The Kelly Conversations: Charmaine Jake-Matthews, professor of psychology

‘People forget so quickly the victims’

July 15, 2013

From the perspective of the psychologist, why do older men seek younger women for illegal sexual relationships? Why would someone videotape such an act? What is the impact on the young woman? And how can fans appreciate the music of someone accused of such acts without thinking about those crimes?

Charmaine Jake-Matthews is a professor of psychology who teaches professional counseling at a university in Arizona. She attended Kenwood Academy in Hyde Park with R. Kelly and the two shared a mentor in the legendary gospel choir teacher Lena McLin. She previously worked as a therapist in Chicago and taught psychology at several local colleges, in addition to counseling troubled teens.

Here are some of the highlights of Jake-Matthews’ interview:

[On the prevalence of older men preying on younger women] "In my work as a counselor I’ve seen many young ladies who have been in that situation at some point in their lives…. I’ve seen many young ladies who have been, I’m going to use the word “victim,” a victim of these situations. It seems to happen pretty frequently from my experience, both professional and personal."

"The impact in my experience is devastating. I’ve seen young ladies as recently as a year or so after something like this has happened, 18 or 19-year-old girls, and I’ve seen women decades after this has happened, women old enough to be my mother decades after this sort of thing has happened, and what I see is that there is this lasting effect on things like self-esteem, self-worth, but also sometimes some serious diagnoses, things like depression, various anxiety disorders, even post-traumatic stress disorder."

"Many of us kind of saw Robert even in high school [as someone] who would be successful in the music industry… and then to see this kind of negative outcome for someone like himself definitely tarnishes the hero, tarnishes the image that I think many of us saw in R. Kelly before that."

[On Pitchfork’s embrace of R. Kelly] "For me, I think what we have to realize is that as long as there is a consumer for a product, then someone will continue to create that product. So if promoting this stereotype of an oversexed black man makes him money, then he will continue to do it. I think this white hipster crowd really needs to ask themselves is this what I want to promote by putting my money there."

"There’s something about celebrity privilege, particularly having been acquitted of these crimes, that it’s kind of like we forget so quickly. Of course we know being acquitted doesn’t mean something didn’t happen. But being acquitted of these crimes people forget so quickly the accusations and forget the victims, and particularly when the victims are people you don’t necessarily identify with. So if this crowd or this population of young white women can’t identify with or don’t identify with the population of what were his victims, it would be easy for them to forget that these sort of things happened and focus on the music or the image that he’s portraying today without any sort of regard for those things."

Ahead of R. Kelly headlining Pitchfork Music Festival, WBEZ’s Jim DeRogatis conducts a series of conversations with smart, passionate cultural critics. Videos have been edited for length and clarity.