One of the most riveting parts of Lifetime’s docuseries, Surviving R. Kelly, was when Michelle Kramer rescues her daughter, Dominique Gardner, from what she alleges is a sex cult run by R&B singer R. Kelly. Through a harrowing escape and tearful reunion, Kramer was able to bring her daughter home. But where is Dominique Gardner now and has she seen Kelly since?
At the end of Surviving R. Kelly, the producers reveal that Gardner went back to Kelly three days after leaving Los Angeles with her mom, but has now left him for good. On Kramer’s Instagram page, you can see photos of the mother and daughter together, and it looks like Gardener is happy to be home. In a recent post, Kramer shared a picture of the two embracing and smiling while eating dinner at a Chicago-area restaurant. “Thanks again for all the Love & Support,” she captioned the picture. “I love you guys for all the positive comments...it helps to know we are being supported through this difficult time.”
In the documentary, Kramer describes the events that led to her daughter’s nine-year relationship with Kelly. Gardner was a huge fan of Kelly’s music and she met him through a friend (Jerhonda Pace) in 2009 when she was 17-years-old. Kramer alleges that Gardner developed a sexual relationship with the singer, and eventually moved in with him when she turned 21.
Kelly has not responded to Romper's request for comment.
After Gardner left, Kramer says she didn’t hear from her for years, but couldn’t force her to come home because she was an adult. “I didn’t want to lose my daughter to him,” Kramer says in the series. “All I could do is pray and hope one day that she’d just wake up and just come home.”
But after seeing Gardner in a TMZ video standing next to Joycelyn Savage (another alleged victim of Kelly) in front of a Beverly Hills boutique, Kramer decided to fly to Los Angeles to find her. With the Surviving R. Kelly cameras running, Kramer heads to Gardner’s hotel room and, upon knocking, finally sees her daughter for the first time in years.
She pleads for her to come home, but Gardner seems spooked and indicates that someone else (possibly Joycelyn) is in the room with her. She tells her mom to come back in the evening, but when she returns, the hotel manager tells Kramer that someone called the police to file complaint against her, so she wouldn’t be able to enter the hotel.
Eventually, Gardner calls her mom and says she’ll meet her by the hotel’s back door. Once she gets there, the two rush out of the building to a waiting taxi. In their emotional and tearful reunion, you can hear audio of Kramer telling Gardner how brave she was to leave. When she asks her daughter why she is crying, Gardner says that it’s because she’s happy. “I love you so much,” she tells her mom through tears. “That’s the hardest decision I ever had to make.”
When producers ask Kramer how it felt to finally hug her daughter, she says she felt like a mother holding her newborn baby. She goes on to describe the torment Gardner allegedly faced when living with Kelly. “There’s three drugs out there, crack, heroin, and R. Kelly, and she was trying to fight that drug,” Kramer says in the documentary. “She has seen some stuff, she did some stuff, and I believe that he’s said some things to even maybe try to come harm her family, or other girls' families. She don’t understand how many people love her, but his sick a** always makes them think that nobody loves you but him. I told her nothing’s going to ever happen to her, and I meant that.”
After seeing Kramer’s IG page, I was thrilled to see Gardner happy and smiling with her mom once again. Hopefully, through momentum gained from the series, other alleged captives of Kelly will come home to their families as well.
If you or someone you know has been sexually assaulted, call the National Sexual Assault Telephone Hotline at 800-656-HOPE (4673) or visit online.rainn.org.