“Leaving Neverland” Exposes Mothers’ Betrayal of Their Sons

“Leaving Neverland” Exposes Mothers’ Betrayal of Their Sons March 5, 2019
Photo from “Leaving Neverland” on HBO

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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What Are Your Thoughts?leave a comment
  • phatkhat

    What Michael Jackson did was wrong. He should have acknowledged he was sick and sought help. But you have to also feel a little sorry for him, as well. He was, himself, abused and used by a ruthless father. He obviously suffered from a lot of self hate, as demonstrated by his obsession with looking white and feminine. Like many great artists, he had his demons (and I don’t mean in a biblical sense) to wrestle.

    I had a friend, years – oh, hell, half a century – ago who was a pedophile. My neighbor had a gorgeous two-year-old son that Alan lusted after. I said it was not good of him. He said, “I can’t help it. BUT. I’m not stupid. Looky, no touchy. I have NO desire to go to prison.” Perhaps if Jackson had been so astute, not only the lives of many boys but his own as well would have turned out a lot better.

  • WallofSleep

    And now, apparently Wendy Williams is coming to Jackson’s defense on Twitter.


  • Aloha

    I don’t think most people consider pedophilia to be an illness or condition. Mostly just consider it to be a crime of lust and self-centeredness. Personally, I’m not convinced of that one way or the other.

    However, regarding the idea that victims of abuse will naturally become abusers, no. The world is full of abuse survivors, and most do not become abusers. I think we all deserve compassion in general, but not a pass for committing crimes.

  • Aloha

    The mothers must have been irresponsible in many ways. But didn’t these kids have dads? Grandparents? Aunts and Uncles?
    Quite possibly the moms aren’t the only ones with a load of guilt to bear.

  • gross. No way are we going to normalize pedophilia. No way. Being a victim of a shitty childhood or being abused – is not an excuse to abuse. Michael had access to doctors and therapists to help him. He has destroyed people’s families.

  • terrible

  • Wade’s father was mentally ill – and not involved. James’ dad could not stay on tour due to work

  • phatkhat

    I’m not excusing his actions at all. Just saying he was kind of a fucked up person who was never really allowed – even by himself – to be himself, to be authentic. That’s sad, to me. So many say Michael was childlike – maybe he was a child. He was robbed of his childhood by his avaricious father, and perhaps he was kind of a Peter Pan figure. Maybe he just refused to grow up.

    I think some people, like my friend, ARE born that way. People have a large spectrum of sexual/gender proclivities. Some shouldn’t act on them, as they would be non-consensual. Consent is key, and children cannot consent. Alan understood that. Maybe Michael did not, or convinced himself otherwise. What Michael did was much like the grooming that evidently a lot of clergy practice – with kids of both genders.

    Sometimes sexual abuse is all about power. I think that may be the case in families with abuse. Certainly it is with rape.

    In any case, the parents who allowed the children (evidently girls, too) to stay with a grown man – at least physically – in the same bed should bear equal blame. Who in their right mind…???

  • Michael did not abuse the girls

  • Joe Padgen

    One more reason to feel sorry for his kids.

  • Aloha

    Thanks for the info, but I’m still not going to let those daddies off the hook. If they knew what was going on, and they should have, then they could have opined.

  • nmgirl

    Many adult women were seduced by Jackson’s childishness. I always thought that was creepy. I wonder if these same women are enamored of a 35 year old man with a 9 year old girl?

  • phatkhat

    In hindsight. But the parents had no way of knowing that. For that matter, do we know for sure he didn’t abuse the girls as well? It doesn’t matter whether he abused the girls or not. The fact remains that these adults allowed their children to share the bed of a grown man. A stranger, at that. (Not that non-strangers might be any safer.) I blame them as much as I blame Jackson. Always have. Basically, these mothers whored out their children for fame and fortune. Kinda like the MBP mom featured in another story.

  • WallofSleep

    Right? I’ve never liked that woman, but then again I’ve never liked gossip mongers of any kind, celebrity or otherwise.

  • I feel like so many people will defend him just because of his music and humanitarian work. Not an excuse

  • WallofSleep

    Couldn’t agree more. The same goes for Bill Cosby.

  • islandbrewer

    Aaand, now I had to look up who that was. Thanks for that.

  • WallofSleep

    Happy to have been of service.


    A pain shared is a pain divided. Or something.

  • Jennny

    Jackson’s abuse of minors is exactly parallel with that of Sir Jimmy Savile in the UK. A top celebrity entertainer, he was awarded a knighthood for services to children’s charities. Hiding in plain sight, like MJ,he abused hundreds, children in hospital beds, disabled and vulnerable kids and he was given free access to children’s wards and care homes 24/7. Half-hearted police enquiries into his antics did nothing,he was above the law as he was so famous. Now exposed, his ornate grave has been discretely removed and other honours taken away. This week, the BBC announced that one of its flagship music stations, Radio 2, would not play MJ any more – having had whole days of his songs in the past.

  • nmgirl

    I don’t know who is shown in the photo above, but I see the dad being totally shoved aside.

  • that’s what he did

  • Jemal Kenneth Corliss

    He has been to court multiple times, including civil court which has a much lower burden of proof than criminal court and been investigated by the FBI who all found him not guilty, yet a highly biased documentary is more credible? evidence and critical thinking are dying

  • Annie Bee

    Why just the Mothers? Where were the Fathers???

  • You should also look up the show.

    Man, I miss it…

  • overgrownhobbit

    Yes, because America has a long history of courts never being wrong, judges never being crooked, and law enforcement never being corrupt!

  • Raging Bee

    I was never one to follow or look up to celebrities when I was a kid, and my parents showed no signs of being so easily star-struck either. There is NO EFFING WAY either of my parents would have been okay with me sleeping over at another adult’s house, without one of them present, even for one night, let alone for an extended tour with someone who was travelling all over the country. And certainly not sleeping with the adult in his bed.

    Hell, my mom wasn’t even okay with me going to a sci-fi convention alone for a day. And I was much older than the kids left in MJ’s care.

  • Raging Bee

    And rich celebrities never getting preferential treatment by the media, the public, the cops…

    Remember when MJ went to his last trial wearing his jammies? Anyone else would have been slammed for contempt; but it probably helped him by making him look naive, innocent, childlike, blahblahblah…

  • Jim Jones

    I’d like to hear Michael Jackson’s side of this.

  • Jim Jones

    And Rolf Harris.

  • Milo

    Michael Jackson was not a stranger to these people, at least in their minds. That’s the problem with celebrity- we think we know famous people because we’ve seen them, listened to them, read about them, and idolized them. Michael presented himself as non-threatening and asexual. He didn’t look or act like a man. The kids loved him. People think sexual abuse looks like abuse. If Michael had abused their boys, they assumed they would know. There would be reluctance to be with Michael, fear, nightmares, etc. Instead the boys were overjoyed and begged to be with Michael. That doesn’t even take into account how Michael manipulated the whole family, how he normalized the abnormal, broke boundaries, created wedges in the family, made promises, and created dependence. Michael had his act down to a science. The parents deserve part of the blame, but the public needs to be educated. Pedophiles aren’t monsters you can spot a mile away. They are people you know and trust.

  • Raging Bee

    You could have said much the same thing about centuries of alleged sexual abuse of children by Catholic priests, before the actual trials started.

  • Raging Bee

    If the fathers were letting the mothers decide the kids’ activities, and the kids were talking more to their mothers than to their fathers, then the fathers would likely have been no wiser than the mothers. Especially if the fathers had full-time jobs and had to let the mothers spend time with the kids.

  • Raging Bee

    To be fair, I wasn’t “seduced” by MJ’s childishness, but I sure was fooled. Until very recently, I didn’t really believe he wanted to have sex with kids — he wanted to BE a kid, and have nothing at all to do with scary grownup stuff like ess-ee-ex.

  • Jemal Kenneth Corliss

    wrong 6 or 7 times in a row about the same person? sounds highly unlikely

  • Jemal Kenneth Corliss

    but I wouldn’t because this is nothing like the catholic church scandal

  • Jemal Kenneth Corliss

    MJ has never got preferential treatment about this almost every media outlet on the planet has been saying he’s guilty for decades, how is that preferential treatment? The cops have gone after him hard from the start, even calling in the FBI to investigate him for ten years! they don’t do that normally, seems the public mostly think hes guilty to, it’s more like a witch hunt than preferential treatment

  • Jemal Kenneth Corliss

    WithoutACrystalBall what is the evidence you have that proves MJ’S guilt? what was the evidence overlooked by several trials? why do you think a documentary is good enough evidence to condemn someone for the most heinous crime there is, must be pretty strong evidence, very interested to see this

  • Raging Bee

    What “strong evidence” are you looking/waiting for, specifically? And is it really more plausible to believe these people were making up such allegations?

  • Raging Bee

    …almost every media outlet on the planet has been saying he’s guilty for decades…

    Bullshit. The media were covering the story, and taking it seriously, but that’s not the same thing as “saying he’s guilty.”

  • Jemal Kenneth Corliss

    look at any article in the media,they all say guilty i’ve seen over 20 each,from slate and the guardian alone. You would have to have your head in the sand to think the majority are saying he’s innocent, that’s an out right lie, please keep to the facts.95 % are saying he’s a monster and a pedo spend 5 minutes looking, you’ll see plenty.

  • Jemal Kenneth Corliss

    video footage, physical evidence, reliable witnesses/victims who didn’t first go to either the media and or a civil case to chase the money but actually wanted to see him do time like a real victim would. People that haven’t been found out lying multiple times like the guys in the documentary, A doco that has so many gaping holes you can drive a bus through them

  • persephone

    You know nothing. I’ve worked with abused children. They don’t turn on their parents or parent figures.They believe their abusers when they say they love them. the kids were told that they would go to jail and so would Michael if they told. And since the relationship appeared to be approved by their parents, they thought it was normal.

  • persephone

    The kids lied because they were afraid of going to jail. Michael tells them he loves them, and they’d both go to jail. How many kids are willing to go to jail.

  • persephone

    Why are you stanning for a dead pedophile who screwed up so many people’s lives?

  • Raging Bee

    You actually think sexual predators do their thing in front of video cameras? You actually think they leave physical evidence that proves conclusively that their actions were non-consensual?

    You really don’t seem to have any clue what you’re talking about.

  • Jemal Kenneth Corliss

    they are both adults now how many adults are that stupid that they would believe they will go to jail for being victims of pedophilia

  • Jemal Kenneth Corliss

    As adults they new full well what was normal and not Robson was part of the 2005 trail, he new exactly what pedophilia was, hell I knew from 12

  • Jemal Kenneth Corliss

    you asked what evidence i would accept i told you, if they were examined with a rape kit there would have likely have been been physical evidence , wouldn’t matter if it was consensual or not as it would be statutory rape due to their age. Seems R Kelly did his sexually predation on camera, who doesn’t know what he’s talking about?

  • Jemal Kenneth Corliss

    why are you so certain he’s guilty when there’s no good evidence to show he is? i care about evidence.innocent until proven guilty beyond reasonable doubt. There’s 3 children of MJ’s that have to here this unproven crap about their father for the rest of their lives,they are the victims here

  • persephone

    Because I’ve worked with abused children and I listened to his victims, what they said, and how they said it.

    That he can’t be put on trial makes your demand even more ridiculous.

  • persephone

    Were you abused?

  • persephone

    They were kids at the time

  • Lolana

    I don’t feel strongly about this at all, but I did just finish reading Aphrodite Jones’ book on the Michael Jackson trial in Santa Maria. She talks extensively about the media presence there and the slant of their reporting. Her anecdotes about their speculations do make it seem like they regarded him as guilty. It’s an interesting book.