We already know that Robert “R.” Kelly has a long, dark list of sexual allegations and crimes in his past. On Jan. 3, Lifetime premiered a documentary series called “Surviving R. Kelly,” which details many of these allegations.
In 2017, news broke that the R&B singer was leading a cult – allegedly holding six women against their will.
The parents of a few of the aspiring young singers went to the police, while the women in the group who spoke out claimed everything was fine.
Below, we look at the identifying factors of a cult and ask the question: Was R. Kelly a sex cult leader?
The Leader Is Controlling, With Narcissistic Personality Traits
Beware of any person who claims to have special powers or divinity, claims to be smarter and purer than anyone else, or claims to have special insight.
About the R. Kelly allegations, Jessica Meiman, a mental health counselor said, “He just needs to feel in total control over others to help maintain his own self-image and delusional sense of power and superiority.”
Cult leaders are often very charming and charismatic; they’ll make you believe you’re loved, but can turn on you instantly with anger and abuse, without warning.
One of the parents of one of the young women allegedly held as Kelly’s cult member said about her daughter, “She just kept saying she’s in love and [Kelly] is the one who cares for her.”
A Cult Leader Will Tell You Horrible Things Will Happen To You If You Leave The Group
A cult leader will make you think that the only path to happiness or a good life is by living the life he or she tells you to live.
According to the allegations, Kelly “controls every aspect of their lives: dictating what they eat, how they dress, when they bathe, when they sleep, and how they engage in sexual encounters that he records.”
The situation seems all too familiar to former cult member Steven Hassan, who said about Kelly’s behavior, or specifically, mind control tactics, “nothing is original.” “Make them believe like they’ll never be happy if they ever try to get away from him,” he noted.
Cult leaders will force distance between members and their families and friends; and therefore, force those members to be emotionally reliant on the ways of the leader. Cults also typically operate in secrecy, because cult leaders don’t want their behavior to be questioned.
Psychologist Dr. Alisa Ruby Bash said the women in Kelly’s group seem to “have been stripped of their sense of self, disempowered and forced into a victim role.”
The mother of one of the women said she has only received two, one-line messages from her daughter since the last time she saw her – last year.
Pressure, Control & Deception
Cult leaders will force dependency by telling members what to do, eat, think, etc. – leaving no time for victims to question their own lives.
Commenting on the news about Kelly, Cheryl Mack, his former assistant, called him “a puppet master;” adding, “You have to ask for food. You have to ask to go use the bathroom. … [Kelly] is a master at mind control.”
It was also reported that Kelly punishes the women verbally and physically if they break any of his “rules.” He has apparently confiscated the women’s cell phones and replaced them with new phones, as well as demand they ask permission before leaving the recording studio or their assigned rooms.
Psychologist and international cult expert, Steve Eichel warns that “the single most important advice I can give anyone” is “beware of any kind of pressure… Any kind of pressure to make a quick decision about becoming involved in any intensive kind of activity or organization.”
A record producer who goes by the name of TONE noted that one of the women in the group – an aspiring singer from Georgia – told him she was getting frustrated because every time she wanted to talk about her music career, Kelly would change the topic to sex.
Concerned, TONE recorded some of the phone calls between the woman and Kelly. In those recordings, Kelly seems far from engaged with her words and even changes the subject.
Is It A Cult?
Over the years, Kelly has been arrested and sued more times than you could imagine. It all started in 1994 when he wed 15-year-old singer Aaliyah Haughto using a falsified marriage certificate.
According to the known signs of a cult, the behaviors happening behind Kelly’s closed doors seem all too similar, despite his denials.
You can help keep friends and family safe with public record information: registered addresses, phone numbers, and jail records are just a few of the ways you can check up on a loved one’s well-being.
1 in 3 women and 1 in 6 men in the United States experienced some form of sexual violence or abuse in their lifetime. If you or someone you know has suffered sexual assault, please consult the National Sexual Violence Resource Center.