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  • Writer's pictureFiona Gohari

Some Thoughts on Leaving Neverland

Michael Jackson and his father, Joseph Jackson

By now, I'm sure you have all seen, or at least heard about the recent Michael Jackson documentary called Leaving Neverland.

It is the story of Wade Robson and James Safechuck, two adult male survivors of child sexual abuse who allege Michael Jackson sexually abused them as children. Leaving Neverland details the story of how they met Michael Jackson, the abuse they endured as children and the aftermath of Jackson's actions on their lives to the present day. It's a hard watch, it is raw, it is confronting, it contains some graphic details and it can be triggering for many of you that have experienced any level of sexual assault.

There has been a lot of backlash in response to the airing of this documentary. Michael Jackson fans are loyal. They are staunch and fierce. But so too are advocates for real victims of sexual assault. We too were huge fans of Michael Jackson, we made excuses for his weird behaviour classifying him unique in this world with his child like nature. But how long can we keep making excuses? How long should we keep making excuses for a man that slept with little children in his bed, showed them pornography and so much more? At what point does ‘unique’ become flat out “Dangerous”?

Instead of saying that we shouldn’t believe everything we read and hear when it comes to the MJ case, the effort and energies of these people would be better put into reading and educating themselves on the many facets of how abuse works, how it effects people and how that transforms and ripples through the lives of the victim. Look at the ways in which abuse lives and breathes in it’s environments, how it can get under the skin of that victim like a parasite, how it affects every facet of their lives, the confusion of where love and hate begins, the many rippling waves of guilt that takes a hold and controls every decision that a person makes, how paralysing it is to even admit to yourself let alone others in your family (and the world) that what you experienced was actually…abuse.

We are hearing all too much about how Wade Robson and James Safechuck are lying, and how we need to look into their lives and not just believe a one sided documentary. This is what we hear every time someone speaks up and says they were abused. Their personal lives are closely scrutinised. Every choice they made is magnified and questioned with the presumption of guilt. Every aspect of their life is picked and plucked apart like they are a discarded carcass until every credible shred of their life and character is torn apart. This is how every single victim is treated and why so many others struggle to speak out and seek justice. This is not an isolated reaction. This is a global epidemic. This is why our society is such a mess.

We need to wake up as a society and not put someone on a pedestal because they are famous. When we engage in hero worship, it pushes victims to make the decisions they do…to survive. It is that simple. Under any other circumstance, we would say that the situation surrounding the Michael Jackson cases are true, but because we have created Michael Jackson to be a Hero through his art, we have mis-directed our attention and sympathies, and misplaced our victim allocation to the abuser instead of the actual victims.

So, instead of sitting there and ironically telling people that MJ is innocent and that we shouldn’t believe everything we see and read (oh the irony)…if you are one of those people then perhaps your attentions should be directed into investigating what abuse is, how it works, the manipulations the victims are put under and how it twists and turns in so many different ways in the lives of victims. Give this the attention it deserves before you start casting your beliefs so blindly into Hero worshipping someone who was so clearly under any other circumstance - an unstable individual.

Separate the man from the art. Separate your own memories of how his music made you feel to the realities of what could possibly have been going on behind closed doors. Separate the person who tried to be on one hand a creator of so many emotions through the art of his music - to someone who was on the other hand a destroyer of innocence, of families and of childhood itself.

It’s ironic. The man who claimed he never had a childhood was in fact the very person who took that away from others.

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