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When I was raped in college, I saw my rapist almost every day thereafter on and off-campus. In the student center, at kickbacks, campus pageants, you name it. He was fine as frog hairs, a campus king, residential advisor on campus, all-around good guy and one of my closest friends. He was even a plug for the edibles around the university, so a couple of my friends knew him. As hard as my mind tried to escape that very long, blurry night that would forever change the course of the rest of my life, I couldn’t escape his existence because he was everywhere I turned. That was my life during my junior year of college — imagine if you were an R. Kelly survivor and seeing your abuser plastered all over the Billboard charts, newspaper headlines and the face of a notorious documentary. Triggering, isn’t it?

Here’s my story. If you know me, I’ve told the story a good number of times, but I’m going to challenge you all by choosing a different entrypoint into the story.

The night was simple, and by simple I mean two friends doing homework, pineapple juice and vodka. I wasn’t a drinker by nature so one too many and I was out of it. Close your eyes for a second and shut them so tight that your vision becomes blurry and your head begins to spin — now add the feeling of at least five shots of pure pineapple Amsterdam Vodka into the mix. Imagine the idea of a man on top of you telling you to relax and, “It’s OK because this is what friends do.” You’re frozen in time with fear and confusion, then you suddenly wake up the next day in a daze of smoking a thousand laced blunts. You look down and you’re bare from tip to tail with nothing around you except the duvet and the arms of your “best friend.” Dare I ask you, was any of this my fault?

Was I wrong for trusting in a man with whom I had built a genuine bond? Was I wrong for being a curious college student experimenting with my alcohol tolerance? Was I wrong for spending the night at a friend’s new apartment to congratulate him on his big boy move? While everyone is entitled to their own opinions, the answer to this is “no”. Simply put, it is never the fault of the victim, only the fault of the assailant. By shaming the survivor and throwing “should have,” “could have,” “would have” in their faces, you open up the doors for others to blame, bully and ridicule the victim.

For the survivors of Robert Kelly’s abuse, it’s easy to be on the outside looking in and saying that you would not have taken his number or met him at a hotel room without the permission of your parents. The fact of the matter is that unless you have ever been in their exact situations, you don't know whether or not that would have been you. We can’t imagine how to play the game if we’re never dealt the cards to begin with. Period.

When we shame survivors of abuse and rape, we are summoning their fear of coming forward in anticipation of scolding or disbelief. When we overhear you saying to your colleagues that you don't believe that someone in the office was sexually harassed by an executive, you put a halt to the trust that a survivor could have given to you when coming forward about her encounter. Shaming survivors regresses our beliefs in protecting and believing our women and instead glides past the wrongful doings of the abuser. You may not have realized that you've been doing this until you've read this essay today, but every little word counts and when you say phrases as short as, "well, that doesn't add up," you're silencing us one by one.

Some of us, survivors, are ready and willing to come forward on impact, but a lot of us are scared. There's a reason why sexual abuse and misconduct are some of the most underreported cases.

Now that it has taken us decades to move forward with the allegations against R. Kelly, we have taken our survivors and their loved ones down with him on the sinking ship. I could say all day and all night that it wouldn’t be my child in this situation, but I don’t have a child so being able to assess the situation in its fullest capacity is far beyond my abilities. These survivors gave us a piece of their stories that still hurts, stings and have caused a gaping hole in their lives that they’ll never be able to heal without a journey in self-love, a strong support system and therapy. To allow us into their lives with such strength and vulnerability is not only a gift to the audience, but a privilege.

To Jen Emrich and Lindsey Perryman-Dunn, it's not as simple as calling 911 or going to the emergency room, getting an attorney or seeking a psychologist immediately. It's not our job as survivors to enchant you and make you believe us. As far as the so-called American "justice system" that we should be relying on, when has it ever been a system that helps the victim without risk of slander or bullying with simple questions beginning with "what were you wearing that made him so attracted to him?"

When I was raped, I was scared to come forward, especially against a public figure and well-respected student on campus. Imagine going up against a man who is protected by major names in the music industry, statewide government officials and staffers who value their check-to-check lifestyle more than they do the safety of a child the age of their own daughters. It's not that simple — and that's the last I'll have to say to either of you.

It took me years to finally share my story of what happened to me over the course of less than 24 hours. These women survived years of abuse — sexually, emotionally, mentally and physically — and they’re finally letting us in; letting the entire world in at the risk that they will be taunted with disbelief, disgust and hatred. We struggle to disassociate the man from the music, which is why we transfer the blame onto the survivors with whom we haven't built any sort of emotional bond with. While neither action is commendable, most can agree that it would be far more difficult to kill your uncle than it would be to kill a stranger or a far removed associate.

These women persevered and I commend them for their courage to stand up against a public figure in the face of all of his friends, family and loyal supporters. If we can take R. Kelly off of the local radio stations and get him dropped from his record label, why can’t we channel that same community vibe into uplifting our survivors with a sense of comfort, safety and healing to help them move forward in their journeys as women? 

Let me ask you again, was any of this their fault?