Leaving Neverland brings up an uncomfortable past

Amy Donohoe

In the wake of #MeToo, and the growing of speaking up about the unspeakable truths, it was Michael Jackson’s turn to come under the microscope.

In “Leaving Neverland,”Wade Robson and James Safechuck admitted that they were abused as children by a man they worshipped. Their statements are overwhelmingly convincing and powerful.  

Jackson became the friends with the men when they were children, and he befriended their families, too. As the biggest celebrity on the planet, he maliciously used this friendship to take advantage of the boys.

Robson was an Australian dancer and superfan who first met Jackson when he won a dance competition at the age of five. He says the abuse began two years later, after Jackson had such power over his family that Robson, his mother and sister moved to Los Angeles to be closer to him.

Safechuck was in one of Jackson’s Pepsi commercials. He said his abuse started when he was 10. He revealed that Jackson rewarded him with jewellery when he performed sexual acts on him. In the documentary, he displayed the box full of jewellery which included a ring that was used in a mock wedding that Jackson pressured him into.

They both described sexual activities that they claim Jackson subjected them to (oral sex, mutual masturbation, the viewing of porn). But they described how abuse took place in a relationship of warmth and trust. Both boys admired and trusted him.

Diehard fans claim the men are lying to get publicity and compensation payouts. For non-diehard fans, it is hard to watch the documentary. “Leaving Neverland” is like a true-life horror film. It leaves your stomach feeling sick.

His relationship with each boy was separate, both men said, he’d spend time with them in his bedroom. For a while, the parents would stay close by, but overtime Jackson managed to get the children to share his bed for the night and this arrangement became normal. These children felt close to Michael Jackson, and they claimed that they felt a kind of love for him, so they wanted to do what it took to please him.

Many have asked, how could any sane parent have gone along with this? That’s an obvious question, and the obvious response is that it’s unforgivable, that the parents allowed any of this to happen. But “Leaving Neverland” shows that they found themselves under the spell of Michael’s celebrity status. They thought he was creating opportunities for their children, so their thoughts were clouded by this.  Whatever did or did not happen, the parents are to blame. The documentary revealed that both men no longer speak with their parents as they are the ones who left them with Jackson.

The documentary controversially revealed that Robson and Safechuck testified, during Jackson’s first criminal trial for child sexual abuse. At the time, they said that he was innocent, that he never did anything inappropriate to them. The two men say that they lied to their parents, to their future wives, and to the courtroom to protect the man they once loved.

Since the documentaries release, many radio stations have decided to no longer play the King of Pop’s music, as well as “The Simpsons” no longer airing an episode featuring him. Whatever the truth, the documentary is an astonishing piece of work.

Amy Donohoe

Image Credit: Getty Images