'After Neverland': Michael Jackson Accusers Emotionally Discuss Abuse Claims in Powerful Oprah Winfrey Special

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After the second half of the controversial HBO documentary Leaving Neverland aired Monday night, Oprah Winfrey sat down with James Safechuck and Wade Robson for a powerful exploration of their claims of long-term sexual abuse against the late pop icon Michael Jackson.

The TV special After Neverland -- aired simultaneously on HBO and Oprah's OWN network after the documentary, and which was filmed in front of an audience of survivors of sexual abuse and those whose lives have been impacted by abuse -- examined the accuser's recounting of events and shined a light on the realities and misconceptions of sexual abuse in American culture.

"Here's the thing, I think it's so hard for people who have not had this kind of trauma in their life to understand: If you were abused, why would you continue to want to be around the person?" Winfrey asked, echoing the questions and accusations raised by many of Jackson defenders who have attempted to call Robson and Safechuck's credibility into question.

"I had no understanding of it being abuse. I loved Michael. And all the times that I testified, and the many, many times that I gushed over him publicly in interviews… that was from a real place," Robson recalled, referring to two separate instances in which he testified in Jackson's defense during court cases regarding allegations of sexual abuse against other minors.

"From night one of the abuse, of the sexual stuff that Michael did to me, he told me it was it love. He told me that he loved me and that God brought us together," Robson said. "I was a little boy… Michael was a god to me. And now, [the man] who is god to me is telling me, 'I love you. God brought us together. And this is how we show our love.'"

"Anything that Michael did was right to me, for so many years," he added. 

In Leaving Neverland, Safechuck and Robson -- now married adults with sons of their own -- claim they engaged in sexual relationships with Jackson that started when both were children, 10 and 7 years old, respectively. Through on-camera interviews, they recalled how they each first met the music icon and later, became closer and closer with the pop star.

As has been the case with Jackson's long and complicated history of facing similar allegations -- all of which the singer staunchly denied while alive -- the claims have been decidedly divisive among fans, with many refusing to entertain the idea that the King of Pop was the kind of predator Safechuck and Robson describe in their recounting of events.

Many detractors point to the men's previous defense of Jackson in court cases and their public denial of abuse in the past.

According to Safechuck, Jackson's abuse wasn't simply sexual but deeply psychological as well, and the grooming process they allegedly underwent at his hands instilled in them a deep fear of exposing the truth.

"Michael had just drilled in you over and over, since you were a kid, 'If you caught, if we're caught, your life is over. My life is over.' It was repeated over and over and over again. It's just drilled into your nervous system," Safechuck told Winfrey, adding that this mantra triggered a panic in him over the years whenever the opportunity to come forward with his story presented itself.

Additionally, both men claim that they didn't realize, until much later in life, that they were even victims of abuse at all.

"One of the interesting things about Michael, and his particular situation, is that the grooming had started long before we ever met him. Because he was who he was. He was such a massive figure, and he represented himself as such an angel," Robson said. "[He'd say], 'You know, I didn't have a childhood, I love children so much, that's why I love being around children and I want to help other children have a childhood.'"

"So, long before meeting him the first time, so much had been set up already," Robson added. "I was, and I think my mother and my whole family, was already surrendered before I ever met him."

Another aspect of the grooming and manipulation Jackson allegedly exercised toward Safechuck involved a faux wedding between the singer and the young boy -- complete with a ceremony and an exchanging of rings, as discussed in Leaving Neverland -- that Safechuck said was a way for Jackson to maintain his influence over him.

"I was getting a little older and I was a little more insecure about my position, so it was a way of reminding me that we'd always be together," Safechuck recalled to Winfrey.

While Safechuck and Robson's allegations have had a powerful impact on many who watched the documentary and subsequent TV interview, the film itself has stirred quite a lot of controversy.

Following its debut at this year's Sundance Film Festival in Park City, Utah, Leaving Neverland was met with immediate backlash from Jackson's fans and from the singer's family, who slammed the production in the press repeatedly.

The Jackson estate also filed a $100 million lawsuit against HBO ahead of its premiere, calling the documentary "unvetted propaganda to shamelessly exploit an innocent man no longer here to defend himself."

For more on the disturbing four-hour Leaving Neverland documentary -- directed by Dan Reed, who also joined Safechuck and Robson during their sit-down with Winfrey -- watch the video below.


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