PHOENIX (Jan. 22, 2019) – One of the nation’s largest nonprofits focused on the treatment and prevention of child abuse is calling on the U.S. music industry to do more to combat child abuse and sexual assault.
“This is an important moment for the music industry to speak out and stand together against child abuse. It is also an opportunity to better understand and address sexual assault and abuse,” announced Childhelp National Spokesperson Rebecca Cooper, in releasing a letter Tuesday sent to music industry leaders, artists and executives through the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) and the American Federation of Musicians (AFM).
“It’s not enough to condemn abusive behavior. As an industry – and as a nation – we have to do more to stop abuse from occurring and from being ignored,” Cooper added.
In the wake of the powerful Lifetime documentary “Surviving R. Kelly,” music industry leaders RCA, Sony and well-known R. Kelly music collaborators – including Lady Gaga and Chance the Rapper – have begun to take steps to break ties with Robert Kelly. But the documentary includes troubling allegations that suggest the abuse may have been tolerated, ignored and enabled for decades. It is clear more action by the industry is needed.
Childhelp is the nation’s oldest and largest organization working to prevent and treat child abuse and has served millions of children across the U.S. since founders Yvonne Fedderson and Sara O’Meara began to uncover this hidden epidemic in 1959.
The latest statistics show a suspected incident of child abuse is reported every ten seconds on average in the United States, but an overwhelming number of cases go ignored and unreported. Childhelp urges anyone who knows or suspects an incident of child abuse to call the Childhelp National Child Abuse Hotline (1-800-4-A-CHILD / 1-800-422-4453). The hotline is staffed 24/7 by professional crisis counselors who can provide guidance on reporting abuse, identify local community resources and services, and answer any questions about the topic.
In addition to the hotline service, Childhelp provides the Speak Up Be Safe prevention education, which helps children and teens learn the skills to prevent or interrupt cycles of neglect, bullying, and child abuse—physical, emotional, and sexual.
The documentary has given these victims a collective voice powerful enough that they can no longer be ignored. But their individual voices should never have been ignored in the first place. Charges against Mr. Kelly date back three decades, with publicly available court records detailing repeated allegations of assault. Both in published indictments and documented settlements, numerous incidents pointed to a troubling pattern of abuse.
“Surviving R. Kelly” also touches on one key challenge when abuse goes ignored and untreated – the cycle of abuse that can turn victims into perpetrators.
In the documentary, R. Kelly’s brother Carey Kelly alleges he endured sexual assault as a young child and believes his older brother did as well. Carey claims an older sister sexually molested him on repeated occasions and that he never reported the abuse to his mother or any adults, for fear he wouldn’t be believed. Now Carey Kelly confirms he is also facing assault charges, accused of molesting his own daughter
“From Chris Brown to R. Kelly – and all the far less publicized incidents of abuse occurring every day across the country – it is not a surprise to experts in the field when an alleged victim of child abuse becomes the abuser,” Cooper said. “The real news is when we can break the cycle.”
Childhelp is calling on music industry leaders to take two key steps, which are described in depth in the letter:
- Use the music industry’s public platforms to encourage reporting of suspected abuse;
- Mandate industry-wide child abuse prevention training to identify and report abuse.
“We applaud these brave women and the documentary filmmakers for shining a bright spotlight on child abuse and sexual assault, and we commend those who are now saying abusive behavior has no place place in the music business – or anywhere” Childhelp Co-Founder and CEO Sara O’Meara said. “But more action is needed. The music industry can and should be a leader in helping us educate the public and provide resources for addressing child abuse.”
O’Meara points to the volunteer advocacy role played by influential celebrities such as actor John Stamos, a longtime supporter of Childhelp who took on an even larger volunteer role in 2018 as national spokesman for the Childhelp National Child Abuse Hotline.
“The attention generated by ‘Surviving R. Kelly’ is an important opportunity for music industry leaders to help us get the word out that anyone can break the cycle of abuse and quite possibly save a life,” O’Meara said. “No matter how powerful the perpetrator, child abuse can never be tolerated or ignored.”
Since 1959, Childhelp® has brought the light of hope and healing into the lives of countless children as a leading national nonprofit organization dedicated to helping at-risk children. Childhelp’s programs and services include residential treatment services, children’s advocacy centers, therapeutic foster care, group homes and child abuse prevention, education and training. For more information, visit www.childhelp.org.