A friend texted me saying, “I’m almost in tears.”

I knew why without even having to ask what was up. A lot of sex‐abuse and rape survivors have been feeling that way since the new Lifetime docuseries, Surviving R. Kelly, began airing last week.

The six-part series contains interviews with more than 50 music insiders, journalists, alleged abuse survivors, and others sharing explosive charges against the famed R&B singer, whose hits include “I Believe I Can Fly” and “Step in the Name of Love.”

I binge‐watched the entire series Saturday night and almost wish I hadn’t. It’s one thing to have heard that Kelly reportedly married the singer Aaliyah when she was just 15 and he was 27, but it’s another thing to see old videotapes of this grown man leading around a child bride in modern-day America and actually getting away with it.

Kelly reportedly has a thing for young girls and in interview after interview people, including his ex‐wife, describe his efforts to control and allegedly abuse women. Kelly and his lawyers have denied all of the sordid allegations. In 2008, the singer was found not guilty of child pornography after being accused of making a sex tape that involved an underage girl. Prosecutors in Georgia reportedly may have recently reopened an investigation of Kelly, according to CNN.

Meanwhile, some sex‐abuse survivors are being shaken to their core by the one‐hour episodes detailing allegations that Kelly, whose given name is Robert Sylvester Kelly, urinated in the mouth of a minor during a videotaped sex act and held underage females in cult‐like captivity. Calls to Women Organized Against Rape are up. Social media is buzzing with the hashtag #MuteRKelly.

“My phone has been ringing off the hook since this whole thing started,” said Movita Johnson‐Harrell, head of the Victim Witness Service Unit of the Philadelphia District Attorney’s Office.

That’s why I applaud a local effort to organize a safe space for people to gather and express their feelings around the documentary. It was scheduled for 7 p.m. Tuesday evening at Catalyst Church, 5541 Baltimore Ave. I hope people turned out for it. Trained sex-abuse experts were on hand, which is good. Nobody should have to suffer alone and in silence.

Sexual abuse is an issue that doesn’t get discussed enough. There’s still a lot of shame and denial, particularly in African American communities. Survivors tend to suffer in silence. Cultural pressure to not “talk outside the house” is real. But secrets about rape and sexual molestation carry an especially heavy emotional weight that manifests itself in sneaky ways such as depression, anxiety and drug abuse.

Complicating things is the fact that, too often, African American women’s stories of being sexually abused and victimized at the hands of powerful men don’t get heard. And when they do, they don’t attract the same level of attention as a white Hollywood actress such as Alyssa Milano does.

This is the first time that the majority of the alleged victims of a big-time star embroiled in a #MeToo scandal are black.

“Finally, we are hearing the voices of black women regarding this issue," pointed out Laquisha S. Anthony, founder of V.O.I.C.E., which stands for Victory Over Inconceivable Cowardly Experiences.

Laquisha Anthony, of Women Organized Against Rape and V.O.I.C.E., shown here in the entranceway to Philadelphia City Hall, organized Tuesday's forum for women triggered by the "Surviving R. Kelly" docuseries.
JESSICA GRIFFIN / Staff Photographer
Laquisha Anthony, of Women Organized Against Rape and V.O.I.C.E., shown here in the entranceway to Philadelphia City Hall, organized Tuesday's forum for women triggered by the "Surviving R. Kelly" docuseries.

“More people in my community can relate to Surviving R. Kelly because the [alleged victims] are regular girls who grew up in the inner city," added Anthony, education and training specialist for WOAR and the organizer of Tuesday’s forum. “This finally gave a face to the fact that sexual assault happens in our community, that one in four girls experience sexual assault.”

One in four! That’s a whole lot of trauma.

“I’m an everyday girl. I’ve experienced this and I don’t want anyone to have to go through this alone,” Anthony told me.

Thanks to her efforts, some local sex-abuse survivors didn’t have to.