Arts & Entertainment

“Leaving Neverland”: Exposing the king of pop

This past January, a documentary exposing Michael Jackson for sexually abusing children was presented to the public at the Sundance Film Festival. Since then, there have been countless debates on whether the accusations are true, with the Jackson family at the forefront denying the allegations.

“I felt guilt this weekend like I let him down [by speaking up]. It’s still there. That shadow is still there.” These words were spoken by James Safechuck on Oprah Winfrey’s HBO special, “After Neverland.”

Safechuck and another victim, Wade Robson, shared their stories of sexual abuse in the documentary, “Leaving Neverland”, that sheds light on the dark side of Michael Jackson, a late pop sensation. The two openly explain the horrific acts Jackson had them partake in over the course of their early childhoods.

Both boys began as huge fans of Jackson. Robson, a trained dancer, was just five years old when he met Jackson at a dancing competition. Just two years later, Robson stated, Jackson began to take advantage of him. Safechuck met Jackson through a 1987 Pepsi commercial they both partook in. Safechuck was just an extra in the commercial, but he still was able to become very close with Jackson. Safechuck was a bit older than Robson, 10 years old, when the alleged abuse began.

The men described how Jackson would use rewards, whether that be toys or sneak peeks at songs, as ways to lure the boys into doing what he wanted. Jackson would tell the boys not tell anyone what they had done or they would all be in grave trouble. For years, the two men kept silent–until just recently. After having kids, Safechuck and Robson found it necessary to share their stories and teach children the importance of speaking up. Robson explained, “If my son had never been born, I think there’s a really good chance that I’d still be living in silence.”

Following the airing of the documentary, the Jackson family has been quick to dispel any claims made against the pop star, calling the documentary a “public lynching.” The Jackson estate has sued HBO, while Jackson’s three children in particular- Paris, Michael Jr., and Prince- are considering filing a lawsuit against Robson and Safechuck for fraud, emotional distress, and slander. The children do not want any money; they merely want apologies from the two men.

On March 30, a 30-minute documentary was posted on YouTube titled, “Neverland Firsthand: Investigating the Michael Jackson Documentary.” The short film was carried out as a form of defense for Jackson. His former technical director claimed to never have seen a child around Jackson that “looked like they had been distressed, hurt, or abused.”

Brandi Jackson, Michael’s niece, claimed to have dated Robson after Jackson paired them together, describing Robson as “an opportunist…He knows how to position himself into different situations that will benefit him in a financial way.”

This is not the first time that Jackson faced allegations of sexual abuse against children. In 1993, a 13-year-old boy accused Jackson of taking advantage of him and the lawsuit was settled for around $23 million. Rumors and talk of Michael Jackson abusing children have been surfacing for years and recently began gaining some serious traction.

A Queens College student, who would prefer to remain anonymous, said, “When something like this has been spoken about for decades now, it’s hard to believe there isn’t any truth embedded within it.”

With Jackson being gone for almost 10 years now, Robson and Safechuck cannot be looking for compensation or apologies from the pop star. The purpose of this documentary was to give recognition and validation to survivors of abuse. Ultimately, it is one person’s word against another’s in this situation but, nonetheless, this story draws attention to the importance of speaking up against the abusers, no matter how distinguished their name or life’s work is.

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