Yesterday morning I woke up a bit disturbed. Unsettled.
On Wednesday and Thursday night I’d watched Channel 4’s Leaving Neverland hoping it couldn’t possibly be true that the meek, shy, put-upon Michael Jackson I thought I knew had another side – as a serial child groomer and abuser.
I first met Michael back in the late 1980s, a humble cipher of a man who’s whispering presence person to person was as if he thought he somehow wasn’t worthy of regard.
With hindsight, it’s more like he knew he was hiding a very dirty secret.
Back in 1993 and based in Los Angeles, I was the first reporter to break the news on British TV that Michael had been accused of child abuse.
The boy was Jordan Chandler, the 13-year-old son of Evan Chandler, an LA dentist. Jackson signed a big cheque to make it go away.
I didn’t believe the claim at the time. I couldn’t believe it, having met Michael and most of his family. He and Janet, two of the youngest Jackson siblings, were sort of adult children.
Very shy, softly spoken, definitely not room-occupiers off stage.
I sensed a shame, a sadness, a hurt, a hidden secret around them.
I have been in the presence of the whole family, in Las Vegas, where they were gathered for a Jackson family reunion show.
Dad Joe was a big, serious, slightly menacing presence. The elephant in the room. He cracked the whip.
Mama Jackson shared the same hurt in her eyes as some of her children. Abuse as a child often lies at the heart of a paedophile’s make-up.
They are mostly a product of their primary years.
They’re created by other people. Who would actually CHOOSE to be a paedophile?
Jackson didn’t have a childhood. He lived in an adult world, lost his childhood before it had even begun. He never grew up. He only felt comfortable around children.
He was a sensitive child thrust into adulthood before he even knew who he was. It doesn’t excuse his behaviour, but paedophilia is clearly a mental health condition.
It has been listed as such in the American Psychiatric Association’s Manual of Mental Health Disorders since 1968.
If there’s anything to learn from the exposure of Jackson’s sordid life, it’s that we need to understand, and treat, the condition, rather than criminalise and drive it underground to flourish and ruin the lives of innocent children.
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