R Kelly's girlfriend Jocelyn Savage, 24, says she was a victim too. Picture: Shannon Stapleton/Reuters/African News Agency (ANA)
R Kelly's girlfriend Jocelyn Savage, 24, says she was a victim too. Picture: Shannon Stapleton/Reuters/African News Agency (ANA)

R Kelly's girlfriend Joycelyn Savage says she was his victim too

By Elizabeth A. Harris Time of article published Nov 25, 2019

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Over the last year, as singer R Kelly was accused of emotionally abusing women and having sex with underage girls, his two live-in girlfriends came out repeatedly to support him, speaking in his defense on national television and appearing in court, seated on the benches behind him.

This weekend, one of those women said that she was a victim, too.

In a series of posts on the subscription website Patreon, Joycelyn Savage, 24, described treatment at Kelly’s hands that was strikingly similar to other accusations against him: He controlled when she ate, bathed and used the bathroom. He decided with whom she could speak. Once, when she didn’t address him as “Daddy” or “Master," she said, he choked her until she blacked out.

Kelly, 52, arrested earlier this year, is in jail facing numerous state and federal charges including child pornography, sexual assault, obstruction of justice and racketeering. After decades of rumors and accusations, his behavior was put under renewed scrutiny in January, with the premiere of the Lifetime documentary “Surviving R Kelly.” Several of the women featured in the film described treatment similar to what Savage said she experienced.

Kelly’s lawyer, Steve Greenberg, has insisted that Kelly is innocent of all the accusations against him. He did not respond to a request for comment Sunday, but gave a statement to Variety accusing Savage of attacking Kelly because he could no longer financially support her.

“Obviously if she were to tell the truth, no one would pay, so she has, unfortunately, chosen to regurgitate the stories and lies told by others for her own personal profit,” Greenberg told the publication.

In her posts, Savage said she met Kelly at a concert in 2015 when she was 19. She wanted to be a singer and model, and he told her he would make her famous. “Baby girl,” she recalled him saying, “you are going to be the next Aaliyah.”

In 1994, when he was 27, Kelly reportedly married Aaliyah, his musical protégé who was just 15 at the time. The marriage was annulled. (Aaliyah died in a plane crash in 2001.)

Savage said that she moved in with Kelly and dropped out of college. But after a few months, the attention he lavished on her changed. He would yell if she didn’t call him “Master” or “Daddy.” She said that when she showered, one of Kelly’s assistants would stand by the door. He disconnected her phone.

“I had bruises around my neck,” she wrote of the time he choked her, “and I was told by him to wear a turtle necks or a scarf to cover them up whenever he would take me out in public. I was frightened to tell anyone about this because of what he may do next. His assistant didn’t even care, and especially the other girls they were in for the money as well.”

Singer R Kelly has been charged with racketeering and sex-related crimes against women and girls. Picture: Amr Alfiky/AP/African News Agency (ANA)

In 2008, Kelly stood trial on child pornography charges in connection with a video that showed him having sex with and urinating on a girl prosecutors said was barely a teenager. She and her immediate family refused to testify, and he was acquitted on all counts. Federal prosecutors have accused Kelly of bribing the girl’s family to keep them quiet, and a lawyer for that girl — today a woman in her 30s — has said she is now cooperating with federal investigators.

In a chilling echo of those earlier accusations, Savage said that “Robert always had a fetish” for urinating on women and girls, and that he had done it to her “numerous” times.

There was no indication that the posts were written by someone other than Savage, but she did not respond to a request for comment to authenticate the material. Gerald Griggs, a lawyer representing her parents, who have insisted that she was being held in what they have described as emotional and sexual captivity, said in an emailed statement Sunday:

“The family is concerned about the allegations made by the social media account purported to be that of Joycelyn Savage. Numerous facts detailed by the account confirm the abuse and coercion that the family has alleged for two and a half years. We are attempting to make contact with Joy and the family is ready to welcome her back with love and open arms.”

In 2017, she recorded a video published on the celebrity news website TMZ in which she said she was fine and “not being brainwashed.” In one of her Patreon posts, Savage said that she was told what to tell TMZ, and that Kelly’s assistant “would starve me for days at a time until I learned it right word for word.”

When police went to Kelly’s Chicago apartment in January to check on Savage and Azriel Clary, Kelly’s other live-in girlfriend, officers reported back that the women told them they were fine and staying there voluntarily. In March, they defended Kelly on “CBS This Morning,” telling the anchor Gayle King that their parents were simply trying to squeeze the singer for money. King noted on air that Kelly had agreed not to be present for the women’s interview, but that off-camera he would “cough very loudly,” and that the women were “certainly aware that he was there.”

It was unclear Sunday whether either woman was still living with Kelly, and Clary has not made any public statements.

Savage indicated she would be posting more of her account on Patreon, a site that pays contributors based on the number of reader subscriptions, which begin at $3 per month, they attract. As of Sunday evening, Savage had nearly 1 600 subscribers.

In her third post, Savage said she had twice become pregnant by Kelly, whose full name is Robert S Kelly. Both times, she said, she had an abortion. “It’s scary having your first child and aborting them because of some monster that kept me as a prisoner,” she wrote. After one of her abortions, she said, “Robert decided to gift me with getting my breast done.”

Throughout her posts, she explained why she kept staying with Kelly despite all his mistreatment: a combination of delusion, fear, financial security and the hope that he would make good on his promise to jump-start her career.

“I kept thinking to myself he just wants me to be safe, he wants the best for me he thinks someone is going to take me away from him,” she wrote. “But it was me being delusional.”

Why would someone who claimed to love me, she added, “keep me locked up like some damn animal.”

The New York Times

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