Leaving Neverland: A Breakdown of the Disturbing Allegations Against Michael Jackson
Warning: This story discusses graphic elements from HBO's documentary Leaving Neverland.
Part one of HBO's controversial documentary about Michael Jackson, Leaving Neverland, aired on March 3, and the allegations made by two alleged victims against the King of Pop are disturbing, to say the least.
James Safechuck and choreographer Wade Robson are now adults — ages 41 and 36, respectively — but both originally encountered Jackson as young boys through show business connections: Safechuck met Jackson while filming a Pepsi commercial in the '90s, while Robson, who is Australian, won a Jackson-themed dance competition in his hometown of Brisbane that came with a prize of meeting the star after his concert.
After the boys' first encounters with Jackson, the late music icon allegedly began grooming them and their families with lavish gifts, trips, and promises of help with their dancing careers. Both men now say that they were repeatedly sexually abused by Jackson, who lulled them and their parents into a false sense of security. As the boys got older, they claim the abuse only escalated, before Jackson effectively kicked them to the curb in favor of younger victims.
When Jackson was taken to court over other allegations of abuse in 1993 and 2005, Robson and Safechuck defended the star, but no longer; the disturbing allegations made in both parts of Dan Reed's documentary against Jackson are ahead.
- Jackson allegedly showered families of his alleged victims with gifts in an effort to get closer to them. As previously stated, Jackson groomed the families of his alleged victims in an effort to get closer to them, creating a false sense of security about his spending alone time with their children. For instance, the parents were driven around in limos and offered rides on private jets, as well as unlimited shopping sprees and vintage wine from Neverland's cellar. The mother of Jordie Chandler (another one of the alleged victims) was flown to Monaco and Las Vegas and received a diamond bracelet. Jackson bought Jimmy Safechuck's parents a whole house, and Joy Robson, Wade Robson's mother, accepted a car. (It should be noted that the documentary doesn't mention the car or the permanent residence visa that Robson's mother testified to having at Jackson's 2005 trial, which she received through the Michael Jackson Corporation.)
- Jackson stayed over at his victims' family homes, and was repeatedly described as "childlike." At multiple points throughout the documentary, Robson and Safechuck's mothers say Jackson seemed like a "9-year-old in a 40-year-old's body" and that he became like "another son" to them. This childlike persona of Jackson's (as well as his fame) is what apparently led the families to believe that their children would be safe alone with him.
- Jackson supposedly drove apart the families of his victims. Robson and Safechuck both detail conversations Jackson had with them about not trusting other people, especially women (and their own mothers). He convinced the boys that no one would ever accept or understand the "love" they shared. Robson and Safechuck also mention how whenever Jackson would call their homes (he'd speak to the boys on the phone for six to seven hours straight), he would never acknowledge their fathers, simply telling them to say hi to their mothers or "to the family."
- Jackson told the boys they'd be sent to jail if they revealed anything about their physical relationship with him. In addition to discussing at length how Jackson told them not to trust other people, Robson and Safechuck also report that he allegedly told them that they would go to jail if anyone found out about their relationship with him.
- Jackson allegedly had plans in place to keep people from finding out. Safechuck says Jackson would have him practice "drills" in Jackson's hotel room in the event that someone were to walk in on them. He had to practice putting all his clothes on as quickly and quietly as possible. In addition to the drills, Jackson had the hallway to his bedroom at Neverland outfitted with a security system that included cameras and sensors that would make "ding-dong" sounds inside if anyone was approaching the door.
- There were multiple hidden locations at Neverland where Jackson would take his victims. During a particularly heartbreaking part of the doc, Safechuck lists all of the many places at Jackson's Santa Barbara County property that he allegedly took the pre-teen to have sex. In addition to his bedroom, Safechuck says he had sexual encounters with Jackson in a private room in the home's movie theater, a tiny room at the top of the Neverland castle, a bedroom above Neverland's train station, and in the pools and hot tubs.
- Jackson and Safechuck had a mock wedding ceremony. At one point during an interview with Safechuck in Leaving Neverland, he pulls out a small box of jewelry. Visibly upset (to the point that this hands are shaking as he does so), he pulls out rings and other pieces that he says Jackson gave him in exchange for sexual favors. Not only that, but he says Jackson used his "love of jewelry against" him, especially in the case of how he bought the young boy a wedding ring as a physical representation of their commitment to one another. (Safechuck claims that Jackson would bring him to jewelry stores and pretend they were there buying rings for women, and use Safechuck's small hands as a guide).
- As the boys neared puberty, Jackson would tire of them. Robson and Safechuck both detail how hurt they each felt as kids when they realized that Jackson had effectively replaced them with a new "favorite." Safechuck recalls an evening where he was made to sleep downstairs on a couch, while Jackson slept upstairs with a new boy in his bedroom, and how he "cried and cried."
- Safechuck and Robson's mothers both picked up on Jackson's cycle of "favorites." The mothers of both men, who speak often throughout he Leaving Neverland, mention things that make it clear they were aware on some level of Jackson's obsession with surrounding himself with young boys. Robson's mother, Joy, claims Jackson would have a new boy "every 12 months," and Safechuck's mom says she repeatedly met the parents of other young boys, who would be very "tight-lipped" while talking to her as if they'd been told not to engage with anyone.
- Jackson's team would move the families further and further away from their sons' hotel rooms. Safechuck's mother says that on multiple stops during one of Jackson's tours, she was disturbed to discover that her hotel room would be on the opposite end of the hallway from her son's, which was always right next to Jackson's room. Eventually it got to the point where her room would be on an entirely different floor as the tour wore on.
- Robson and Safechuck's realization of what had happened to them didn't happen for decades. As is the case with many young victims of sexual assault, Robson and Safechuck didn't fully understand the severity of what had happened to them until years later. Jackson's alleged tactics of convincing the boys that they were loved made it difficult for them to define the acts as abuse. "I loved him and he loved me, and [sex] was something that happened between us," Robson explains. Safechuck says he told his mother of the molestation when the 2003 accusations against Jackson came out, though it took Robson much longer to accept it.
- Robson and Safechuck vouched for Jackson in court. Part two of the documentary dives into both cases against Jackson, and how he counted on the boys for their support. When Jackson was accused of sexual assault in the early '90s, Robson and his family spoke on TV in support of the singer. Robson said under oath that Jackson had never harmed him or touched him in a sexual context when he was subpoenaed during the 2004 trial, which he explains in the documentary, saying that he wasn't emotionally ready to confront what had actually happened to him.
If you or someone you know has experienced sexual violence, please call the RAINN Sexual Assault Hotline at 1-800-656-HOPE (4673) or visit online.rainn.org.