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Vera House Director Says R. Kelly Trial Is Just One Example Of Abuse By Powerful People

Vera House, Inc.

A co-executive director at Vera House says the latest disturbing developments in the R. Kelly sex crimes trial can’t be ignored even if we feel somewhat disconnected from it. Angela Douglas said the case is just one example of many who are in power and creating norms that are harming people.

“It’s extreme, but even if we look at Governor Cuomo, there is a career and there were enough victims that this became a pattern in a way in which people are conducting themselves. So I don’t think it’s as farfetched, and in fact I think that’s dangerous when we think ‘That’s them over there. That’s them up there,’” said Douglas.

Douglas says there are people in our own community, including police officers, who have used their power and privilege to harm those who are most vulnerable. In R. Kelly’s case, she says he allegedly groomed mainly Black and brown girls and boys for sex.

“He used their lack of resources. He used their interest and their talent and getting their talent seen. Being able to be mentored and shown a path, much like many interns who have suffered sexual harassment.”

Wealthy, powerful perpetrators often use non-disclosure agreements to protect their reputations and keep victims quiet. Douglas says they can be hard for poorer victims to resist because the money would be more than they’d get if they no longer had that so-called mentor to help them. She says what makes it more dangerous is that Black and brown communities often avoid dealing with such trauma.

“There are so many intersectional oppressions that impact the way that not only this gets talked about or not, addressed or not, but what happens when it does,” said Douglas. “the decimation of families and communities rather than how do we promote healing? How do we promote accountability?”

Douglas says without a reckoning of the victimization by the larger community, the cycle of harm will continue, without adequate response from…or access to…the justice system, and medical, mental health, or education services.

Scott Willis covers politics, local government, transportation, and arts and culture for WAER. He came to Syracuse from Detroit in 2001, where he began his career in radio as an intern and freelance reporter. Scott is honored and privileged to bring the day’s news and in-depth feature reporting to WAER’s dedicated and generous listeners. You can find him on twitter @swillisWAER and email him at