Last weekend the Michael Jackson documentary Leaving Neverland aired in Australia. It was a heartbreaking tale of two boys who were abused by Michael from a young age and their side of the story. I was beside myself when watching it and felt a deep sadness for what those boys went through. I thought everyone would react this way. Little did I know when bringing it up a few days later with someone they would react differently. "How do you know they aren't lying? Or just want money?" I was taken back, as someone who has been in an abusive relationship I know how complex these issues are and how much it takes courage to stand up in the face of what you know will be an oncoming witch hunt of your entire life.
How could someone think they made it all up? I took a moment to contemplate it and realised a lot of people simply don't understand how deep the roots of abuse run and how long it can take to process, especially from such a young age. How could you if you have never experienced it?
How can you comprehend the confusion someone feels when the person they love mistreats them? So I've decided to talk about my experience with abuse to offer another voice to this injustice. To show how abuse isn't black and white. The water is murky. It takes a long time to swim through it. Often you don't know what direction to swim in. Sometimes you find your self not even knowing what is up or down. Stuck treading water with no way out. It can take years until you see the surface and head to shore.
Firstly I must say I was not abused as a child. I could never begin to understand the deep trauma that would cause, and I cannot speak for those two men. Nor will I. But I can shed some light on what it is like to be manipulated, to love someone and be mistreated and how that can be an incredibly confusing situation to be in that takes years to process.
I met my ex-partner when I was fifteen; he was twenty at the time and seemed like the ultimate guy. He had a secure job, a car, bought me lots of nice things and treated me like a queen. I thought I'd found "the one" How lucky was I to have found them at fifteen! The start of our relationship was like any other, I was taken on nice dates, he bought me lots of expensive gifts, I met his family. He adored me. I was living a fairy tale.
Slowly things started to change. The gifts stopped. His attitude subtly started getting colder. The arguments turned into derogatory comments towards me. He began to separate me from my family and my friends and needed to know my where about at all times. He started to say things like "you are stupid" "you are crazy" "you are just being emotional" whenever I had a problem. But would then follow it up with "But I love you" imprinting in my psyche that even though I was unworthy he loved me. He was the only one who would be kind enough to love me. I mean he was the only one in my life how could anyone else love me? He had separated me from my friends and family so that he was my world.
I become totally dependent on his affection, and when he didn't give it, I only want it more. Like an addict I would cling to my phone waiting to hear from him, to have him justify my existence.
When he held me down in bed one night, and sexually abused me because "he was just too horny, but he wouldn't do it again, and he loves me" I stayed. I stayed because he was my world. This was my first serious relationship. I thought maybe this is just how it is.
We all grow up incredibly innocent. Most of us have a loving childhood with loving figures around us. As children, we presume everyone in the world is caring. What do we have to tell us otherwise? And so we meet these people; they are kind and make us feel special, and we can't help presume they are like everyone else that has been in our lives. Kind, compassionate, just want the best for us, think we are great; they will love us for all of our faults. That is exactly how they are… At the start. We are lulled into this false sense of security, drifting off into a beautiful dream that turns into a horrible nightmare we can't get out of.
We love this person. Here lies the confusion. If you love someone, you don't automatically stop loving them because they hurt you. This is especially true if they hurt you then do something nice for you. A bribe to make you forget the awful crap they have done to you. Quite often if you are young, this leads to two thoughts. One, maybe this is what love is? Sometimes you hurt each other, but you don't mean it. Two, this isn't really him. He was caught up in a moment. He is normally great! (Or so you tell your self)
Caught up in this confusion it isn't easy to walk away or even voice what is happening to you. For that matter simply register that it is wrong.
My partner and I split up after four years. He told me if I don't sleep with his best friend and him he would sleep with another woman. I said no, then I said it was over. After I said those words, I had a panic attack and thought I might die. I walked away into the darkness. I felt hopeless, this man was my life, and I was nothing without him. I had no skill set, no personality, nothing was special about me, how on earth would I live without him?
It took me many years to realise my own worth. In fact, I still struggle with it. What he did left a scar, although it may fade over time it will always be there.
This happened to me over ten years ago. Yet I actually only came to terms with what had happened to me in the last five years. People ask why these men took so long to speak up about MJ. You have to realise when this is your first "relationship" it can take a long time to come to terms with what is right and what is wrong. What you perceived to be normal love isn't healthy. And all those feelings that you have buried of guilt and disgust within your self are not a reflection of you but the person that did this to you. That is not an easy beast to concur. It takes courage to face it; to face the circumstances that lead to it and make peace with the scars you will always bare.
It also takes time to come to terms with how long you let it continue. The fact that you didn't stop it or walk away. You invited the abuse. When I was in that relationship, no one could have told me it was wrong. I remember my friends and family all telling me they had a funny feeling about the man I was seeing. But I said he was great, I thought they were all crazy! He was amazing to me, my idol, my life. The more people told me not to see him or tried to stop me seeing him the more I pushed away from them. Which was exactly what my ex wanted. I remember my mother trying to stop me seeing this man so I would jump out my window late at night instead. I remember screaming with her over it, hating her for it. Little did I know not long after that she would die and I would be even more alone.
For years feeling even more worthless for the way I spent the last years of my mother's life treating her. But I didn't want to listen. I was caught in his web, continuously being reeled in. No one could have done anything until I saw it. Until I dared to walk away. To say enough, this can't go on.
That thought takes a long time to form. It takes a lot of strength. When someone has taken all your power from you, it is not easy to push back and stand up. This is why many people don't speak out. I got out of that relationship after four years, it was another three or more years before I truly left. I was bound up in feelings of unworthiness and dependence. I was terrified for my life for a long time. My ex stalked me for a year after we broke up. He would talk to my friends about me, watch my house, come to my work. For a long time, I was convinced he would burn down my house. I never truly felt safe until I moved cities, and so did the rest of my family. I still find myself sometimes fearing running into him and what he would do if we were alone. I don't think that will ever change.
My heart feels heavy when I think of all these two men have been through, not only to deal with that sexual abuse from a young age but to know the power a celebrity has and not be able to speak up. I cannot begin to imagine the courage it must have taken to speak up. But I can recognise their need to tell the truth. When you live a lie for so long, it becomes part of you. You tell the world you are great, everything is fine, there was never any problems the relationship, it just ended. When you know deep down, there is a small child in you crying out in pain. It can take years to face that child, to be ok talking to them and comforting them. But when you finally do, you know that you need to speak for them. To tell your story so that hopefully it stops more stories like this happening.
To Wade Robson and James Safechuck know that I believe you, and while you may face criticism and disbelief, many others stand with you.