Disturbing!

By now you must have watched the HBO Documentary, Leaving Neverland. The documentary is essentially a 4-hour interview in which two adult males, James Safechuck and Wade Robson, describe being seduced and sexually molested by Michael Jackson, at the height of his stardom, when they were mere children.

I watched Leaving Neverland when it premiered last Sunday, I watched it again on Monday, and today, four days later, I still cannot get the graphic details of these allegations against Michael Jackson, the King of Pop, out of my head. To say I am troubled and disturbed by the allegations is putting it mildly. I am not one to get into celebrity gossip or stories or the like, but I simply cannot get the details of this controversial documentary out of my head and it has left me wondering about the veracity of these horrific accusations.

Both Safechuck and Robson alleges in graphic detail the sexual seduction and abuse they suffered at the hands of Michael Jackson when they were merely 10 and 7 years old, respectively; at the time Michael Jackson was a grown man in his 30s. The age difference is staggering and one can only label Jackson a pedophile, if, and I repeat if these allegations are true.

Safechuck met Jackson when he won the role of a lifetime playing opposite Jackson in a Pepsi commercial in 1987 when he was only 8 years old. His relationship with Jackson soon blossomed after that as the allegations purport that Jackson not only seduced the then 10-year-old Safechuck but also his entire family, including his parents. Jackson became “friends” with Safechuck’s mother and in Leaving Neverland, Mrs. Safechuck even describes how she regarded Jackson as one of her own children. She describes him as “a son” and talks about preparing meals for him, speaking with him on the phone daily for hours and having him over for dinner several times in their home. It was therefore relatively easy for her to say “yes” when Jackson invited them on a vacation to Hawaii and later invited the then 10-year-old Safechuck to tour with him on his Bad tour. It was also relatively easy for her to comply when Jackson requested, while on the vacation in Hawaii, that her 10-year-old son sleep with him (Jackson) in his room.

Robson, who was born in and resided in Australia, met Jackson when he was merely 5 years old after winning an Australian dance contest where he won tickets to Jackson’s concert followed by a meet-and-greet. Thereafter Jackson allegedly told Robson’s mother to look him up if she ever came to the United States, which she did 2 years later, and was miraculously able to get in contact with him; and remember this is in a day and age before the Internet. It makes you wonder if certain things were just meant to be, or this is what Robson’s mother believed.

Robson and his family were invited into Jackson’s home while on their stay in the US and again the allegations are that Jackson was able to charm Mom into agreeing to allow her then 7-year-old child to spend time alone with Jackson in his private bedroom.

Dan Reed, the Director of Leaving Neverland, goes back and forth with the camera as both Safechuck and Robson are interviewed for the documentary. He does extreme close-ups of both men’s faces as they describe in very graphic details the sexual acts performed with Michael Jackson when they were mere boys, at 7 and 10 years old. Truthfully, the entire thing made me shudder and it was extremely difficult for me to wrap my mind around the allegations. My gosh, they were not even teenagers yet (not saying that would make the allegations any less disturbing) but 7 and 10 years old! My gosh! They were mere babies!

Safechuck alleges that his sexual relationship with Jackson lasted from the ages of 10 to 14, while Robson states that his relationship with Jackson was on and off for 7 years from ages 7 to 14. The indication is given in the documentary that Jackson preferred it when the boys were very young and as they entered their early teens he abandoned his relationship with them for other younger boys. Robson even claims that he was replaced by child actor Macaulay Culkin of Home Alone fame.

It is interesting to note that Culkin has vehemently denied any inappropriate conduct from Jackson during the several years they “hung out as friends”. It is also interesting to note that Dan Reed, the Director, never bothered to interview Culkin or any other of the several children, who are now men in their 30s, who were always seen in Jackson’s company at the height of his stardom.

The premiere of Leaving Neverland has, of course, revived sexual abuse allegations made against Jackson in the past. In August of 1993, Evan Chandler, a dentist, accused Jackson of sexually abusing his 13-year-old son Jordon Chandler. Jackson vehemently denied the allegations and both Safechuck and Robson gave sworn testimonies in affidavits stating that Jackson is a wholesome person, a good friend, that never once touched them inappropriately. Jackson later settled out of court with The Chandlers for $23,000,000 (yes, that’s right 23 million) and in September 1993 the criminal investigation related to the Jordon Chandler case was closed.

There were similar allegations within the following decade made against Jackson which culminated in criminal charges being brought against him in January 2004 when then 13-year-old Gavin Arvizo accused Jackson of sexually molesting him. This time there was no out of court settlement and the case went to trial, a trial that lasted several months. One of the key witnesses for Jackson in this 2005 trial was none other than Wade Robson, who testified for days about the innocence of his friendship with Jackson.

Both Safechuck and Robson were adults in 2005 during Jackson’s sexual molestation trial, Robson, who was 23 years old at the time, testified under oath that Jackson never sexually abused him. Safechuck, who was 27 at the time, stated in the documentary that when Michael contacted him to testify on his behalf in 2005 he refused, told Jackson to never call him again and hung up the phone.

The fact that both Safechuck and Robson defended Jackson in 1993 when 13-year-old Chandler accused him of sexual molestation and misconduct and Robson again in 2005, defended Jackson, this time by taking the stand has many die-hard Michael Jackson fans questioning their credibility. There has also been talk about both men making the documentary for money. However, it has been postulated over and over again by Director Dan Reed, that neither man has been “renumerated” for telling his story.

Oprah Winfrey interviewed both Safechuck and Robson after Leaving Neverland aired and she asked a pertinent question of them both, “Why come forward now?”

Both men, who are now married with sons of their own, have essentially said it is because of their children. They are now watching their own children grow up and are motivated to tell the truth as they watch the innocence of their own children on display.

Safechuck has said “I want to speak the truth as loud as I spoke the lie. Michael made you feel like you did it, that it was all your idea, Then you look at your own kid, and for the first time realize, “What? That just makes no sense.”

Today I read on BBC.com that a statue of Michael Jackson has been removed from the National Football Museum in Manchester, England. I was a bit taken aback. I also read a few articles where radio stations are considering no longer playing Michael Jackson’s songs.

Say what?!

Jackson’s music has always uplifted me, admittedly it still did this week even after watching Leaving Neverland. Jackson is no longer alive to defend himself and it bothers me that these allegations are now being made when he should be resting in peace.

However, there is something about Safechuck, not so much Robson, but James Safechuck, as I watch him give his interview to Oprah that makes me believe him. His eyes are filled with pain, his face distorted in disbelief that he simply cannot believe he’s actually doing this, that he’s actually talking out loud about something he had vowed to take to his grave. You can almost tell that he takes no pleasure from all of this. He still talks about his “love” for Jackson and the fact that he “feels like he is letting him down”.

In all honesty, I don’t know what to believe about Michael Jackson anymore. I am a fan. In light of these horrible allegations will I remain a fan? Should we now shun the man, his legacy and his music because of a controversial documentary? Or should we separate the man from his art? What say you? Do you believe that the King of Pop was capable of such appalling acts, especially against children?

BLOGGING FEARS

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Photos courtesy of Pexels

Earlier this year, I came across an article, a letter that had been penned by a young woman named Holly Butcher, who was dying of Cancer, she was only 27 years old. As I read what she wrote from her deathbed I was brought to tears by her message. This young lady obviously didn’t want to die, she hadn’t done all the things she wanted to do, she thought she had all the time in the World to pursue her goals and dreams, like most of us do, yet her time here on Earth was unexpectedly cut short.

We always think we have time, so much time, but who knows how much time any of us really have left.

At the time, when I came across Holly’s article, I had been toying with the idea of writing a weekly Blog. The more I thought about it the more I wanted to do it but I was afraid. I had so many fears about all kinds of things, some of which were justified; while others were downright silly and completely unwarranted; but then I thought about this dying girl and how she will never have the opportunity of doing anything she wanted to do ever again so I decided to do what one of my favorite quotes postulates – “Feel the fear and do it anyway.”

Fear of Oversharing

In this day and age, where everyone shares everything on social media; even the dark and very personal, I sometimes feel old school in thinking that not everyone needs to know everything about me. I am not fiercely private (not like my husband) but I don’t broadcast everything either.

One of the things I discovered in my research about blog writing is that as a blogger one has to have a niche, something to blog about that you’re actually good at and can give expert advice on. So we have our beauty bloggers, our fitness and health bloggers, our fashion bloggers, travel bloggers, lifestyle bloggers; a plethora of blogs are out there with something for everyone.

However, the only thing I consider myself an expert in is my work and myself. I thought damn I have some really interesting cases but I can never write about them for fear (there’s that word again) of trampling on the attorney/client confidentiality clause. So I was left with my only other area of expertise, which meant writing about myself, my life, my very own experiences and that’s where my fear of oversharing came into play.

One should always be authentic with one’s writing; but where does one draw the line between authenticity and telling too much? Let’s face it, some of my stories, despite being heartfelt, are downright embarrassing, for example, this one 5 Lessons I Learned from my Divorce. However, if a writer desires to remain authentic then he or she must speak (write) openly and honestly about all experiences despite the fear of the embarrassing overshare.

Fear of Being Trolled/Stalked

I once had a stalker. I said “once” because I sincerely hope that he is in the past. Believe it or not, this stalker came from my work website. He was never a client nor a potential client but he must have liked how I looked in my pictures or whatever it was that I had to say on my work website because he proceeded to send me weekly emails and leave daily (sometimes several) voice messages on my work phone. This freaked me out!!!

It started in May 2015. At first he would send one email weekly, then it grew into a few emails per week overtime it became a few emails per day. I never once wrote back because based on his emails the guy was a loony. So after months of unanswered emails, he started calling my work phone. I immediately blocked his number, but he still got my voicemail whenever he called so it gave him the opportunity to leave a message and he oftentimes did. He was unintelligible and rambled on and on about nothing or some old cases or problems that he had. He always left his phone number and asked me to call back. I never did. After a while, he must have realized his phone number was blocked because he then went back to his non-sensical emails.

He would take a break from the emailing and phone calls for a month or two then he would suddenly reappear, and start his incessant emailing and calling again. It was nervewracking.

The sporadic email stalking went on for 2 years, which was way too long; before I finally called my web-designer and told him about it. I had no idea my web guy could go in and see where the messages were coming from and block any future messages from coming through to my website email from him. When stalker guy realized he couldn’t email me anymore then he went back to calling. He even left a message alerting me to the fact that something was wrong with my website because he could no longer send me any emails. I kid you not!!!

Anyone remembers how John Lennon got died? He was killed by a crazy stalker who flew all the way from his home in Hawaii and waited outside John Lennon’s apartment building in New York City and shot the Beatles group member to death as he entered the building. The murderer, since then, has done a few interviews from his prison cell, where he gave no real reason for committing the murder more than he was influenced by the book, The Cather in the Rye.

During those 2 years of weird emails and voicemail messages from stalker guy, John Lennon’s story was prevalent in my thoughts. Obviously, I don’t have John Lennon’s fame and harming me will not bring anyone any kind of notoriety but people are certifiable crazy and you never know who is who.

The only thing that made me feel somewhat safe is my husband’s reassurance that he “wouldn’t let anything happen to me” (yeah, I know; but I believed him) and that based on the guy’s voicemail messages and emails he was “probably harmless” but I live in a world of ‘you never know’ so putting myself out there in the form of blogging is a major deal for me because ya know; you never know.

Fear of Not Being Read

Let’s face it, every writer wants to be read. What’s the point of writing if your words aren’t read by others. Unless, of course, the writer writes for therapeutic purposes only; but once the writer hits “publish” he/she wants his writing read.

Most writers want to know that their writing doesn’t suck, or at least I do. We all want to captivate our audience. I won’t speak for all Bloggers, but as for me, I want every word of my piece to be read, from beginning to end; the views are not enough, I want people to actually read what I write; and appreciation of my written words validate me and makes me want to continue to tell my stories.

The fear of not being read at all almost prevented me from ever starting my blog. What if no one cared to read what I had to say? What if people thought I had nothing interesting to say? What if I said it in such a way that I wasn’t able to excite curiosity or attention? What if I couldn’t evoke emotions from my readers? What if I really couldn’t write as well as I thought I could?

All of these fears almost crippled my attempts to start a Blog and almost prevented me from putting myself out there. The truth is, writing has always been my first love, above the practice of law and anything else I have ever attempted, writing is and will always be my first love. I have been writing since I was in high school, and even though I had stopped for a while because the responsibilities of life took over and I pursued other goals, I had never given up on my first true love.

I am sorry that Holly Butcher died but I am glad that the letter she wrote from her deathbed gave me enough inspiration to feel the fear and to do it anyway; to sit down at my laptop, punch those keys and gave me enough guts to hit “publish” afterward.

Thank you, Holly!

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Remembering Jason

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September is a bittersweet month for me. Living in New York I love the change of the seasons that September brings, transitioning from hot and sticky to nice and cool, but not cold, is always a pleasure. September is also my birth month so it gives me an excuse to celebrate my life. However, as I celebrate my own life my mind also goes to my baby brother, Jason, who died unexpectedly on September 10, 2012, just a month shy of his 29th birthday.

When my cell phone rang at 1 o clock that afternoon and I saw my Mom’s number on my phone screen I got an inexplicable eerie feeling. I had just talked to both my parents, who lived in Jamaica, earlier that morning so why was my Mom calling again?

I answered my phone, I recognized my Aunt’s voice. My Mom’s phone but not my Mom on the other end of the line, the eerie feeling grew and I pulled over, something told me I shouldn’t keep driving.

“Jason is dead.”

“What?” I was certain I hadn’t heard properly.

“Racquel, I’m so sorry! Your Mom just came home and found Jason dead.”

“What’d you mean by dead?” Suddenly, I didn’t know what the word meant and I was sure my Aunt didn’t know what she was talking about. “Let me talk to Mommy please.” I refused to believe what I was hearing.” I started shouting. “Where is Mommy? Lemme talk to my mother!”

My mother came to the phone and she was belligerent with grief. I couldn’t understand much of what she was saying because what she was doing wasn’t even crying, she was howling. Howling in pain and disbelief.

What I do remember is that I hung up the phone and immediately called my father, who had just heard the news and was racing home from work. He instructed me to call my other brother, who lived on the other side of the World, and I did.

I drove straight to my son’s school, Blake was in the 4th grade at the time, I signed him out of school and while we drove home I was sighing so much, he kept asking me what was wrong but I had no idea how to tell him. Blake had only just gotten back from Jamaica the week before, where he used to spend all his Summers; and he was extremely close to his Uncle Jason.

In the days that followed; the autopsy report revealed that Jason was born with a heart condition called Hypertrophic Cardiomyopathy, which led to his sudden death. Hypertrophic Cardiomyopathy otherwise known as Cardiomegaly is a condition where one has an enlarged heart. Apparently, Jason was born with this genetic condition so as he got older, his heart grew and grew and grew and kept growing to the point where his heart got too big; so big that the heart could no longer work effectively or efficiently and one day it just stopped. Jason’s death was just as simple and uncomplicated as that. A simple death for a simple, uncomplicated life.

None of us knew that Jason had this heart condition because he was never sick. For the entire 28 years that he lived, he was physically healthy. My Mom does recall that in the weeks leading up to his sudden death he had complained a few times about being extremely tired. She would suggest that he get some more rest, that perhaps he was doing too much. Maybe he needed a vacation, some rest and relaxation; but his complaints were never serious enough to warrant a visit to the doctor.

The fact that Jason died of an enlarged heart is ironic because he really did have a big heart. He was one of the kindest, most compassionate people I knew. During his short life he gave and gave; of his time, his possessions, his love, his money; just about everything. Have you ever heard the saying “kind to a fault”? That was Jason! So incredibly kind and always doing for others without any expectation of anything in return and it was no big deal for him to inconvenience himself to make others comfortable. He was as affectionate as he was compassionate and I am not ashamed to say that of my mother’s 3 children he was the most loving.

This year on the Anniversary of Jason’s death I lit a candle in his honor, it’s not something I had ever done before, and I am not even sure why I did it but it’s just something I felt like doing. I lit the candle and what I did afterward was weird, at least for me it was – I spoke to him. Yes, I spoke to Jason as if he was seated right next to me. I was alone at home at the time and I thought to myself what if I heard a voice answer back. What would I do? Then I thought to myself I wouldn’t even be scared because Jason was so harmless in life he would certainly be harmless in death. Then I thought to myself why are we so afraid of the dead?

Jason didn’t respond as I spoke to him, not that I expected him to. Also, there were no signs that he heard me; the curtains didn’t mysteriously blow through a windless window, no chairs moved, or a radio or TV didn’t suddenly turn on by itself but I got a sense of inexplicable peace, almost as if he heard me. Yeah, weird…I know!

I don’t know what happens to people when they die, and I have no theory or beliefs on the subject but the sense of peace I felt from having a one-way conversation with my dead brother was one I have never really felt before and his memory have not left me for weeks thereafter.

I find myself thinking about him endlessly, thinking about the fact that he loved music and he used to blast Linkin Park all the time. One of his weekly rituals was to head out to a music store and pick up CDs. It was his thing, he wasn’t much of a singer and I’ve never seen him dance but he still loved his music.

He was also into astrology and had an unbelievable knack of remembering everyone’s birthday – everyone’s. You only needed to tell him your birthday once and he’d never ever forget it. He enjoyed analyzing someone’s personality based on their zodiac sign. It was just something he got a kick out of. When he passed away I couldn’t believe how many books I found on astrology as I cleaned out his bedroom.

Jason also enjoyed having conversations with people who were much older than him, he would sit and talk to my grandmother for hours. He visited with her regularly and she loved it. The young usually don’t have much patience for the elderly but Jason sure did.

It’s hard to believe that it has been 6 years since I last heard his voice, 6 years since he left us so unexpectedly. It’s so hard to come to terms with the fact that your own life actually moves on even when someone you love doesn’t exist anymore. It makes you wonder where they are and what exactly is going on with them? Sometimes memories of him come to me out of the blue and I smile.

Jason was a good kid. My only regret is that being 10 years older than he was, I didn’t spend as much time with him in his teenage years, as I would have liked to, I was out of the house and away at College when he was experiencing those awkward teenage years. When I was around I did try to be a good big sister though, and I only hope that in his last moments, as his entire life flashed before his eyes, he remembers me as such.

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Jason: October 7, 1983 – September 10, 2012