Warning: The following story contains graphic descriptions of sexual abuse.
NEW YORK ― Jane Doe and her parents met R. Kelly at one of his concerts in 2015, when Doe was just 17 years old and the R&B singer was 48. Doe, now 23, testified anonymously Monday in the R&B singer’s sexual abuse trial, describing harrowing sexual, physical and mental abuse she says she experienced during their five-year relationship.
Doe, formally referred to as Jane Doe No. 5 in Kelly’s federal indictment, gave emotional testimony at the Brooklyn Federal Courthouse and discussed in detail the abuse she says she endured at the hands of the R&B singer, whose full name is Robert Sylvester Kelly.
She cried multiple times on stand while testifying that Kelly imposed strict rules, including making her call him “Daddy” and controlling what she wore and ate and where she was allowed to travel. Doe said Kelly made her have sex with several other women during their relationship and often collected collateral on her ― like recording a video of her lying and saying her father molested her ― so she was unable to leave the singer.
Doe, who met Kelly during her junior year of high school, had a sexual relationship with the singer throughout the summer before her senior year. She ended up moving to Chicago for her senior year of high school and lived with him while she took virtual classes.
Her testimony painted a powerful picture of a predatory lifestyle. The singer faces eight counts of violating the Mann Act, which prohibits taking minors across state lines for the purpose of prostitution, and one count of racketeering. Prosecutors hope to show that Kelly and his entourage acted like a criminal enterprise, using the singer’s fame and power to recruit underage girls and boys so that Kelly could sexually and physically abuse them. Kelly did engage in sex with Doe when she was 17, she testified, which constitutes rape in Florida and California.
Kelly used his success to lure Doe and her family into his world, according to Doe’s testimony. A few days after they met at his concert in Florida in 2015, he invited her to his hotel room, where he told Doe, an aspiring musician, she could audition for him. Once there, however, he said he “needed to ejaculate” first before he could hear her sing.
“I was against it,” Doe told prosecutors. “I told him I did not come to please him and that I was coming to audition.” Kelly continued to pressure Doe, who eventually caved and let him give her oral sex before he allowed her to sing for him.
Ten days later, Kelly had an assistant book flights for Doe to travel to Los Angeles and meet him at one of the stops on his Black Panties tour. From there she traveled to other parts of the country to visit Kelly on tour stops. Eventually, Kelly had sex with Doe, who was still a minor at the age of 17. All of Doe’s interstate travel was paid for by Kelly and booked through one of his assistants. This part of Doe’s testimony will likely play a big role in prosecutors’ evidence of racketeering.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Maria Cruz Melendez said in opening statements last Wednesday that Kelly told Doe she was so talented that she would be the next Aaliyah, an R&B singer who became wildly successful under Kelly’s mentorship. Kelly is also accused of sexually abusing and impregnating Aaliyah Haughton when she was 15.
Doe’s testimony was full of details about physical and sexual abuse, including statements that Kelly intentionally degraded and humiliated her. She said he punished her in several ways for not abiding by his strict rules, including spankings that “would leave bruises.” Another time, she said, he punished her by making her smear feces on her face and in her mouth as he recorded her.
She testified that Kelly gave her genital herpes when she was 17. The pain was so unbearable during the first flare-up, she said, that she “couldn’t even physically walk.” Doe added that she had “very intense” pain as a result of the herpes during sexual intercourse, and that it hindered her from having sex with Kelly sometimes. “‘I think your pussy is broken,’” Doe said Kelly taunted her at the time.
“I felt that this man had purposely given me something that he knew he had, a situation that he could have controlled,” she said through tears.
In 2015, Doe thought she was pregnant. Kelly wanted her to have an abortion, she said, but not just because she was under the legal age of consent. “He said he would want me to get an abortion so I could keep my body tight,” Doe said. She eventually did get pregnant in 2017, and Kelly forced her to get an abortion. Doe’s experience is eerily similar to that of Aaliyah’s, whom Kelly married when she was just 15 with the aid of a fake ID. Doe also testified Monday that the marriage occurred so that Aaliyah could get an abortion with his legal consent.
Doe testified that Kelly physically beat her several times, including one time with his Air Force One sneaker. She said through tears that she ran through the house trying to get away from Kelly as he punched her and hit her with the sneaker. “I was trying to run from him and fight back, but I’m literally no match,” said Doe, who was 4 feet, 11 inches and 98 pounds at the time. Kelly is over 6 feet tall.
Jane Doe No. 5 is one of six Jane Does whose stories will be used as evidence in Kelly’s trial. The first on the stand, Jerhonda Pace, testified last week following opening statements. Others include Aaliyah, who died in a plane crash in 2001. There are two John Does mentioned in the uncharged evidence whose stories will likely come up later in the trial.
Jane Doe No. 5 will continue her testimony Tuesday, including cross examination from the defense. The trial is expected to last at least a month.
Taryn Finley contributed reporting.
CORRECTION: An earlier version of this article misstated the number of charges Kelly is facing. He faces eight counts of violating the Mann Act, not four.
Need help? Visit RAINN’s National Sexual Assault Online Hotline or the National Sexual Violence Resource Center’s website.
Need help? In the U.S., call 1-866-331-9474 or text “loveis” to 22522 for the National Dating Abuse Helpline.