Leaving Neverland’s Disturbing Narrative About the Nature of Child Sexual Abuse

Leaving Neverland‘s portrayal of the nature of alleged child sexual abuse is disturbing, to say the least. When you pay close attention to it, you will realize that it portrays alleged child sexual abuse as some kind of romantic-erotic relationship, a “love story”. You don’t believe me? Well, let’s see some quotes from the film and then also from director, Dan Reed from the media-tour surrounding the film’s promotion.

In the film we are led to believe that two boys at the age of 7 and 10 respectively, did not just put up with with being sexually abused by an adult man, but even anticipated and desired “the sex” themselves!

Accuser Wade Robson says that at the age of 7 he could not wait to get back to the USA from Australia to meet Michael Jackson again because he anticipated the “sex” with him:

“Los Angeles was Michael Jackson for me. And just being so excited to be back in what felt like, already, home, like, where I’m supposed to be, here and with him. Also, anticipating the physical contact again. The sexual contact, because that had become so intertwined with what our relationship was and what our love was.” [1]

In another scene we see director, Dan Reed correct Robson when Robson says he went back to Australia as “Michael Jackson’s best friend”. That was not good enough for Reed:

“Wade Robson: You know, I left Australia as this young fan of Michael Jackson. And came back Michael Jackson’s best friend.

Dan Reed: And his lover.

Wade Robson: Yeah. And his lover.” [1]

Now, it is rather remarkable that Reed felt the need to correct it and the correction wasn’t “and his victim”, but it was “and his lover”. And Robson did not have any problem with going along with it.

Accuser James Safechuck also goes out of his way to emphasize how he was attracted to Michael Jackson. In a scene where audio clips of a mock interview between Jackson and Safechuck are played, Safechuck makes sure to plant an idea in the audience’s mind:

“And it’s hard to listen to. You can hear, like, the infatuation, and, and how much I was attracted to him, and then also, his like, reeling his attraction to you, for like making you feel special.” [1]

Safechuck’s remark is manipulative. The interview is completely innocent and there is no “attraction” heard in either participant’s voice. The interview was also made before any alleged sexual contact happened, so the suggestion here basically is that Safechuck was attracted to Jackson on his own, even before Jackson corrupted him with the alleged sexual abuse.

Then, in this context, it becomes even more weird when we hear the story of how they began to sleep in the same bed. According to Safechuck, who at this point already let the audience know that that he was attracted to Michael Jackson, here is what happened:

“I remember we would fall asleep together, and then when I wake up, he would be in another room. And I would be hurt that he was in another room, and so I’d ask him to stay.” [1]

And in the film Safechuck tells about alleged graphic sexual acts with a smirk on his face:

It is important to note that neither Robson or Safechuck are gay or even bisexual. But we are to believe that at that at the age of 7 and 10 these two heterosexual boys were not only not bothered by the alleged sexual abuse (which included oral and anal sex), but were “in love” with and sexually desiring an adult man. Both of them. Supposedly they sexually desired another man as children, but they never  had the same desires later on. Supposedly until they were well into their adulthood they thought sex between two males was the ultimate expression of love, yet they never chased that “love” after Jackson with anyone else. (Note: If you wonder how do they both came up with this same narrative, know that both of them are represented by the same law firm.)

The “love story”/”boys desire sex with adults” narrative of Leaving Neverland is something that the infamous pedophilia advocacy organization NAMBLA (North-American Man-Boy Love Association) also promotes. They are the ones arguing that boys feel sexual desire for adult men and that sexual relationships between men and children aren’t really harmful or traumatic, it is only the stigma and and the secrecy surrounding it that traumatizes people. Keep this in mind while you are reading the following comment from Leaving Neverland director, Dan Reed that he made in an interview during the promotional campaign of the film when the interviewer noted that Robson and Safechuck are “not showing a lot of emotion” in the film:

“The damage and the pain of the abuse is much more subtle than that. For them the sexual abuse at the time was not traumatic. They say it in the film that it was pleasurable, a loving, gentle, caring experience. Child sexual abuse is a criminal act, we know that. It’s not like they are remembering something that really upset them at the time. The psychological consequences play out during adulthood because your life is built on a lie, your childhood is built on a lie. You have to lie to everyone: your mother, your father, your sister, your brother. And that takes a toll. This is not somebody remembering being raped or someone attempting to murder them or someone killing someone close to them. It’s not that kind of trauma. People have to take that on board. People still don’t understand, even when they watch my film they still haven’t fully taken it on board. That’s why Wade was more upset when he recounted the impact on his family. That’s trauma. That’s stuff that he experiences as a bad thing. The remembering of it is upsetting. But for these guys, this is what conflicts them so much, this is what they grappling with. Remembering the abuse is this weird mix of the hindsight that this was abuse and someone taking advantage of them when they were children, but also the print memory of that moment of how good it felt. And that’s the headfuck.” [2]

In an interview with the Los Angeles Times in January 2019, Reed said that Wade Robson had “a fulfilling sexual and emotional relationship” with Jackson at the age of 7!

“When Wade told me that he loved Michael, then everything suddenly crystallized and made sense. This is difficult to say, but he had a fulfilling sexual and emotional relationship at the age of 7 with a 30-year-old man who happened to be the King of Pop. And because he enjoyed it, he loved Michael, and the sex was pleasant. I’m sorry, that’s just the reality.” [3]

In an interview with the Huffington Post in February 2019, Reed said:

“Yeah, I think the two big things that people don’t understand about child sexual abuse: One, they don’t realize that not always but oftentimes the relationship mirrors an adult relationship in terms of [being] a love relationship. The child falls in love with his abuser. And they form a very close emotional attachment that has many dimensions. The abuser is a mentor; a father figure, as Michael was; a dazzling supernova of talent, as Michael was; and a sexual partner. And the child falls in love with that and all those good things. There are many good things about Michael.” [4]

In other interviews Reed made it clear that to him the really upsetting thing about his protagonists’ story was not the alleged sexual acts, but that Jackson supposedly left and dumped Safechuck and that supposedly he “cheated on him” with other boys. Regarding Safechuck’s claim of having a mock wedding with Jackson, Reed said to Rolling Stone:

“It was in the context of a very intense, loving relationship. And the wedding was a token of Michael’s love and how they were going to be together forever. To me that’s repugnant, because obviously Michael had no intention of being with James forever and probably had slept with many other boys. We know he did. We know he slept with Wade while he was seeing James.” [5]

The “cruelest cut” for Reed is when Jackson supposedly dropped Safechuck for another boy. An interview with him in the Cosmopolitan in March 2019 states:

Arguably the most harrowing part of the film is how – after intense, adult relationships with Michael Jackson – both Wade and James were dropped for other children.

“The emotional manipulation was certainly harder to hear,” Reed ruminated.

“When James is on the sofa – I think he was in Chicago, and Michael and another boy go upstairs and James understands that he’s been replaced in Jackson’s affections, and he’s lying on the sofa, and he’s crying for his mum and he wants to go home…

“The brutality of that, the brutality of getting a child to fall in love with you and dazzling the child and grooming the whole family in… Being told you’re going to be the next Steve Spielberg, having this intense sexual relationship with a little child, the mind-blowingness for a child and dropping them for me seemed like the cruelest cut.” [6]

Reed went into this even more in an interview with the BBC in February 2019:

“Back to the question of what I found really upsetting is when James is talking about – I think he was in Chicago – and Michael goes off to bed with another little boy. And James ends up on the sofa and he’s crying and he’s crying for his mom and he’s desperately upset and feels discarded. I thought just the cruelty of that, to a little child, you get… you know, you seduce a little boy, it’s his first sexual experience, you know, he’s 10, and you fill his head with dreams, you’re gonna be the next Steven Spielberg, you’re gonna be amazing, you and I, you know, and… Neverland, and you have a wedding.

There is a wedding, yeah. And you exchange rings and you take him on tour, he’s dancing on stage with you, and he’s sharing all of his stardom and suddenly ‘biff!’, you’re on the couch and then the next day it’s like ‘here’s a plane ticket, go home’. And I thought that was incredibly callous, you know. I mean he did continue seeing James now and then again after that, but that sort of intense, close relationship that they had, the couple relationship with them, like a married relationship as James describes it, was over, and that’s heartbreaking. I really felt for James, in a way more than… I was more outraged by that than by the details of the sexual abuse.” [7]


If you think Jackson sexually abused these boys, should not be you glad for James when his alleged sexual abuse finally ended and be worried for that other boy? (By the way, the other boy in the story is Brett Barnes who always denied sexual abuse.) Instead Reed makes Barnes out to be a subject of envy and is outraged for James because Jackson did not take his alleged “wedding vow” with him seriously and dropped him as an alleged “sexual partner”. Reed states that this outraged him more than the details of the alleged sexual abuse. Let that sink in!

Yes, there are situations when an abused child feels conflicted or even feels love for his or her abuser – sexual abuse can be emotionally complicated. But Robson and Safechuck’s stories go way beyond that. In Leaving Neverland’s narrative the alleged relationship is romanticized, as you have also seen in Reed’s comments above. We hear about how a 7 and a 10-year-old boy (both heterosexual) did not just put up with sexual abuse to not lose a friend they otherwise liked, but they straight up “anticipated the sexual contact”, and had a romantic, “fulfilling emotional and sexual relationship” with an adult man – and that with the often humiliating kind of sexual acts described in the film. This opens a whole another can of worms, especially when you know where these stories originate from.

Echoes of a pedophilia apologist

In this video we lay out the similarities in Robson and Safechuck’s allegations to a 1996 book entitled “Michael Jackson Was My Lover”:

It is that book that portrays Jackson’s alleged relationship with his 1993 accuser, Jordan Chandler as a romantic, mutual “love story”. Several elements of it found their way to Robson and Safechuck’s allegations. The “love story” angle served them well in their lawsuit where they needed to explain why they are coming up with these allegations now, many years after Jackson’s death, and not earlier, for example when Jackson was on a criminal trial in 2005 and when both men were already adults.

In Gutierrez’s book the boys who were around Jackson are described as little “lovers” of Jackson, who were jealous of each other and who enjoyed and were looking forward to having sex with Jackson. Gutierrez writes that sometimes Jordan initiated sex with Jackson and declares “Jordie and other children actually wanted to have sex with Jackson[8; page 124]. Isn’t that very similar to Robson and Safechuck’s narrative of them supposedly anticipating “sex” with Jackson? 

But here’s the thing: whether Robson and Safechuck are aware of it or they think that book is a genuine account of Jordan Chandler’s relationship with Jackson that they could model their allegations after, the reality is that Gutierrez’s book is fiction. Jordan Chandler and his family distanced themselves from it, and in reality Jordan Chandler never claimed to have been “in love with” Michael Jackson.

The book’s author, Victor Gutierrez had his own agenda in portraying the relationship as a “love story”: his book unashamedly advocates pedophilia and NAMBLA talking points and uses the “love story” portrayed in the book to underline those points. He writes:

“The cliché of pedophiles as old men who kidnap children in sacks is as erroneous as thinking that all homosexual men attack other male pedestrians on the street. Psychiatrists report that there are pedophile rapists and murderers, just as there are homosexuals and heterosexuals who commit these crimes. These same experts indicate that sexual relations between adults and minors are sometimes loving and do not have a negative effect on the youngster’s life. What better example than Jordie? He was more harshly affected by the legal procedures associated with his case than by his relationship with Jackson.” [8; page 208]

In the Author’s Note at the end of his book Gutierrez thanks NAMBLA, and in the book he also goes into a lengthy apology for NAMBLA and pedophilia using the made up “romance” between Jackson, Jordan Chandler and other boys as justification. He quotes a NAMBLA magazine stating “The North American Men Boy Love Association (“NAMBLA”) is a group that approves of consentual (sic) sexual relations between men and boys. NAMBLA is pleased that the topic of pedophilia has attracted so much attention through such a famous personage as Michael Jackson”. [8; page 210]

Gutierrez then goes into a lengthy, historical apology for pedophilia stating that “[h]istorians report that the topic of pedophilia is not new” and then listing examples of societies in history where pedophilia supposedly was considered normal. He then also lists a number of important historical figures and artists who were or suspected of being pedophiles [8; page 211].

(We write about Gutierrez, his book and its resemblance to the Robson/Safechuck allegations elsewhere: here about Gutierrez and his role in shaping the allegations against Jackson; and here about the Gutierrez-esque echoes in Leaving Neverland.)


[1] Leaving Neverland documentary
[2] Joshua Encinias – ‘Leaving Neverland’ Director Dan Reed on Refuting Michael Jackson Defenders, the Psychology of Child Sexual Abuse, and a Potential Sequel (March 17, 2019)
[3] Amy Kaufman – ‘Leaving Neverland’ director talks Michael Jackson sexual abuse accusations and potential fallout (January 25, 2019)
[4] Matthew Jacobs – Inside ‘Leaving Neverland,’ The Film Detailing Michael Jackson’s Alleged Child Abuse (February 17, 2019)
[5] Stephen Garrett – ‘Leaving Neverland’ Director Dan Reed Talks Michael Jackson Allegations, #MeToo (January 29, 2019)
[6] Naomi Gordon – Leaving Neverland: 7 questions we have after the distressing documentary (March 6, 2019)
[7] Dan Reed on Leaving Neverland (February 25, 2019)
[8] Victor Gutierrez – Michael Jackson Was My Lover (Alamo Square Dist Inc, 1996)
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