This week saw the airing of the much talked about Leaving Neverland documentary, a hugely powerful and insightful look in to the experience of two young men who were groomed and sexually abused as children. The perpetrator was one, if not the most famous pop star in the world and although its not the first time we have heard claims that Michael Jackson was a paedophile, it was a deeply honest and detailed account of how abuse can take place in plain sight.
I’ve worked with survivors of childhood sexual abuse for well over 10 years, but I too had questions, as a mother, why you’d ever let your child sleep with an adult man, but the documentary provided an enlightening view of how clever and patient paedophiles can be in the grooming process. At the height of his fame, Jackson took these families in, using his influence to befriend them, to lull them in to a false sense of security and to use his own childhood to perpetuate the myth that he was a real-life Peter Pan. The documentary illustrated how calculated perpetrators can be and although I would still like to believe that I would never put my own child at risk, I do have more of an understanding as to how you can be taken in by the magic of the Michael Jackson world.
Wade Robson and James Safechuck told a chilling and all too familiar narrative of the ‘love’ a survivor feels for their perpetrator; the relationship is never as simple as ‘you hurt me, you stole my childhood and have left with me many scars and therefore I hate you’ but rather much more complex. I have supported a number of individuals to understand and come to terms with the constant push and pull impact the perpetrator has on their lives. The shame and confusion a survivor feels at still feeling some sort ‘connection’ with their own monster is often palpable. Many survivors often don’t recognise their experiences as abuse and believe that they were part of a ‘consenting’ relationship. From my experience, I don’t for one second question the truth Robson and Safechuck told on the basis that they both denied claims in the past; it’s understandable they wanted to protect and save Michael Jackson; that’s how powerful the control is that he had over them.
I feel hugely angry at those still questioning the ‘truth’; using the argument that Jackson isn’t here to defend himself or that those two incredibly brave men are ‘in it for the money’. I’d implore people to ask how they would feel if it was their brother, son, father, husband or best friend; what would then be considered as ‘hard evidence’ that it happened. We live in a world today where we estimate 1 in 3 women and 1 in 6 men will experience some form of sexual abuse in their lifetimes; it is our duty to create an environment that people can speak up, can talk about abuse and can report abuse without fear of further abuse. I applaud Dan Reed for giving survivors a platform to speak about their experiences; hopefully this will be the conduit for change and will encourage more people to speak out; abuse happens in isolation; recovery is in connection.