call regarding an apparent planned suicide pact to be carried out by his girlfriends. The call turned out to be a false report.
“It is offensive that anyone gives this any credibility,” Kelly’s lawyer Steve Greenberg said in a statement.
Additionally, in a recent interview with The New Yorker, former girlfriend Dominique Gardner claims she was one of six women living with Kelly, in a relationship that purportedly lasted nine years. During this time period, Gardner alleges Kelly demanded that she and the other girls wear baggy clothes and were physically punished with spankings and beatings whenever they “disobeyed” him. Her accounts mirrored exactly what other survivors expressed in the Lifetime documentary, where Gardner’s mother, Michelle Kramer, was filmed trying to rescue her daughter from Kelly’s control.
The now 27-year-old revealed to reporter Jim DeRogatis—who has been reporting on Kelly’s sexual abuse allegations for nearly 20 years—that she had R. Kelly’s face tattooed on her left leg and rib cage.
One of my first questions for Gardner was if she regrets spending a third of her life with Kelly. No, she said. “I loved him to death, you know what I’m sayin’? But he needs help. Who doesn’t need help?” The word “cult” is one that Gardner rejects, and so is “brainwashed”—“I am not just about to spread lies about him,” she said—but she struggles to find a better way to describe a situation that, according to her, people don’t really understand, at least not the way she does. “I wouldn’t even say ‘mind games.’ It was just the fact that he tried to break me,” she said. “I couldn’t be broken. He wanted that control over me, and I wouldn’t give him that power. So, he figured, like, If I don’t give her food, she’ll come around. Nope. I’d rather die than come around and give you my soul.”
Similar to other accounts by current and former girlfriends, Gardner claims Kelly confided in her about his alleged sexual abuse as a child. She also told DeRogatis she had been approached by Department of Homeland Security investigators, but refuses to speak with them about Kelly.
Gardner has confirmed that after much time avoiding therapy, she recently went to her first session in March. I’m hoping she receives the help she needs. It’s a hope I extend to all of these victims and survivors alike.