MOSAC is aware of the controversy that surrounds this documentary. However, the content presents a clear picture of the grooming process, the progression and accommodation of child sexual abuse, and the consequences of the abuse. MOSAC has provided resources to HBO for their Resource Guide. We are including below some suggestions for thought as you watch this documentary.
KEY POINTS RELATED TO LEAVING NEVERLAND:
- Many mothers are not well-informed about sexual abuse.
- Most people have a great deal of difficulty understanding that adults can cause such harm to children.
- Sometimes it's very difficult to see what is right in front of us.
- Finding out your child has been sexually abused is shocking and turns your world upside down.
- Abusers may groom and deceive mothers, using their status, apparent friendliness, interest in their children, and promoting their success. This can lead mothers to suspend usual vigilance and protectiveness.
- Perpetrators rationalize ways to intentionally separate children from their mothers and families and to undermine the relationship of mothers and fathers with their child.
- As shown in Leaving Neverland, Wade and Jimmy were groomed, seduced, and separated from their mothers and fathers by MJ's apparent friendliness, his playfulness, and his interest in helping their careers. As children, they didn't know what sexual abuse was, and they loved him for his attention and good times.
- Their mothers, and fathers, wanted their sons to benefit from the opportunities MJ offered.
- While Wade and Jimmy's fathers were a part of the story, there is less information about them in the film than about their mothers.
- Mothers are frequently blamed for not knowing that abuse was happening, and sometimes others assume they knew and didn't do anything or didn't care.
- Mothers may be blamed even when they were being or trying to be protective of their children.
- In Leaving Neverland, the mothers unwittingly enabled the abuse, and as they said, they will always blame themselves for what happened.
- The perpetrator is always to blame.
- For years, Wade and Jimmy denied that MJ had abused them, making finally telling the truth that much more difficult. This is a common circumstance in child sexual abuse situations.
- This would be expected, considering their extreme attachment and love for MJ, their strong fear, repeatedly reinforced by MJ, of disclosing, together with distrust of parents, especially mothers, and the trauma of the trial and their testimony.
- Mothers whose children have been sexually abused struggle with many painful feelings, including guilt, shame, and self-blame.
- Children cannot understand that mothers didn't know, and they hold mothers responsible for their not having been protected.
- Mothers are secondary, traumatized victims of their child's sexual abuse.
- Mothers do sometimes fail their children. As shown in Leaving Neverland, the mothers were led to believe that MJ could do no wrong; they had no direct knowledge their sons were being sexually abused; and when asked, their sons categorically denied it. What red flags were raised were put aside by MJ's apparently persuasive rationalizations. Tragically, these loving mothers didn't protect their sons from sexual abuse.
- Mothers of sexually abused children must work through their painful feelings, recognizing the pain and suffering their children have undergone as a result of the abuse done to them.
- When mothers fail to protect their children, the process of working through feelings is all the more difficult and even more necessary for mothers and for children.
WHAT MOTHERS CAN DO:
- Learn as much as possible about sexual abuse.
- Be on the alert for red flags. Trust and act on red flag fears. Do not be seduced by fame and favors.
- When a child discloses that sexual abuse has happened, believe, support, and protect your child.
- When child sexual abuse happens, understand that your child will blame you even though you truly didn't know.
- When you have failed to protect your child, understand how this has deeply hurt your child, and do everything you can to be there for your child now.
- Get help for yourself by finding, a knowledgeable, understanding, and trustworthy counselor, and support from those who truly understand. Choose carefully. You will struggle with self-blame, guilt, and shame. You need help to work through these issues and be as available as possible for your child, whether under 18 or an adult of any age.
Dealing with a child's sexual abuse is one of the most difficult tasks a mother could ever encounter in her life. It is personally shattering and fractures families. If you are a mother of sexually abused children, through good support and hard work, you can build your resilience and help your child recover and build resilience as well. You can move through this crisis and move towards a better life. Please explore available information and support on this site.
RESOURCE LINKS ON MOSAC (in addition to those listed in HBO SUPPORT GUIDE):