Michael Jackson has been dead for almost 10 years, well after being cleared of the 2005 child molestation charges against him. But now two individuals are accusing the famed singer of allegedly molesting them in their youth. Wade Robson and James Safechuck are the subjects of the HBO documentary Leaving Neverland, and viewers are already likely wondering if Leaving Neverland is true or if these accusations have no merit. And to be honest, it's hard to prove definitively either way.
In the trailer for the documentary, Robson says that he has come out now to finally speak the truth that he’s kept quiet about for so long. Because Jackson was acquitted of child molestation charges in 2005, at which trial Robson himself defended the late singer, many fans are ready to believe the whole thing is false. However, as Refinery29 reports, it's actually common for victims to defend their abusers, even well into adulthood. There are a variety of reasons for this, including confusing feelings of love and abuse due to grooming, fear of retaliation from the abuser, or fear of hurting the abuser themselves.
Jackson's estate recently released a statement about Leaving Neverland, stating the documentary's director failed to contact them before the film was shown at Sundance. "Those concerned should be given an appropriate and timely opportunity to respond," part of the statement says. "I think we can all agree that the false allegations being made in your 'documentary' are 'significant allegations'… it is hard to imagine more significant accusations that can possibly be made against anyone."
Jackson’s estate has also decided to pursue legal action against HBO for airing the two-part documentary. According to a separate statement as reported in Variety, the Jackson estate legal team is seeking upwards of $100 million in damages against HBO for airing the documentary that they claim is more one-sided than anything. The statement says that Jackson has a "longstanding contractual relationship" with HBO after airing Michael Jackson in Concert in Bucharest: The Dangerous Tour in 1992.
An attorney for the estate, Howard Weitzman, said in the statement that the documentary was made with monetary motives more than anything else with disregard for seeking views of the subject from all angles. "Had they made an objective film it would have allowed viewers to make up their own minds about these allegations, instead of having a television network dictate to them that they must accept these false claims about Michael Jackson," Weitzman said.
In a recent interview with Gayle King on CBS This Morning, Robson and Safechuck explained that their individual relationships with Jackson grew over time and both allege they had been groomed, along with their parents, to allow the alleged sexual abuse to continue for as long as it did. Robson claimed that the abuse continued from the time he was seven until he was 14-years-old. Safechuck said that everything he and Jackson allegedly did sexually was, to him at the time, "in the context of a loving, close relationship."
It wasn't until the Leaving Neverland documentary that both men finally opened up about their claims of sexual abuse at Jackson’s Neverland Ranch. In the CBS This Morning interview, Safechuck said that, had it not been for Jackson’s 2009 death, he might not have eventually come out with his allegations at all.
Leaving Neverland has already drawn tons of interest — but you'll have to determine what you believe after you watch it yourself.