Leaving Neverland.

Leaving Neverland

By Joanna Langfield

Dan Reed’s devastating documentary about Michael Jackson and pedophilia is not an easy watch, but it is an essential one. Although the four hour film makes its case pretty clearly, what it also does is serve as almost a primer on child sexual abuse. Through interviews with two men, their mothers, siblings and wives, we are told their stories of manipulated intimacies with the legendary performer, yet, on a wider scale, their stories could be the stories of anyone taken in by an abuser, someone wooed, romanced, horribly wronged and then left to deal with the shattering consequences.

Whenever stories of child sexual abuse are told, inevitably, someone asks, “where were the parents?” Here, we find out. Yes, it is almost easy to understand how a middle class family could be easily swayed by the King of Pop visiting their home, professing professional interest in a (very) young, talented son, offering not just visions of grandeur, but actually delivering on some of them. We are told, through harrowing confessional memories from Wade Robson, the now successful choreographer, who met Jackson when he was five years old, as well as with his family. There are eerily similar stories from Jimmy Safechuck, who was eight when he was hired to appear in a Pepsi commercial with the star, and his mother. The vivid and terrifying details spoken by the men are graphic and shocking. But what made an even greater impression on me were the interviews with their families, maybe because we don’t often hear from those who allowed these things to happen. We see that, in this case, Jackson worked the parents, brothers and sisters, just, but with different results, as he did the boys. And we also see the effects these horrendous stories had on all the family members.

Every parent, every guardian should watch this lesson in the lifelong consequences of falling under the spell of anyone who, even though we don’t want to think so, could abuse a child.