I am Lizzette Martinez, one of the many survivors who suffered abuse at the hands of famed singer R. Kelly. The relationship began when I was just seventeen and continued into my early twenties, but the effects of everything that happened have followed me my entire life. I was listed in the indictment for R. Kelly’s trial in New York, and this is my story—my life outtake—of what it was like to sit and wait for justice again after all this time.
On July 24th, 2021, I posted on my Instagram: “I support the 20 Jane Doe and John Does in the new indictment against RSK (Robert Sylvester Kelly). I stand with survivors.”
At the time, I didn’t know I was Jane Doe #9.
A few days later, a journalist friend reached out to me, saying he thought I might be one of the twenty in the indictment. I hadn’t heard from my lawyer yet about the motion, so I didn’t want to assume anything. Basically, hold the nerves, hold the fear, hold the underlying excitement that this is actually happening after so long. I waited, and on July 27th my lawyer emailed me the section listing my inclusion in the motion filed by the prosecutors.
After reading the email several times, I began to cry… and cry… and cry. I was overwhelmed, but also in shock that what happened to me was being recognized now by the U.S. government. And somewhere, in the back of my mind, this voice said, Finally, there will be justice. Finally, there would be validation after being bullied for years by people who didn’t want to believe me. My lawyer, Gloria Allred, said she’d get back to me when she heard from Prosecutors about next steps.
And so began the waiting game…
A few weeks passed and I spent my time in Palm Beach, caring for my father who was just out of the hospital. Bonding with him is something I’ve yearned for most of my life, so I was thrilled to be there. It gave me a sense of worth, purpose, and a connection that I hadn’t felt in a long time, especially in the middle of a nerve-wracking situation like this. Still hadn’t heard from Gloria, so I checked the news constantly for updates. Still no word.
Waiting every day, wondering if I was going to go on the stand, I was anxious as can be. Anxiety off the charts. Watching people go up on the stand was nerve-wracking enough, and some seemed to be siding with Rob. The whole situation took me back to his first trial in Chicago. I remember listening in, feeling many of the same emotions. And then he got off.
I don’t know if I can feel that heartbreak again.
As the trial lingered on, I returned home but I couldn’t get out of bed. I went to Puerto Rico to see family and friends, trying to distract myself, be healthier, see people I love and feel better. But I kept experiencing terrible panic attacks. I’d get in the car and start thinking about the trial, the past, my part in the indictment, and my heart would start racing along with all kinds of thoughts. They all ended in the same terrifying loop: What if they call me to the stand?
It was terrible because up until the very end, I was worried about being called in. Just that extreme anxiety of not knowing, always on edge, not knowing if your entire life is about to be disrupted. Everything is kept confidential, so you don’t know in advance if you’re going. You’re sitting there wondering: Are they going to call me the night before? Am I going to get on a plane and end up in trial the next day? Will I look Rob in the face tomorrow for the first time in years? You don’t know. I had heard from a couple reporters that my name was brought up in session, so the tension got worse.
For a while, I went through a phase where I didn’t want to be called at all, because my mental health wasn’t right. I didn’t even know how I’d get dressed to go, much less be coherent. I was in such a deep depression. Riddled with anxiety, I didn’t know how I’d react, standing there in front of my abuser. I thought I’d break down and not be able to do it. That scared me. Knowing something might break your mental health entirely? It’s a lot.
But then I was watching the trial and hearing the other women go up there, and I realized that if they can do it, I can do it too. Those women who were brave enough to take the stand and be so genuine and strong—they made me feel stronger.
In the end, I was ready. Ready to say my piece to the world, but more importantly, to Robert Kelly. By the final days, I wanted to tell Rob to his face how I felt about it all—how he hurt me and so many other people. And how I hope he sits with himself for the rest of his life, thinking about that. Because it wasn’t supposed to happen. None of it should have happened.
And then the news came that is bringing a whole new era for so many women: R. Kelly is found guilty on all counts.