It started with touching. Next came kissing, and fondling, and the abuse grew in severity, and frequency, from there.
HBO’s recently premiered “Leaving Neverland” documentary chronicles the stories of two men who have long claimed that late pop icon Michael Jackson abused them as children. Wade Robson and James Safechuck, both adults now, described in immense detail the alleged abuse they endured at Jackson’s hand during their visits at his infamous Neverland Ranch and while traveling alongside him on tour. The secret world they described was one of limitless luxury, unthinkable fame, and clandestine abuse, and it all started when they were both still young enough to be in grade school.
Robson, now an accomplished choreographer at the age of 36, first met Jackson as a young child after he won a local dance contest, with the prize being that he’d get to meet the “Bad” singer, he recalled during part one of the two-part, four-hour special. Jackson took an interest in his dancing and the two became friends, with Jackson often inviting him to spend time with him at the Neverland Ranch.
He was seven years old when Jackson began touching him, Robson alleged.
“We were going to sleep in his bed,” he recalled. “The first thing I remember is Michael sort of, you know, moving his hand some across my legs. We’re both, um, clothed in PJs. And his hands got to my crotch area … sort of fondling there.”
“Fondling my penis over the top of my pants,” he continued. “And then his hands went underneath my pants, and [he] started touching my penis underneath my pants. There was nothing aggressive about it, nothing abrasive. I never felt scared or anything like that. It just didn’t seem that strange.”
Jackson soon began “guiding” him, to “do the same thing with him,” Robson said. He alleged that Jackson began talking to him during the act, saying, “You and I were brought together by God. We were meant to be together, and this is us showing each other that we love each other. This is how we show our love.”
The abuse escalated from there, Robson explained. He and Jackson began taking showers together, and would kiss and fondle each other before things escalated to masturbation, oral sex, and other graphic sexual acts.
Safechuck shared a similar story during the documentary. He recalled first meeting Jackson on the set of a Pepsi commercial he filmed with the iconic star in 1986. Just as he did with Robson, Jackson soon took a special interest in Safechuck and the two developed a friendship, talking on the phone often, he said.
Soon enough, Jackson invited Safechuck (and his parents) to join him on tour, and he and Jackson grew closer and closer, with Jackson inviting the child to stay with him in his hotel room while Safechuck’s parents were assigned rooms that would get progressively further and further away from Jackson’s, according to Safechuck’s mother, Stephanie.
Safechuck said that it was on tour that the relationship between he and Jackson turned sexual.
“In Paris, he introduced me to masturbation, and that’s how it started,” he said. “Michael and I were in his room. He set it up like, ‘I’m gonna show you something that everybody does and you’ll really enjoy it.’ It was like he was teaching me something new.”
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“It felt like you were bonding, in a way,” he said of the incident, later.
Safechuck, now 41, was only 10 years old when the alleged abuse started, according to HBO. The contact would soon evolve into kissing and oral sex, and Jackson later told him that he was his first sexual experience, Safechuck claimed. They even developed a code — they would scratch each other’s palm when holding hands, and “that meant like you were thinking of them sexually.”
“There’s no thoughts of, ‘This is wrong,’ or anything like that,” he recalled. “It’s just a very accepted way of expressing your love. That’s what he would say.”
In one particularly unforgettable scene, Safechuck described an unofficial marriage ceremony Jackson arranged, complete with wedding vows and rings.
Both Robson and Safechuck told investigators as children that Jackson never abused them. Jackson also routinely denied all allegations against him and was acquitted of child molestation charges in 2003. Both men later filed lawsuits against Jackson’s estate, and while those cases were thrown out due to the statute of limitation having run out, both Robson and Safechuck are planning to appeal the decision, according to CBS News.
Jackson’s estate is not at all happy with HBO’s decision to air the "Leaving Neverland" documentary. They filed a lawsuit last month accusing the network of violating a decades old anti-disparagement clause from a previous contract. However, the network has stood by their decision, airing the documentary as planned, even as Jackson’s family continues to publicly defend his name.
[Photo: Associated Press]
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