Lady Gaga has broken her silence on her 2013 collaboration with R. Kelly, apologizing for the message it sends to survivors. In a statement released on Twitter one week after a new docuseries focused on claims of sexual assault against R. Kelly premiered, Gaga denounced their single "Do What U Want" and vowed to remove it from iTunes and other streaming platforms.
"What I am hearing about the allegations against R. Kelly is absolutely horrifying and indefensible," she wrote in a post shared the morning of January 10. "As a victim of sexual assault myself, I made both the song and video at a dark time in my life, my intention was to create something extremely defiant and provocative because I was angry and still hadn't processed the trauma that had occurred in my own life."
The video for "Do What U Want," which was directed by Terry Richardson, another man who's been accused of sexual misconduct, was ultimately scrapped, but bits from it leaked online. In the clip, R. Kelly plays a doctor who puts Gaga under anesthesia and then throws a party in the operating room while she's out cold. To call the concept disturbing—especially given the numerous accusations of sexual misconduct against R. Kelly—would be an understatement.
"The song is called 'Do What U Want (With My Body),' I think it's clear how explicitly twisted my thinking was at the time," Gaga went on to explain.
In November 2013 Gaga and R. Kelly performed "Do What U Want" at the American Music Awards. The high-concept number had Gaga playing a Marilyn Monroe figure and R. Kelly portraying the president. They also performed the song together on Saturday Night Live.
“If I could go back and have a talk with my younger self, I’d tell her to go through the therapy I have since then, so that I could understand the confused post-traumatic state that I was in—or if therapy was not available to me or anyone in my situation—to seek help, and speak as openly and honestly as possible about what we’ve been through," Gaga also wrote in her statement.
The Joanne singer says that she "stands behind these women 1,000 percent, believe them, know they are suffering and in pain, and feel strongly that their voices should be heard and taken seriously," referring to the women who have come forward to accuse R. Kelly of sexual assault both in the current Lifetime docuseries Surviving R. Kelly and otherwise. (R. Kelly has denied the allegations.)
"I have demonstrated my stance on this issue [sexual assault] and others many times throughout my career. I share this not to make excuses for myself but to explain," she added. In September 2015 Gaga released a song about sexual assault called "Til It Happens to You." It was used in the 2015 documentary The Hunting Ground and earned an Oscar nomination the following year.
Surviving R. Kelly has put the rapper's actions back into public consciousness, including his work with Lady Gaga. It was after the series premiered on January 3 that pressure on Gaga to speak out mounted on social media.
“I’m sorry, both for my poor judgment when I was young and for not speaking out sooner," Gaga wrote at the end of her statement.
Read Gaga's full statement for yourself, above.