Leaving Neverland isn’t a Disney movie or a sequel to Peter Pan. It’s a horror film in the form of an HBO documentary detailing the tragic sexual abuse of two boys – two little boys aged 7 and 12 – at the hands of Michael Jackson.
I cringed while watching all four hours of the gruesome details of a predator so famous and God-like and so good at what he did – not just as an entertainer – but as a serial pedophile – that he groomed not just his victims, but the victim’s parents. He lured them into a false sense of safety, adoration and security so they would allow their babies, their little boys, to sleep in his bed.
I was a teenage girl when I fell in love with Michael Jackson. I remember running anxiously with my friend Andrea toward a payphone with handfuls of quarters in 1984. There was no way we could make a long distance call to California from our homes. Our parents would kill us. But when we found out Michael Jackson was injured while shooting a Pepsi commercial, we were frantic. We wanted to call the hospital.
We were true blue fans. Posters, pins, albums, all of it. We loved him. We spent our money calling a California hospital with the hope we could find out his condition quicker than we could find out on the news. This was pre-Twitter and 24-hour news cycles. We needed more information than MTV could provide. We loved him. We loved his music.
I’ve always loved his music.
But I am heart broken.
Am I heartbroken my teenage idol is accused of something so horrific? No.
I’m heartbroken James Safechuck and Wade Robson, Jackson’s victims featured in the documentary, were robbed of their childhood. I’m heartbroken their lives were forever altered.
I’m heartbroken for the little boys they never got to be. I’m heartbroken their mother’s were so easily duped into forgoing the safety of their babies.
I’m heartbroken people of power and influence take advantage of people who look to them for mentorship.
I’m heartbroken for the audience of sexual abuse survivors watching Oprah Winfrey’s post show “After Neverland.” The way they all nodded their heads in agreement after listening to Wade and James detail accounts of abuse with confusion and fear and tears will haunt me for a long time.
I’m heartbroken sexual abuse is not a new tragedy. It’s been going on for what seems like forever. Take a look at the Catholic church. Once again, people of power and influence and in this case, divinity – abused their positions and preyed on young boys and girls. And they covered it up. And they ignored it. They allowed it to continue.
I’m heartbroken after knowing, in 1993 AND AGAIN in 2005, when Jackson was publicly KNOWN to have young boys sleep with him in his bedroom and was accused twice of sexually abusing two OTHER boys, it was ignored.
And by ignoring it, it was accepted. It was brushed aside.
If a grown man, say a Mr. Smith down the block – was known to have little boys sleep in a bed with him, we’d all be calling the police and demanding justice. Even if Mr. Smith was a nice guy, a neighbor, the one who shovels senior citizen’s driveways. Would we ignore Mr. Smith?
Now, we may say, ‘What could I have done?’ Really, what could we have done? Could we have stopped buying his music? Could we have stopped paying for concert tickets? Could we have shown disinterest?
Why was his behavior so easy for us to ignore? Is it because we are so far removed from him? Because his music is that good? Because he was more famous than perhaps The Beatles? I don’t know. But I’m heartbroken no one did a thing. I’m heartbroken I’ve been dancing to his music all these years. What does that say to his victims?
And to everyone choosing not to believe the victims – is it possible they are lying? Sure. Is it probable. NO. It’s not. At the very, very least can we all agree a grown man should not be sleeping in a bed with a young boy. Can we all agree that not only is it inappropriate, it’s weird, wrong and unacceptable?
Why is it so hard to believe victims and easy to believe powerful people? His fans and more importantly the victim’s parents believed Jackson was harmless. He was so sweet, they said. As Oprah Winfrey pointed out, a person can be both kind and loving, and still be an abuser.
I wish there were a great take away here. I haven’t found it yet. I think of my own kids at 7 and 11. They were so, so little. And so, so innocent. James Safechuck and Wade Robson were robbed of being little for long and robbed of their innocence. And that’s heartbreaking.
Did you watch Leaving Neverland? What did you think? Let me know in the comments below.