R Kelly accuser claims she was locked up for days before being assaulted

Kelly is currently standing trial in New York on charges of racketeering, bribery and sexual abuse

Content warning: This story contains discussion and descriptions of sexual abuse

A woman has told a court in New York that R Kelly locked her up in his house for days before raping her in 2003.

The singer is currently standing trial for racketeering, bribery and violating the Mann Act, which criminalises the transportation of any woman or girl across state lines for “immoral” purposes, such as illegal sexual activity. He has consistently denied all the claims against him and has pleaded not guilty to all the charges.

The woman, identified only as Sonja, said in her testimony yesterday (September 9) that she met Kelly in a mall in Utah when she was 21 years old. She was an intern at a radio station at the time and hoped an interview with him would “kick-start” her career.

She said Kelly had invited her to his studio in Chicago to conduct the interview because he didn’t have time in Utah and didn’t want to talk on the phone. His team planned and booked the trip for her, but the New York Times reports that Sonja alleged that when she arrived one of his employees asked if she needed “protection”, before clarifying: “Do you need a condom?” She said she had responded by saying she wasn’t there “for that”.

Another employee allegedly photocopied her ID and asked for the phone numbers of her most recent contacts, along with other contact information. Sonja claimed she was then taken to a room in Kelly’s house and given a “list of rules” about how to behave – including that she would need permission to either use the bathroom or eat.

R Kelly New York trial sexual abuse begins
R. Kelly arrives at a courtroom in Chicago in 2019. Credit: Scott Olson/Getty Images

When Kelly’s staff left the room, she claimed that she heard the door lock from the outside. Days later, she asked for food and was given Chinese food that made her feel “extremely full” and tired after eating only a small portion. She also claimed that when she woke up later, she saw the singer “doing up his pants in the corner” and could feel “some wet stuff in between my legs”, while her underwear was also allegedly on the sofa.

“It felt like something had been inside of me,” Sonja told the court. “I believed I was touched sexually.” When the prosecution asked if she had consented to any sexual acts with Kelly, she replied: “Absolutely not.”

She went on to claim that Kelly’s staff had later told her that the star would no longer have time for an interview and warned her not to tell anyone because “you don’t want to mess with Mr Kelly”. She alleged that he had her home address and knew where her young daughter was.

Yesterday’s proceedings were the first time Sonja had made her accusations public. The defence suggested that she had made up her story after seeing other accusers speak out against Kelly in the 2019 documentary Surviving R Kelly. She denied that was the case, saying: “I was sexually assaulted. There was something in me that was something I had not invited.”

Kelly’s trial has been delayed multiple times due to the ongoing coronavirus pandemic. It started last month (August 19) and has seen nine accusers take the stand to detail allegations of abuse by the singer. One woman claimed he had told her he was going to “train her” sexually when she was 16 years old and was told to follow “Rob’s rules”, given instructions to call Kelly “Daddy” and wear baggy clothes to hide her figure.

A man using the pseudonym Louis also alleged that Kelly had sexually assaulted him when he was 17 after inviting him to his studio to record music.

For help, advice or more information regarding sexual harassment, assault and rape in the UK, visit the Rape Crisis charity website. In the US, visit RAINN.

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