Ahead of the release of HBO’s “Leaving Neverland,” the two accusers whose stories are featured in the shocking documentary detailing pop icon Michael Jackson’s years of alleged child sexual abuse say that they don’t expect other accusers to speak out.
“I do think there are others out there. But I also don’t expect them to just come out now that we’re coming out,” accuser James Safechuck told “CBS This Morning” in an interview that aired Thursday. “It’s such a difficult thing to do, to come out. You have to do it when you’re ready.”
Jackson, who died in 2009, faced public allegations from two other boys: in 1993 from Jordan Chandler, whose case was settled privately; and from Gavin Arvizo at a high-profile trial in 2005, when a jury acquitted Jackson of the charges.
At the time, both Safechuck and accuser Wade Robson defended Jackson against the other allegations, insisting that Jackson had not abused them.
But as the documentary depicts, it took both men years to realize that Jackson’s behavior was abuse, because of how young they were at the time, and how Jackson groomed them and instilled their trust in him.
The two-part, four-hour documentary, airing Sunday and Monday on HBO, details Jackson’s pattern of befriending and mentoring young boys, and hosting sleepovers for them at his Neverland ranch.
Among them were Safechuck and Robson, who believe that Jackson may have molested other boys.
“People had to wonder what was going on,” Robson said Thursday. “I find it hard to believe that he had boys around for any other reason than to sexually abuse them.”
Robson, who testified in Jackson’s defense at the 2005 trial, now regrets the decision and wishes he had been able to understand the abuse at the time, admitting in the documentary that “I lived with the lie.”
“I wish that I [had been] ready,” Robson said Thursday. “I wish that I could have helped Gavin Arvizo receive some justice and some validation for what happened to him, that it was just like what happened to me and what happened to James. And I wish that I could have played a role in, at that point, stopping Michael from abusing however many other kids he did after that.”
Throughout his life, Jackson repeatedly denied the sexual abuse allegations. In response to the documentary, his family and estate have defended him, and accused Safechuck and Robson of trying to profit from the attention.
The film’s director, Dan Reed, has said that neither man was paid to participate in the film, and intended to make the film less about Jackson and more about the effects of sexual abuse.
In “Leaving Neverland,” Safechuck says that he more fully realized that he had been abused only after Robson sued Jackson’s estate in 2013 and went public with his story, which contained similar details and followed a similar pattern as Safechuck’s experience.
“We can’t change what happened to us. It happened. It’s done. But what can we do with it now? How can we provide comfort for other survivors?” Robson said Thursday. “That’s what this is about. And Michael just happens to be the guy, the abuser, in this child sexual abuse story.”
Need help? Visit RAINN’s National Sexual Assault Online Hotline or the National Sexual Violence Resource Center’s website.