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'I Hope Their Voices Are Heard': R. Kelly Allegations Prompt Conversations Around Abuse

MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) -- Accusations like those against R. Kelly are giving a new voice to underage victims.

Some believe good can come from these disturbing allegations, all because it's starting a conversation.

During the #MeToo movement, women felt empowered to come forward tell their stories. And experts believe now, these latest cases will empower underage victims of sex crimes.

The week started with the release of a documentary accusing Michael Jackson of abuse. Days later, R. Kelly boldly denied he, too, sexually abused children.

The serious accusations are prompting some serious conversations.

"This is a good opportunity to talk to kids about this: what a good touch is, what a bad touch is, what a good relationship is with a coach, with a teacher," Ashley Taylor-Gouge of the Sexual Violence Center in Minneapolis said.

R. Kelly
R. Kelly after his arrest on March 6, 2019 (credit: Cook Co. Jail)

As an advocate at the Sexual Violence Center, she says these public confessionals are empowering.

"Speaking out has such a powerful impact on people. It takes just one person to share their story and people get a little bit of recognition. And other people see that and say, 'It wasn't just me, it didn't just happen to me," she said.

Laura Stearns agrees. She just won a lawsuit against the Children's Theatre, saying she was raped by her acting coach when she was 15.

She says the Bill Cosby charges prompted her to go public.

"I thought if they can speak out about this powerful figure, I can speak out about my perpetrator," she said.

Stearns, along with advocates, hope R. Kelley's case gives those who've stayed silent a reason to speak.

Taylor-Gouge says, "I hope that their voices are heard, I hope that we start to listen to kids when they tell us something has happened."

If you need tips on how to talk to your children about sexual assault, click here.

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