When sexual assault and abuse are in the news, it’s not uncommon for hotlines supporting survivors to see an uptick in calls. Lifetime’s Surviving R. Kelly docuseries is no different — after the reportedly resulted in an increase of more than 20 percent in calls to the Rape, Abuse and Incest National Network hotline (RAINN), compared to the previous week.
“We often see the types of callers we get will follow the news cycle,” the network’s president, Scott Berkowitz, told NBC News. “With the R. Kelly show, we were seeing more folks who are talking about childhood abuse.” He added that during the testimony of Dr. Christine Blaisey Ford at Brett Kavanaugh’s Supreme Court confirmation hearing, the hotline saw an increase in calls from older women, and a 201-percent increase in calls overall.
In anticipation of the influx of calls, RAINN tweeted, “Watching or reading about ‘Surviving R. Kelly’ and need to talk? The National Sexual Assault Hotline is here 24/7,” with the hotline number and a link to their website. Additionally, civil rights advocacy organization Color of Change provided a viewer guide to help survivors of sexual abuse take care of themselves while watching the series, and process it afterward.
The six-part series, outlining the singer’s alleged decades of sexual misconduct, including the sexual abuse of several underage girls and a wide-reaching network of people who helped keep his predations under wraps, aired on Lifetime last Thursday through Saturday. According to the series, R. Kelly habitually groomed teenage girls and had sex with them, keeping their every move under his control with threats of having them followed as well as manipulation and charisma. His ex-wife, in her interview for the series, reported that shortly after they were married he told her not to speak to anyone else, kept her locked in their house, and otherwise terrorized her. Producers also spoke to his former assistant, head of security, back-up singers, ex-girlfriends, and even his brothers, detailing not only his abuses but how people — including some of those who were interviewed — enabled him by looking the other way, booking hotel rooms for him, and in one case having paperwork forged to show that budding R&B singer Aaliyah was 18 so she and Kelly could get married, when in fact she was only 15.
The singer did not participate in the production of the series, and has vehemently denied the allegations leveled against him, saying they’re part of a “vendetta” against him and threatening to sue everyone involved. He was found not guilty of child pornography charges in 2008, in connection with the infamous video of him urinating on a girl who was reportedly 14 years old, but who refused to testify against him, and who the jury determined they couldn’t identify.