Surviving Neverland - a candid share...

After watching the preview of Leaving Neverland and the interview with the two survivors on Oprah, I find that I have settled into a gloom since the screening. I'm generally an upbeat person. I worry that some think that is uncharacteristic of what to see from a childhood sex abuse survivor. I probably don't fit the mold of what everyone thinks a survivor should be, feel, act like or share. My abuse did not leave me a depressed or sad person. I am not afraid to page through the more disquieting registers of memory. I'm not afraid to read things here that have trigger warnings barricaded across the entrance like crime scene tape. My dad (NOT my abuser) used to call me his little super ball - the harder I hit, the higher I bounced back up. So if I have one redeeming, consistent thread in my life, it is that. And I still think a big part of me simply hasn't grown up. Maybe that's just normal; some of my non-survivor friends say they still feel like the kid they were, too. So I try not to fall into the assumption that every dysfunction in my life traces back to the inappropriate sexual experiences I had. I have enough dysfunctions unrelated to all that to fill several laughs in a comic book.

Even though my abuser died almost two years ago, I still struggle with a powerful issue that emotionally impugns me: this lingering regard for the guy who groomed me. It's like indelible ink - you know it doesn't belong on you, but you can't seem to scrub it away. The guilt probably goes back to how I so fully bought into him at the time. That seed was planted really early with me, and I still haven't pulled that weed; the roots are just too deep. Self-blame, a bit of confusion, and a smothering coat of wistfulness that covers everything. People want to see the clown, and I learned pretty early on that laughter is a powerful distraction. People don't venture far past the funny wall. They really don't care to see what's behind it. So mine's pretty good. And it's not insincere, either. I enjoy humor, but I know the underpinnings to it.

But this forum is different. I come here and I share. They have a joke sub-forum I've never even looked at, much less posted to. I do enough of that everywhere else. So I settle in and find my brothers. I see words carefully crafted in stories and intros and other forum posts. I see more spontaneous feelings expressed in chat. And they resonate, validate, commiserate. But here's what I don't get here: I don't see the eyes. I never hear the voices. I don't hear the quiver of uncertainty, the whispers. I just see text, maybe an emoticon here and there. I fill in the blanks and imagine the voices and picture in my mind the faces. The eyes. Run the guessed melody of the words I read in my own head.

When I saw Leaving Neverland, however, I saw those eyes and heard those voices for the first time. And especially James Safechuck, to me, was like looking into a mirror. The feelings of sadness. The lack of fiery anger. The resignation to a wreckage he still is just starting to pick up the pieces to. The admission that he still struggles with his feelings of guilt and - dare anyone say it - love. He's just figuring it out - and watching his eyes, hearing his voice, seeing his soul laid bare in such essential, honest terms - is the most heartbreaking, tear-welling thing I've seen yet from any survivor.

I did not expect to share much with Michael Jackson survivors going into this. Then I saw the infatuation. The secrets. The feeling special - like you are his chosen one... and you even get jealous if he touches someone else. Unlike James, my abuser wasn't Michael Jackson. But he might as well have been. In my little world, my abuser was my super star. I mimicked his everything - his demeanor, his expressions, his humor. But under what he groomed into a fleshy and carnal tutelage, something happened that didn't fit his algorithm. I committed the sin of growing up. And when I was old enough, I broke from him. Broke up with him. Washed it all off me like toxic sludge. Put away the him-costume and started searching for me. And I tried really hard to not think of it any more. To not rehash how stupid I was to fall for his romancing. To stop reproaching myself that it was my fault as much as his. I stopped thinking about all of it. For so long. Until I couldn't not think of it any more.

I worked hard to keep the secrets. His. Mine. So in a way, I earned them and I'm reluctant to give them up. My secrets represent the only successful fruits of self-determination from a dark, shameful period. Keeping them marks my only heroic success in a situation he controlled. That - and emerging from it not becoming him to anyone else - was good enough for me. I can't throw that away by revealing my secrets to the world. And so I lack the courage to step out from behind the shame mask for fear of losing the only victory I can claim - the inviolable sanctity of the secrets I managed to keep. I'm nowhere near as strong as Wade and James. The forum has become a bit of an outlet for me. It's a dog park where I let my secrets safely off the leash to run around. But they remain secrets when I log out, shared with only a few close and trusted friends - friends I can count on one hand.

Like Wade and James, reality visits me in those moments I dare to imagine a hypothetical situation in which I saw him doing to another child what he did to me at my age. I'd pull him off that kid and probably wouldn't recognize myself in the anger I imagine I would have. Imagine.... Imagine.

Can I find the anger in my imagination? Because, to be honest, imagining anger is the only anger I have. I imagine what I would do to him, but I don't know it. What I do know is the not-so hypothetical memories of what I let him do to me. And there I stand - in front of me lies unrealized imagination I cannot get to. Behind me is realized memory I try to outpace. I stand in the middle, wondering where the anger is hiding.

And I don't know how to get beyond that.

So I carry this wistful, infinite sadness instead - a sadness that I can't shake. I still can't get fully mad at what he did to me even though I know I should. Frankly, I'm angrier at the adults who had to know something wasn't right and never stepped in to stop it. I wish that had happened. Yet if I ask the little kid I was what he thinks, he still tells me he's just fine they never quite figured out the secret. And I look at James Safechuck - in those eyes. They don't have anger, either - just surrender to sadness, reflecting a universe back at me that I suddenly recognize.

And it hits me that I really think I am stuck here between my sad memory and my hopeful imagination. Trying to outrun one and run toward the other. And this is where I will always be. Forever.

I’m still processing the documentary as well as your reaction to it.

All I can offer at the moment is the thought of how we all are living within our own "mikros kosmos” from which we’ve shared varying elements. At camp, the perp was highly regarded—a “prince among men” if you will.

As he chipped away at my soul, I swept the crumbs to him. Even after he crossed the unforgivable line, I didn’t try to recover them. Though I experienced his darkest proclivities, I was alone and adrift with no one I felt I could tell.

“Sir, your shining exemlplar is a fraud and a pederast.”

Those words were never uttered, nor do I think they would have been believed. The tarnish still had to accumulate. It eventually did, but I was long gone. Sympathy for him was checked by the price he exacted from me. Indeed, sympathy was replaced first by disbelief, disappointment, fear, and only later by quiet rage.

Sympathy for the Devil, I have none.

Thank you, (((Will)))

I just wish I was able to get angrier at the guy who messed up my life more than the chair I stub my toe on. How f*cked up is that?
Your feelings are quite common, so it isn’t effed up at all. The Beast uses many techniques.

Some bend our minds so that love and hate overlap and intertwined in a Gordian Knot of confusion.
Some lack the charisma needed to elicit sympathy, admiration, or love.
Some are are quiet, thoughtful sociopaths.
Some are brooding, violent sociopaths with a thin and easily scratched veneer of morality.

In the beginning, I admired him and thought he was “cool”, but I was only thirteen. As camp season progressed, he heaped praise on me and gave me preferential treatment. I also became aware of quid pro quo. Barter and trade. Truthfully, what he did felt good, and I didn’t protest. He managed to quiet and subvert my internal alarm. Then he became pushy and greedy when he had me to himself. His demeanor and actions toward me changed from praise to contempt.

The thin veneer was peeling away.

I began to look for a way out. When I refused his overtures on a very dark night in a cabin in the woods, the violence underneath the veneer asserted itself. I’d caught glimpses of it before, but I’d never been its sole focus. Amazingly, he seemed more shocked by it than I did. Even when he seemed to expend all of it, the Beast eventually drew more from what is apparently a very deep well.

:( There are so many different flavors to abuse - some sweet, some bitter, and all end up being toxic. I suppose it's like the pigeon who laps up antifreeze from a puddle. It tatses sweet and quenches thirst. It is only later in the day when the toxicity of that seduction catches up to him.

I'm so sorry for what happened to you, and yet the power of sitting in a room - here - and being able to call it for what it was is unlike anything else. I sometimes think it's dangerous to be alone with my thoughts. Your sharing grounds me.

My abuser never got violent. He never hurt me physically. I sort of wish he had - because maybe that would have opened for me the door to more productive and healthy anger. There was a scene described in Neverland in which one of the boys awoke to Jackson crying softly in the corner of the bedroom. He was sad because the family would be leaving and he was going to miss them. And the boy expressed his guilt over his family leaving and what that would do to Michael. I know the power of such a moment. When my abuser got caught molesting girls (they didn't know I was also a victim), I saw him crying, too. And I comforted him and held him and I was only 13. I only wanted things in the world to be right. But things got so crazy from that moment. He didn't molest my body as much as he molested my soul. I wish I had the anger.

TJ jeff

I hear ya Eirik - I certainly don't fit the "mold" either...

Anger towards my uncle is an emotion that I just don't seem to have (though I have no problem finding anger towards my mother for the things she did to me) - my feelings towards him are more of a deep sadness - I suppose it has something to do with the age at which he started with me and my not knowing it was abuse when it started and the fact that it did feel good until I got to the age where I knew it shouldn't be happening - then there is also the fact that he was the "cool uncle" who had all of the best things that I didn't have that he would share with me (it was as if I was trading my body for those cool toys - not even understanding at the time that it wasn't a fair trade)

You certainly do NOT deserve his secrets!!! - though I do very much understand the feeling you are describing as I myself still hide behind the shadows of almost no one in my day to day life knowing the past (it's hard to make lasting friendships when you can't talk about the first 18 years of your life)

I have not watched Leaving Neverland (though I do very well remember when the allegations against Jackson first came out and it was all over the news - I knew he was guilty from day 1) - I have to admit that I've been struggling with myself internally of the part of me that does want to watch it and the part of me that is afraid that it might send me for a crash that I can't afford as the sole provider for my family
TJ, perhaps just watching the Oprah interview, which is apparently free for viewing online, would be helpful. It is a very cleaned up version and still has a lot of points made that are very profound for us survivors to here
Thanks @NC-Survivor for suggesting the Oprah interview, I can't handle abuse docs, just not strong enough. I've almost watched Neverland though, mainly because there's been so many good threads from it.
Thank you, (((Will)))

I just wish I was able to get angrier at the guy who messed up my life more than the chair I stub my toe on. How f*cked up is that?
I had trouble getting angry at my perp, I was in love with him deeply. He was only 3 years old and I saw us being a couple forever but all he wanted was his pleasure. When I got angry was when I came out about my abuse and family and friends asked me why do you think he did it, what do you think happened to him, that is when I snapped and yelled out, "I don't give a fuck what happened to him, he had no right to do what he did to me to destroy my identity and crush my soul". I didn't come out about the abuse till 3 years after he killed himself, the day of his funeral the unraveling started slowly but I unraveled completely. Do I have anger at him still? No, I can't say I do, do I love him still? yes, I do.
My situation is abit different, since I picked out the Incest until my 30s. However, I had tons of anger at him for leaving us (divorced mom when I was about 8).

Then in college I dealt with more anger from him. now, in my 50s, I have had time to process the incest and the anger. I no longer can say that I love him still, but I am also not angry any more. He was abused, at least physically, by his own father. Now I just pity him. Hope he changes and gets help, but have had no direct contact with him for many years.