It’s probably impossible to watch “Leaving Neverland” and not come away with certain details burned into your memory. The four-hour original documentary, which debuted on HBO on Sunday night, features comprehensive and damning accusations from two men, Wade Robson and James Safechuck, who say Michael Jackson sexually assaulted them when they were young boys.
The Jackson estate has vehemently opposed the documentary, calling it “the kind of tabloid character assassination Michael Jackson endured in life, and now in death.” At the same time, the estate is suing HBO for $100 million for allegedly violating a non-disparagement clause that was part of an agreement the two sides had which granted HBO the right to air Jackson’s Dangerous World Tour live back in 1992.
The singer’s estate also issued a statement saying, “This is yet another lurid production in an outrageous and pathetic attempt to exploit and cash in on Michael Jackson … Wade Robson and James Safechuck have both testified under oath that Michael never did anything inappropriate toward them. This so called ‘documentary’ is just another rehash of dated and discredited allegations. It’s baffling why any credible filmmaker would involve himself with this project.”
Watching the documentary, it’s apparent why the Jackson estate would go to such lengths to fight the movie. Both Safechuck and Robson accuse Jackson of leveraging his star power to gain the trust of their families — trust he then used to physically and emotionally abuse the boys for years.
Below are the five most jarring accusations made in “Leaving Neverland”:
1) The abuse started between the ages of 7 and 10
Jackson, according to both Safechuck and Robson, preyed on them as young boys in the late 1980s. The singer was still at the peak of his mega-stardom, riding the success of “Bad,” his 1987 followup to “Thriller.” According to the documentary, Jackson met Safechuck while working together on a Pepsi commercial in late 1986, while he met Robson, a 5-year-old child dance prodigy, during the “Bad” world tour the following year in Australia.
Despite approaching 30, Jackson befriended Safechuck and his Southern California family, often visiting their home in Simi Valley and taking Safechuck and his mom on corporate trips. Eventually Safechuck joined Jackson on tour. That’s where, at the age of 10 in Paris, Safechuck said Jackson first started abusing him by teaching him how to masturbate in a hotel room.
“He set it up like, I’m going to show you something everybody does and you’ll really enjoy it. It was like he was teaching me something new. And I remember my penis swelling up [because] I did it so much that first time,” Safechuck said in “Leaving Neverland.”
Robson said he was even younger when he was first abused by Jackson. According to Robson, his family was invited to Jackson’s new Neverland Ranch after reconnecting with the star on a U.S. vacation in early 1990. After spending a weekend at Neverland, the Robson family headed for the Grand Canyon — but Jackson pleaded that Robson, then 7 years old, be allowed to stay the week at Neverland, according to Robson. The family acquiesced.
With his family gone, that’s when the abuse “escalated rapidly,” according to Robson, who says Jackson fondled him, made them take showers together, and open-mouth kissed the boy. Jackson then performed oral sex on Robson for the first time, according to Robson. He then detailed the pain of having an “adult-size penis” in a “little 7-year-old’s mouth.”
Both Robson and Safechuck said Jackson told them if anyone found out about what they were doing together, Jackson and the boys would go to prison for the rest of their lives.
2) Graphic details of Jackson’s abuse
Both Robson and Safechuck described similar routines where Jackson would masturbate while watching the boys on their hands and knees.
“He would be laying back on a pillow and have me go to the far corner of the bed and be on all fours and have me sort of just bend over, on my knees, so he could look at my anus while he was masturbating,” Robson said. “And I was just kind of on display. And periodically through that he would come up and stick his tongue in my anus.”
Jackson, according to both Robson and Safechuck, also enjoyed having the young boys touch and suck on his nipples.
3) Attempted anal rape
As Robson and Safechuck moved into their teens, Jackson looked to push them towards anal sex, both men said.
In the early 1990s, Jackson “put his finger inside me and I didn’t like it at all, so he kind of backed off on that,” Safechuck said. “I think I was just kind of wincing and I was asking him not to do it and he said ‘Oh, you’ll like it.'” Jackson then continued to do “all the other stuff” they’d done sexually together in the past, Safechuck said.
Years later, as Jackson was preparing for his History World Tour, he attempted to anally rape a 14-year-old Robson in Los Angeles, Robson said.
“Michael tried to penetrate me in my anus with his penis, trying for a while, and I guess was able to a bit, but it was really painful, too painful for me, so he stopped,” Robson said.
The next day, a manic Jackson contacted Robson and insisted he throw away his underwear from the night before, to cover up any potential blood from the attempted penetration, Robson said. Robson said he later found his underwear, which did have traces of blood on it, and threw it out before his mom washed them.
4) Jackson conducted a fake wedding ceremony
At one point, Jackson orchestrated a “mock wedding ceremony” between him and Safechuck in a bedroom, Safechuck said.
“We filled out some vows and it was like we were bonded forever. It felt good. And the ring was nice. It has a row of diamonds with a gold band,” Safechuck said.
With hands trembling, Safechuck showed the camera the different pieces of jewelry he said Jackson bought him. Safechuck said Jackson knew he was a big fan of jewelry and used this knowledge to manipulate him to perform sexual acts.
“Something that I enjoyed was used against me and so I think that causes discomfort,” Safechuck said. “It’s still hard for me to not blame myself.”
Safechuck said Jackson would take him to jewelry stores to buy new items, but the star would tell the jewelers they were for women — and that they were using Safechuck to try on the jewelry because his hand was the same size as Jackson’s fake female romantic interests.
5) Jackson showed both young boys hardcore pornography
Robson and Safechuck both accused Jackson of showing them hardcore pornography at a young age.
It was “pretty graphic heterosexual porn — oral sex, full penetration, anal stuff,” Robson said. “It seemed like he liked it, so I wanted to like it. I just didn’t know how to deal with it. It was like him pulling back the curtain on this whole other universe, but this one wasn’t so fun.”
Safechuck said porn was routinely playing as he walked through the rooms at Neverland, including on the television next to the bathtub. “Porn and candy,” Safechuck said, when recalling what was offered at Neverland.