'She needs to work on her own issues' - Michael Jackson accuser James Safechuck addresses relationship with mother in revealing Oprah interview
Safechuck and fellow accuser Wade Robson were interviewed by Oprah Winfrey for After Neverland which aired after HBO documentary in US
The first half of HBO's controversial documentary Leaving Neverland aired in the UK and Ireland on Channel 4 on Wednesday night and, aside from the graphic, horrifying descriptions of child sexual abuse, there was another aspect of the film which particularly disturbed viewers, and that was the interviews with the men's mothers.
The documentary alleges that the late King of Pop, Michael Jackson, was a serial child abuser and recounts the testimonies of Wade Robson (36) and James Safechuck (41) who claim he abused them from the ages of 7 and 10 for several years.
The men's mothers, Joy Robson and Stephanie Safechuck, are also interviewed for the film. Having been showered with attention and gifts by Jackson, Joy reveals that she and her family left Wade, then just 7 years old, alone with Jackson at Neverland for several days while the rest of the family went to the Grand Canyon. Even when the mothers were present, they say that they allowed their little sons to sleep in Jackson's bedroom while they slept elsewhere.
While the question of 'how could they?' is perhaps the most pressing for viewers, both women express regret at failing to protect their children. However, it's clear their relationships with their sons are still fractured as a result.
Speaking to Oprah Winfrey on After Neverland, which aired in the US after the HBO documentary this week, the men addressed those relationships. Asked if they had forgiven their mothers, Safechuck said, "No, right now I'm trying to learn how to communicate with my mom and I'm also trying to get her to get help.
"Because if you don't help yourself, you can't help other people. So, she needs to work on her own issues so that she can understand what happened."
Robson said that his mother had seen the documentary and had asked the director Dan Reed to skip over the sexual abuse details. Asked how he felt about her request, he said, "That's a tough one, I wish she was further along in her capability."
The men also addressed the question of why they are making these accusations now. It's an about-turn for Robson who testified in defence of Jackson in his 2005 sexual abuse trial. Robson told Oprah he had "no understanding" of the abuse when he was testifying even though he was 22 years old.
"When the abuse started, when I was 11, and even when I was 22, and later, I had no understanding that what Michael did to me sexually was abuse," he said. "I had no concept of it being that."
He added, "From night one of the abuse, of the sexual stuff that Michael did to me, you know, he told me that it was love. He told me that he loved me and that God brought us together. And I was this little boy from the other side of the world in Australia, and Michael was a God to me. And now, who was God to me was telling me, 'I love you, God brought us together. And this, this sexual stuff, this is how we show our love.'"
Robson said that from the very first night he was abused Jackson "started training" him for what later happened at the trials.
Both men claim Jackson told them they would be in trouble if they were caught. Safechuck revealed that once Robson went public with his abuse allegations, he felt "panic" like he was "being caught".
"Michael had just drilled in you over and over since you were a kid, you know, if you're caught, if we're caught, your life is over, my life is over," Safechuck said. "It's repeated over and over and over again. That's just drilled into your nervous system. So, it's panic of being caught. It takes a lot of work to sort through that."
Robson was the first to come forward with the allegations and he said he felt compelled to do so when he became a father to a son himself and finally realised the impact.
"If my son never would've been born, I think there's a really good chance that I'd still be living in silence," Robson said. "I think it wasn't until I gained the perspective of being a father and finally...because I was so cut off, I didn't know that I was at the time...but what I know now, because I was so cut off from Little Wade, that once my son was born, I'm like, 'Oh my God, this is what a child looks like. This is how a child thinks. This is how a child behaves.' That was me."
He continued, "And then of course, I'm sure it added to it that this is a little boy who's my little boy...and you know, as I said in the film, I started seeing in my head it happening to my son. "That was the first moment that I ever, ever thought in my life, maybe I need to tell someone about this."
It was when Wade came out in a 2013 Today Show interview that Safechuck said he began to realise where his intense self-hated came from and that it came from the abuse.
Robson filed a claim against Jackson's estate alleging that he was abused by the singer from the age of seven to 14 but a superior court judge ruled his claim was untimely and should be dismissed. A year later he filed negligence claims against two of Jackson's companies but the judge ruled they were not liable for Robson's exposure to Jackson.
Michael Jackson's estate have condemned the documentary as "the kind of tabloid character assassination Michael endured in life, and now in death" in a statement in January. "The film takes uncorroborated allegations that supposedly happened 20 years ago and treats them as fact."
The estate also called the men "admitted liars" and added, "The two accusers testified under oath that these events never occurred," the statement continued. "They have provided no independent evidence and absolutely no proof in support of their accusations, which means the entire film hinges solely on the word of two perjurers."
Leaving Neverland concludes on Channel 4 tonight, Thursday, at 9pm.
If you have been affected by any of the issue raised in this article you can contact the Rape Crisis Centre on their 24 Hour Helpline on 1800 778888 or visit www.rapecrisishelp.ie