I watched Leaving Neverland this weekend, the documentary just released on HBO about the experiences of two men who were sexually abused by Michael Jackson. I hadn’t read anything about it, but I wasn’t sure I wanted to watch it. I am trying to cut back on the media noise that comes at me from all directions every day. Did I really need to watch a sensationalized story about a famous person that has nothing to do with me? Will it make me not be able to listen to Michael Jackson music any more?
Of course, I was curious, so I watched it.
It was VERY hard to watch. It deeply touched me, so I feel compelled to share my thoughts and encourage others to watch it. I believe that it is everyone’s responsibility to watch this documentary. It’s so well done and important.
I have never been sexually abused and don’t know anyone, personally, who has shared this with me. So, I don’t speak on this topic from personal experience, but Oprah weighed in on the “After Neverland” special and she does know what she is talking about. It’s really an amazing documentary.
Be warned, the movie gets in to very explicit details about how Michael Jackson seduced and sexually abused two young boys for many, many years. As I was listening to these graphic details I was thinking “Why is this going in to so much specific detail?”, “Why am I watching this?”, “Is this helpful or sensational?” These are visuals that I now have in my head that will haunt me for a very long time. They are powerful and disturbing, but they are important part of the story. And because they are so specific (and similar) they are undeniable.
There is no way, listening to these men, that you could not believe them, unless you are in deep denial yourself. The sexual abuse is part of a bigger story of seduction and manipulation. This is the story that is important to understand, because this is how it happens, over and over, to so many children (according to Oprah who knows what she is talking about.) Those boys were in love with Michael Jackson and didn’t believe that what was happening was wrong. He convinced them to lie in court about what happened to protect him. Michael Jackson designed and built his home to facilitate the seduction and sexual abuse of young boys. That is a lot of planning and foresight. He was not a good man.
After watching this documentary, I felt complicit, in a way, to what happened to those boys. I only vaguely remembered the accusations. I probably believed that they were true but I don’t remember thinking much about it and it didn’t effect my opinion of Michael Jackson or his music. We kept loving him and buying his music, and he kept doing it. He manipulated the world.
The second half of the documentary is focused on what happened to the men as they became adults. They had this deep secret that waged a battle between their subconscious and conscious minds. They described this battle so well and explained how having children of their own triggered something inside that made them finally realize what had happened to them.
1 in 5 girls and 1 in 20 boys is a victim of child sexual abuse (National Center for Victims of Crime)
I encourage you to watch and listen to what these men have been courageous enough to share with the world. If there is something we can learn from this and bring in to our own lives to keep more children safe, it is worth 4 hours of being uncomfortable. Even if it means we can never listen to Michael Jackson music again. I thank Wade Robson and James Safechuck (and the boys who came forward before them) for their courage.