When Lisa Van Allen sat down with Jada Pinkett Smith, Adrienne Banfield-Norris, and Willow Smith on Red Table Talk, her tears began flowing immediately. Before she even began telling the women her story, Van Allen said she was crying from the relief of being around women who believe her. A minute later, Pinkett Smith was crying too.
Van Allen alleges she was in a decades-long emotionally abusive relationship with R. Kelly, which she said included threesomes with girls as young as 14 years old. (Kelly denies any accusations of sex with a minor, sexual abuse, or of running a sex cult through his lawyer.)
After the debut of the Lifetime documentary series Surviving R. Kelly, Van Allen feels her story is finally being heard, but on Red Table Talk she explained why she stayed in the relationship.
Van Allen said she met Kelly when she was 17 at a video shoot. “I didn’t assume he liked younger girls. At that moment, I thought he just liked me,” she explained on Red Table Talk.
She quickly began a relationship with Kelly, and soon was living with him. As a wealthy and famous older man, she alleged that he had the power and control in the relationship, explaining he booked her flights and gave her money — effectively putting him in financial control of her life.
Van Allen told the women on Red Table Talk she is a survivor of sexual abuse that happened in foster care during the first six years of her life, adding, “He was the first person I told about my abuse.”
Van Allen alleged Kelly used trauma from her past to emotionally manipulate her. “He told me all of his personal problems and turmoils. And that’s part of it, because when he did that I felt I was so special,” Van Allen said. “Like now, I can tell him what I’ve been through, let my guard down. He’s a master manipulator. He says what he needs to say to get what he wants done. He knew my whole background.” According to the National Domestic Violence Hotline, some of the main reasons people stay in abusive relationships are low self-esteem, lack of financial resources, fear, and belief that abuse is normal.
Van Allen went on to allege that Kelly asked her to have threesomes with other young girls, one of whom she later found out was only 14. Van Allen said she would never have participated had she known. She also claimed that she didn’t enjoy or want the threesomes, but she went through with them to make him happy. Coercion to commit sex acts and preventing a partner from making their own decisions are both on the National Domestic Violence Hotline’s list of signs you are in an abusive relationship.
To explain why she didn’t leave Kelly or try to turn him into the authorities after finding out the girl was under the age of consent, Van Allen alleged that he would create situations where she felt she owed him her silence.
“One time when I was allowed to go home, and I got into it with some girls, and he made it go away. I’ll protect you; you gotta protect me,” Van Allen said. “He had a thing called ‘pins and eyeballs’: no matter if they stick pins in your eyeballs, you don’t talk about what we got going on.” Controlling behaviour and coercing a partner to drop criminal charges are both warning signs that a relationship is abusive, according to the the National Domestic Violence Hotline.
Van Allen eventually did leave Kelly and started a new life in a new city, giving birth to a daughter. But her circumstances became dire, she said, after her child’s father became abusive. She called Kelly, who flew her and her daughter back to Chicago.
Eventually, Van Allen said her concern for her daughter gave her the courage to escape Kelly once and for all. She alleged that she didn’t feel comfortable leaving him with her daughter alone and that she didn’t like when he started giving her large sums of money to buy her daughter dresses instead of letting her wear leggings. “I can’t be with someone like that,” Van Allen said, frowning and shaking her head.