Dominique Gardner, a former girlfriend of R&B singer R. Kelly who appeared in some of the most harrowing scenes in the documentary series “Surviving R. Kelly,” is speaking publicly for the first time about her relationship with the accused sexual abuser.
Gardner, who was with R. Kelly on and off for nine years, explained to Chicago music journalist Jim DeRogatis why she didn’t leave him — a question many abuse survivors are often asked.
“He is a giver, because when everything between me and him was good — oh, my God, it was, like, perfect,” she told DeRogatis, who has covered the allegations against Kelly for 20 years, in an article published Tuesday in The New Yorker. “But, as soon as he gets mad, he turns into a person like, oh, what up, the new Rob.”
The Lifetime docuseries aired in January, detailing decades of abuse allegations that include preying on girls as young as 13 and holding young women in an alleged sex cult. In a gripping scene, it shows Gardner’s mother Michelle Kramer tracking down her daughter and rescuing her from a Los Angeles hotel where Gardner had been staying with other R. Kelly girlfriends.
Kelly was charged last month with 10 counts of aggravated criminal sexual abuse. He has repeatedly denied all allegations of underage sex and abuse.
Gardner said she briefly returned to Kelly in May after the scene shown in the docuseries. She permanently left him two weeks later. She told DeRogatis the final straw was Kelly not allowing her to attend her younger brother’s graduation.
“I would probably still be there,” she said. “But when he told me ‘No’ ... I’m, like, ‘What is wrong with you?’ You don’t let people see their families, I guess, because we might realize how much freedom and happiness we have out there with our families.”
Gardner, echoing other accusers, said Kelly imposed restrictions on the young women, controlling meals, clothing, bathroom access and visits with parents or other loved ones.
“I couldn’t even have a drink without his permission,” Gardner said. “I’m a grown-ass woman, and I’ve gotta ask you if I want a drink? Everything you do, you have to ask him. That’s not living, that’s not normal. I’ve got to ask to use the fucking bathroom? Are you serious? I’m about to pee on myself if I can’t get in contact with you. What the fuck is this?”
She stopped short of calling Kelly’s treatment a “cult” and said she was not “brainwashed,” as the parents of Kelly’s current girlfriends, Joycelyn Savage and Azriel Clary, claim happened to their daughters.
“I wouldn’t even say ‘mind games.’ It was just the fact that he tried to break me,” Gardner said. “I couldn’t be broken. He wanted that control over me, and I wouldn’t give him that power. So, he figured, like, If I don’t give her food, she’ll come around. Nope. I’d rather die than come around and give you my soul.”
Kelly, in an explosive interview with “CBS This Morning” host Gayle King last week, repeatedly screamed and cried, rising out of his chair before his publicist restrained him. Kramer said last week that neither she nor her daughter could watch the full interview because it reminded Gardner of Kelly’s abuse.
Gardner said that she does not think Kelly should go to prison.
“I feel like he should be on house arrest in a studio, because, like I said, his music makes him get through the situations, what’s he going through,” she said. “Jail time, no. He needs to have a twenty-four-hour therapist at his house.”
She added: “I loved him to death, you know what I’m sayin’? But he needs help. Who doesn’t need help?”
Need help? Visit RAINN’s National Sexual Assault Online Hotline or the National Sexual Violence Resource Center’s website.