Jackson’s accusers should be heard

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photo Courtesy of Alan Light

Michael Jackson poses with accuser James Safechuck. HBO’s “Leaving Neverland” documentary discusses the accounts of Safechuck and Wade Robson and the alleged sex abuse they experienced by Jackson. Columnist Jaime urges people to at least listen to Jackson’s accusers before passing judgment.

By Jaime Watts, Columnist

HBO’s “Leaving Neverland” documentary chronicles the accounts of Wade Robson and James Safechuck, who spent time with Michael Jackson as children. The men detail the alleged sex abuse they underwent at Jackson’s hands and discuss how it affected them. Their accounts are compelling, believable and incredibly important to hear.

The documentary exposes the trauma of child sex abuse and how it happens. Supporting Jackson without seeing the documentary is one-sided. Survivor stories must be heard and listened to regardless who the alleged perpetrator is.

After watching the documentary and interviews with Robson, Safechuck and the Jackson family, I believe Jackson abused Robson and Safechuck.

It seems a lot of people do not believe the accusations and will remain steadfast in their support for Jackson. But it’s important to temper appreciation for an artist’s work with a healthy dose of reality; his fame doesn’t grant him immunity. Just because he was a great artist doesn’t mean he didn’t do bad things.

Many argue the men have fabricated their stories for fame or money, but that just isn’t true. The director of the documentary, Dan Reed, has said in the Oprah interview Robson and Safechuck were not paid to be in the film and their initial lawsuit against the Jackson estate in 2015 was dismissed because of the statute of limitations, so their allegations weren’t pursued.

Much of the doubt surrounding the men’s credibility manifests itself in victim-blaming, something I had hoped we were beginning to see the end of after the #MeToo movement began. But it seems Jackson’s influence and power are insurmountable. His fame and influence were used to coerce Robson and Safechuck and even their parents.

Many people on social media have discussed why these men are speaking now, why they never reported it initially and why Robson changed his story. In Jackson’s 2005 trial, Robson testified that Jackson never sexually abused him. But as he explains in the documentary, the trauma he has dealt with since his assault hindered his ability to come forward. He was not ready in 2005 to speak about his assault.

It is unfair Jackson’s supporters would boycott the film and question the men’s stories so heavily without hearing them.

One of the most unhealthy side effects of Jackson’s supporters’ claims is they are normalizing his known and evidenced predatory behavior with children. It has been proved Jackson had sleepovers with children that were not his. This was all shown in the 2003 documentary “Living with Michael Jackson.” A grown man doing these types of things is not normal. It is unhealthy, traumatic and concerning.

The Jackson family has said his behavior with his young fans was “innocent” and that “he lived vicariously through children.” It is a problem in and of itself that a grown man wanted to live through children. Regardless of the truth of these claims, his known behavior was undeniably disturbing.

No one besides Jackson, Safechuck and Robson know what happened at Neverland. But hearing the accusations combined with Jackson’s past behaviors and even past allegations from other men, one cannot ignore the alarming probabilities.

Despite these credible accusations, it’s not necessary to stop listening to Jackson’s music. He poses no further threat to children, and enjoying the art he made no longer benefits him after his death. But the gravity of these accusations cannot be ignored.

This documentary is bigger than Michael Jackson. It is forcing us to have important conversations about child sex abuse, something we wish we never had to talk about. There are now numerous reports and allegations about sex abuse in the Roman Catholic Church that also need to be discussed. Sex abuse affects people everywhere.

Before forming an opinion on this, please watch the documentary or learn about child sex abuse through other resources. April is sexual assault awareness month and campus will be hosting many events to learn about sexual assault.

Jaime is a junior in LAS.

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