Disturbing look at sexual-abuse

Michael Jackson with Wade Robson as a young man who -- now grown -- said was abused by the pop star when he was a child. (HBO)
Michael Jackson with Wade Robson as a young man who — now grown — said was abused by the pop star when he was a child. (HBO)

Finished watching the documentary, Leaving Neverland, on HBO Monday evening.

It’s a disturbing report that raises more questions and concerns about whether or not Michael Jackson abused young children who spent a lot of time with him without supervision, including spending nights with him in his bed.

He was acquitted of charges of abuse in a long jury trial but also settled with another child and his family for $20 million in another case.

Leaving Neverland, shown in two segments Sunday and Monday evenings, and followed Monday night by a show with Oprah Winfrey on HBO after the second segment, follows the stories of former child actor James Safechuck, 41, and choreographer Wade Robson, 36, who both say they were serially abused by Jackson, starting in the 1990s, at his legendary Neverland Ranch in California.

They say he gave them alcohol, showed them pornography and had sex with them many times over a period that lasted several years.  Safechuck showed a diamond-encrusted “wedding” ring that he said Jackson bought for him.

Jackson died at age 50 on June 29, 2009, after he lapsed into a coma after suffering cardiac arrest while under the influence of drugs administered by a Hollywood physician who lost his license and went to jail.

At the time of his death, Jackson’s career was itself on a death spiral and he was deeply in death with declining record sales and tainted by the scandals from the charges of sexual abuse.

Now his estate if worth about $2 billion after his heirs rehabilitated his image, sold off valuables like the song right to songs by the Beatles and other musicians and turned Neverland into a mecca for his fans.

Questions remain about his lifestyle and, particularly, his involvement with the children he said he nourished and “loved” while pampering their parents with gifts, homes and more.

Leaving Neverland raises serious questions about how the parents of two then young boys (seven and 11) allowed Jackson to spend time with him alone, tour with him and spend nights sleeping with him.

Both testified in court that they never were sexually involved with Jackson, but that the stories changed after his death.  They had problems recognizing the pattern of abuse that became part of their lives. Both filed legal cases against his estate but courts tossed the cases out because of their delays in filing the charges and claims but never ruled on whether or not the abuse happened.

Winfrey, who hosted more than 200 episodes of her long-running TV show on the topic of sexual abuse, did not meet the two men until the documentary and presented their story before an audience of victims of sexual abuse when they were children.

In her show, she said:

The story is bigger than, as I said in the beginning, it’s bigger than any one person. And don’t let any person in your world make it just about what Michael Jackson did or did not do. It’s about this thing this insidious pattern that’s happening in our culture that we refuse to look at.

Writes Washington Post TV critic Hank Stuever:

“Leaving Neverland” is the story of two men — noted pop choreographer Wade Robson, 36, and James “Jimmy” Safechuck, 41 — who each tell us, with the resolute certainty that they lacked as younger witnesses deposed and questioned in other cases, that Jackson sexually molested them when they were boys, starting in the late 1980s and early 1990s and continuing into their teenage years.

What they are talking about is not just the creepy affection, playful roughhousing and tender hand-holding we were once told was the innocent expression of love between a man (Jackson), who sacrificed his own childhood to bring joy to millions, and the star-struck boys he was thus entitled to enjoy as special pals. What we get this time are disturbing, graphic and wholly consistent accounts of the predation, grooming and rape of two children by a man who wielded considerable psychological control over everyone in his environment — including the boys’ parents.

Stuever remembers writing stories about Jackson’s death back in 2009.

As we threw together 2,000 words on his happy/sad life and career, I couldn’t help but think: At least I won’t have to write about him ever again.

Yet here we are — and with good reason. Turn off the music and listen to these men.

I watched and listened to the stories of the two victims — just two of the many undoubtedly molested by Jackson.

And I was still shaking when I sent to bed.

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