What We Risk When We Fail to Protect Black Girls

Last month, the Lifetime docuseries Surviving R. Kelly elevated the claims against the R&B singer as a serial abuser of women and girls. Kelly was charged in Illinois on Friday with ten counts of aggravated criminal sexual abuse.

But what also became apparent from the docuseries was the number of adults—from Kelly’s manager to parents of the minors he is believed to have violated—who were complicit in his systematic abuse of underage Black girls. Beyond the pain his alleged victims suffered, the docuseries highlighted that these girls were not afforded the protection they deserve as children, much like Black girls at large.

Such disregard for Black girls and women’s safety has public health consequences. Notably, emerging research implicates this systematic lack of protection in the disproportionately high rates of sexually transmitted infections (STIs) among Black girls and women. This was also evident in the docuseries: One woman said she acquired an STI from Kelly.

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