A must read if you have a young lady in your life…

As I watch the story continuing to unfold of R. Kelly still allegedly abusing young girls I hear a mixture of comments. A lot of people sit back and say that it would never happen to them or that they would never let their daughter get caught up in such a way. I don’t care how old you are, how educated, how mature, how loved, how well-raised, or how smart you are this could happen to any woman. It only takes the perfect storm of three things to easily get caught up. Lack of self-esteem, vulnerability created by a void of some kind, and the promise of something desired (attention, love, money, fame, power, whatever). The abuser doesn’t even have to be someone famous or attractive like R. Kelly.

I know because I have a friend right now who’s daughter is LOST. She was the perfect straight-A student who was raised in the church. Now her mother requests prayers almost every week for her to be released from the mental bondage of this child-preying boyfriend she met at her fast-food service job. He has been known for going after all the girls working there from his position as assistant manager. She even pitied the other girls herself for fighting over him in the beginning, but it didn’t take much for her to become next.

He took her virginity two weeks before high school graduation and later convinced her to leave college and move in with him after just one semester. After continuing to find evidence of his cheating with other girls, being beaten countless times, possibly contracting an STD, and being put in jail for domestic violence (she refused to tell police that he beat her up), she still goes back to him. My mind is blown and my heart saddened at how far this young woman has sunken in spite of family begging her to leave him alone. Her father even took her away to another state and she snuck back to be with the snake. When will she hit rock bottom and realize her worth is so much more than the circumstance she finds herself in? Only she can answer.

Yet and still, I know because it was just six years ago that it almost happened to me. I was a single mom and working professional who was heavy into multi-level marketing. I was determined that I would become a top earner and get the nice car and bonus checks on stage like the people the founders flaunted. There was a couple that was on fire and recruiting like crazy, so my female sponsor and I got involved in a mentoring relationship with them. It began with group calls and before I knew it the husband had invited me to travel six hours to their home in Myrtle Beach. I left my 3yr-old son behind with a trusted friend and went for the weekend. I felt safe because his wife and sister would be there as well.

Little did I know it was a cover for something deeper. Yes, we (me and his sister), spent hours learning from the husband how to use NLP (Neuro-Linguistic Programming) and other sales techniques to recruit, but it wasn’t until much later that I realized he was using the same stuff on me to bring down my guard. He was all too happy to help me get to the top… if I gave him something in return. The last morning I was there, before church (ironically he was studying to be a pastor of all things), he told me this but wouldn’t say what he wanted because he insisted that it had to come out of my mouth. His wife and sister were still asleep and he knew it was his last opportunity to approach me alone. I guessed a few things including money, but he just became annoyed with my naive answers, saying he would get money from my sales anyway since I was on his team. Finally, it hit me that he wanted my body.

I could barely say it out loud, but he confirmed I had it right. He explained that he had done this with other women and that it had worked. One, in particular, had gone on to become very powerful and successful, but another one stopped in the middle resulting in her being ‘messed up in the head’. That was his justification for saying I’d have to commit to his ‘program’ through to the end. By then he promised I’d be doing things I’d never done before like cussing in front of my mother. Thinking back it sounds strange, but he had picked up on something about me that he knew he could use to appeal to one of my deepest desires which was to be more confident. Girls today would probably describe that kind of confidence with the word ‘savage’, but the cost of becoming ‘savage’ is not something they really want.

I should have known better, but in that state, I was no match for his mind games. It took me about 15 minutes to spit it out, but I said yes to him. I can’t give any logical answer today as to why except for the three things I mentioned earlier. I wanted what he promised so badly: success. I was also vulnerable and had low self-esteem having just come out of a bad break-up. He knew this and used it to his advantage. I am ashamed still when I think about it, and even more, scared of what may have become of me. After he got the answer he wanted he told me I would have to come down and visit once a month and that there was only one rule if this was going to work. I could never say no to him for any reason. Sounds very similar to what some of the women who came forward were saying about R. Kelly right? This is not a game, it is all about control for abusive men like this.

I went home with a bounce in my step and felt more empowered than ever that I could do anything. That is the epitome of brainwash. To this day I know it was nothing but the grace of God and my son that saved me from who knows what. I got home late that night and picked him up from my friend’s house. He was still half asleep when I carried him to the car, but when I sat him down in the seat his eyes opened fully and he realized who I was. His face lit up with so much PURE love that I literally felt like I snapped out of it; like a spell had been broken. I said to myself, “I can’t do this. This is wrong.” I told my sponsor who told another higher-up who told the founders of the company. Of course, they lawyered up and it became obvious that they only wanted to protect themselves, but speaking up and forcing my predator to eventually quit the company sent a strong message. Sadly too many girls, like my friend’s daughter, do not get this chance to get out before the damage is done.

In light of what’s come out about the women in R. Kelly’s inner circle, I felt the need to continue the conversation and share both of these stories as cautionary tales to parents everywhere.  Talk to your daughters and know what’s going on in their lives (even grown ones – I was in my late 20s). Prepare them for what’s out there in the real world as much as you can. However, in both cases it didn’t matter that we were smart girls, raised well in the church with the loving support of at least one parent, these men were still able to get into our heads. So regardless of the situation, I don’t believe shaming these women and blaming their parents is the answer. The one who needs to be called out and penalized is the abuser.

I truly hope no one reading this can relate or ever has to go through anything like this, but I’m open to reading your constructive thoughts and comments. If you need someone to talk to, email me at Leslie@thismamawines.com and I will listen and get you the help you need.