“Leaving Neverland” a documentary released by HBO this week dropped a massive bomb about the child sexual abuse of two young boys by Michael Jackson. Wade Robson and James Safechuck take viewers on a sordid tale of sleepovers, oral sex, and anal sex with the former King of Pop. While the details of their abuse have prompted a visceral reaction by many about Jackson, there is a more profound betrayal the men expose about their mothers.
In the early 1990s, Michael Jackson raised eyebrows due to his strange relationships with young boys. Through promises of trips on tours and appearances in videos, Jackson gained the trust of the boys and their parents.
Robson and Safechuck recount in painstaking detail the abuse they experienced by the pop star. Both of them met Jackson through their talents as children. Safechuck appeared with Jackson in a Pepsi commercial. Robson won a dance competition that provided him the opportunity to meet Jackson. The experiences for both boys altered their lives and the lives of their families.
Safechuck’s story is the first presented in the documentary. He speaks at times in almost happy detail about the time he spent with Jackson. More than a dozen times, he shares his feelings of genuine affection and love for the man that hurt him for years.
After meeting Jackson on the set of the Pepsi commercial, he said that started a fast friendship with the pop star. Within in weeks, Safechuck was spending significant time with Jackson at his Neverland Ranch. The abuse started slowly but escalated quickly. He recounted sharing a bed with the singer and watching the singer masturbate next to him.
Soon the two were kissing, touching, and giving one another oral sex. At times during Safechuck’s interview, the relationship between the man and the young boy sounded mutual and consensual. Except Jackson was in his early thirties, and Safechuck was under ten years old.
He admitted that his mother Stephanie allowed him to sleep over at the Ranch without any supervision. She left him there for days at a time. After several months of friendship, Jackson asked Safechuck to join his world tour. Safechuck’s mother allowed her son to go on tour, and even consented to her son sharing a bedroom with the grown man.
During Stephanie’s interviews, she discussed her reservations about Jackson. However, she consistently backtracked her concerns by saying that Jackson acted like a child and not a man. Somehow Jackson’s childish behavior made her feel ok about her son sharing a bed with him.
Robson’s tale is much of the same as Safechuck’s, but his sexual abuse happened a whole lot quicker. After winning a dance contest, Robson flew from Australia to California to meet Jackson. Jackson invited the family to spend the week with him at Neverland.
Even though the family barely knew Jackson, they accepted the offer because they were “star struck.” Both Robson and his sister recounted the amazingness of the Ranch. The property had a zoo, arcade, movie theatre, and amusement park. For a child, Neverland was a dream come true.
On the very first night at Neverland, Robson’s mother Joy allowed her two children to sleep in Jackson’s bed. Her daughter and son spent the night in a stranger home, and she slept in another room. Robson was only seven years old.
After the weekend was over, Jackson did not want Robson to leave. Robson and his family had a planned camping trip at the Grand Canyon. Somehow Jackson convinced Joy to leave her young son with him while the rest of the family went camping. Joy shared in her interviews that she did regret leaving him with Jackson shortly after she left. However, the family did not return to pick up Robson.
Robson’s sexual abuse started the same night that his mother left him alone with Jackson. For a week, Jackson masturbated, kissed and performed oral sex on the boy. Robson said Jackson coached him not to say anything to his mother. Robson said that the pop star convinced him that if he shared the abuse with anyone that both of them would go to jail for the rest of their lives.
Influenced by his idol, Robson never told his mother about the abuse. Instead of Joy listening to her gut about Jackson, she allowed her son to stay overnight at Neverland for weeks at a time. Consistently during Joy’s interviews, she downplayed her role and responsibility in the abuse her son suffered.
Both women commented multiple times that Jackson’s childlike demeanor made them trust him. When a third boy came forward and accused Jackson of sexual abuse, neither mother believed the allegations. Instead, both women defended the singer. When the boy’s family settled for money, the women said they believed that Jackson had been extorted.
Despite growing evidence that Jackson was a pedophile, neither woman kept their children away from him. Both of them allowed Jackson access to their sons and continued to permit sleepovers at Neverland.Then a fourth victim came forward to allege sexual abuse against Jackson, and authorities arrested him on suspicions of sexual assault of a minor. Again, the mothers believed the singer that the accusations were baseless. The mothers became so brainwashed by Jackson that both of them refused to see the writing all over the wall.
Two young boys around the same ages as the boys accused Jackson of sexual assault. Both accusers had similar relationships to Jackson and also slept over at Neverland. Yet, the mothers convinced themselves that the boys were liars. Both mothers said they asked their sons if Jackson abused them, but both boys denied any abuse.
During the trial, both men continued their relationship with Jackson. Though by this time, they were older and the dynamics had changed. Robson admitted that it was at this time that Jackson attempted to penetrate him anally. Robson was only 14 years old.
For years, both boys kept Jackson’s secret because they wanted to protect him from going to jail. Neither of them told their mothers about the abuse. The ramifications of their sexual abuse didn’t become disruptive until they became adults and fathers.
Jackson’s death in 2009 caused chaos in both men’s lives. Both felt conflicted about the loss of their friend but also happy that he could no longer harm other children. His death spiraled both men into depression and anxiety. They each suffered emotional breakdowns that forced them to face the reality that Michael Jackson sexually assaulted them as children.
Leaving Neverland might be about Michael Jackson abusing two boys, but it’s more about how the abuse ripped apart the lives of the boys. Additionally, the darkest layer exposed in the documentary is that the boys had mothers that turned a blind eye to Jackson’s questionable behavior and legal cases.
Today both Robson and Safechuck say their relationships with their mothers are strained. Now that they are both fathers they have a difficult time understanding how a parent would allow a child to sleep with an adult stranger.
For the mothers, they both feel enormous regret about allowing the singer into their lives. Stephanie admitted that any benefits she experienced living the “high life” with Michael were at the expense and harm of her son.
Joy expressed her deep sadness for what Wade went through and still cannot stomach to think about what he went through. She admitted to getting caught up in the fame and says she may never forgive herself.
Michael Jackson may have been the one to abuse and sexually assault these boys, but their mothers are equally as guilty in the crimes. They allowed themselves to be “star struck” by a man and delivered their sons on a silver platter to the pedophile. The women’s thirst for fame and fortune outweighed the safety of their children.
One thing that is for certain is viewers will never, ever look at Jackson the same. His legacy as the King of Pop will forever be tarnished by the fact that he sexually assaulted countless young boys. He used his fame and position of power to control, manipulate, and destroy the lives of several families.
Instead of celebrating and honoring the deceased pop star, it’s time we all admit the truth. Michael Jackson was a pedophile. He may have made fantastic music, but his accomplishments in music should not outweigh the hurt and pain he has caused so many.
Leaving Neverland is available for streaming on HBO and HBO NOW.
*Katie Joy is a columnist and hosts Without A Crystal Ball on Patheos Non-Religious Channel. She writes articles on parenting, disability advocacy, debunking pseudoscience, atheism, and crimes against women and children.
She co-hosts the YouTube show, “The Smoking Nun,” with Kyle Curtis. The show airs weekly and tackles pseudoscience, current events, and crime stories.
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