Before seeing Leaving Neverland for myself, I'd doubted Dan Reed's motivation for making this film and thus, the integrity of it.

I assumed it was a grab at money and fame, because why else make a four-hour documentary rehashing allegations against a man who died a decade ago?

But now having seen both parts, it turns out, Leaving Neverland is actually a thoughtful and insightful piece which isn't even focused on Michael Jackson or the alleged abuse at hand. It's more an extended exploration of what abuse can look like, how it plays out and the long-term effects it can have on not just the victims, but their friends and families.


It delves into the psychological effects of abuse, the guilt and shame, the confusion, the mental health ramifications decades down the track and in this case, the role that fame - or any kind of perceived power - can play in amplifying all of it.

It's perfectly timed to play out in this era of #MeToo, as we all struggle to deal with separating art from misdeeds and pointing out that maybe, if we'd learned to do that sooner, these stories might have been different and #MeToo might have happened 20 years ago - and imagine what the world could be like now if it had.

While part one of Leaving Neverland focused on James Safechuck and Wade Robson's personal stories with Jackson, part two picks up on the part of the story we know best as Jordan Chandler and 10 years later, Gavin Arvizo's allegations hit courtrooms and headlines.

It details how Jackson, having cast Safechuck and Robson aside years prior, suddenly reached out to them again as if nothing had happened, with the sole intention of coaching them to lie for him.

Robson recounts how Jackson kept him on a string for years, constantly craving the pop star's love, attention and even physical affection and wanting to "save him" so he could be Jackson's "favourite" again - even if it meant more abuse, because to him, that abuse was love.

Stephanie Safechuck (James' mother) recalled how Jackson essentially bribed them all to take his side by buying the family a new home.

Michael Jackson with 10-year-old Jimmy Safechuck on the tour plane on July 11, 1988. Photo / Getty Images
Michael Jackson with 10-year-old Jimmy Safechuck on the tour plane on July 11, 1988. Photo / Getty Images

And, most shockingly, Robson recalls winding up back in Jackson's bed, this time 14 years old and dealing with a new element of abuse which left blood in his underwear. Underwear which he says Jackson specifically - and with intense urgency - instructed him to get rid of, before his mother could find them.

If you ever doubted why these two waited so long to speak out, that question is well and truly answered as you watch them struggle to speak of it, even now.


We witness Robson and Safechuck's struggles with depression and anxiety as adults, husbands and fathers and the effect it all had on their loved ones - particularly when they finally "came out" with the truth of the abuse.

The ramifications on boys who have been taught to stay quiet, keep secrets and earn someone's love is truly heartbreaking, especially when they have their own children and finally begin to really understand what happened to them.

The first time Robson really cracks on screen is when he recalls seeing images in his head of his own child being abused - by Jackson. It took that kind of horror for him to finally realise that what was done to him wasn't love, it was evil.

Michael Jackson arrives at his child molestation trial, 2005. Photo / Getty Images
Michael Jackson arrives at his child molestation trial, 2005. Photo / Getty Images

These men had to deal with their own mental health before they could serve the rest of the world and that is hard and it takes time.

I can't imagine how difficult it is for these people to come out knowing the backlash that's headed their way having been through it all already. Take the victim blaming and naysaying of any other sexual assault and amplify it by millions for Jackson's status and it is terrifying.

What really gets me is how I ever managed to sweep this under the rug and forget about it.

Now, confronted with one multi-million dollar settlement, one 14-week trial, an FBI investigation and these two documented testimonies and those of their families, it's impossible to turn away.

Jackson was an icon and a visionary, a philanthropist and someone who really spread a message of acceptance - a man with status and power.

If the families are still struggling with their emotions about him, fans can hardly be blamed for doing the same thing, but at a certain point you have to face the truth.

Jackson will always be a music icon, that's undeniable. But I will never hear his music the same way. Not after this.

Leaving Neverland is available to stream on TVNZ OnDemand.