IF IT TAKES A VILLAGE TO RAISE A CHILD …
THEN IT TAKES A VILLAGE TO ABUSE A CHILD
Welcome to Part Two of this series.
Facing the truth about child abuse in our world
is not an easy task.
I honor your courage and willingness to take a deep dive
into this meaningful journey into consciousness…
into this profound journey into grounded awakening…
into this crucial journey into the healing of child abuse in our world…
into this imperative journey into healing abuse and trauma in our world.
In Part One I talked about child abuse, and how it is not caused by just one abuser,
but rather by a larger village of people playing different roles.
I spoke of many examples of child sexual abuse –
and also once-private-now-public.
I gave examples of how the sexual abuse of children requires not just one abuser,
but rather a larger village to “make and allow it to happen.”
In this part of the series, we will look at the village it takes to create child abuse on an even larger scale than before.
It might be tempting to turn away and not learn more.
But then, turning away and not learning more
is one of the ways we become part of the village that helps to abuse a child,
and even many children.
In early 2019, the documentary “Leaving Neverland” premiered at the Sundance Film Festival. Following that, it was released on HBO in early March. It revealed the experiences of two men, ages 36 and 40, who had been groomed and then sexually abused by Michael Jackson beginning when they were 7 and 10 years old.
The two little boys, Wade and James, and their families were seduced and groomed* by Michael Jackson. They were seduced and drawn in for the purpose of gaining their trust … so that down the road, they would trust Michael, they would be blind, deaf, and numb to what Michael was doing and to the state of their own being, and they wouldn’t dream of telling anyone what was going on with Michael.
A child is vulnerable to such seduction and grooming. If, as an adult, someone is still seduceable in the same way, it is an indication of some wounding in his/her childhood that leaves them still vulnerable and unconscious on a young level of their being.
It Takes a Village to Abuse A Child –
My Awareness in My Practice as a Healing Practitioner
As a depth psychotherapist and Midwife to the Soul, I have worked with countless adults who were abused in many ways during their childhood. Many ways, including sexual abuse. I have helped them work with the painful experiences, the painful memories as they came, the painful consequences in their inner and outer worlds. I have been with them as they have expressed their feelings – building their capacity to feel them and let them come out safely and for the purpose of healing. I have witnessed, heard, and felt with them as they have expressed their need for the abuse to have never happened at all … and just as much, for someone to have helped them, for someone to have stopped the abuse. In each person’s experience, no one stopped it and no one helped them. So in this way, I know up close with people about whom I care deeply … that it took a village to abuse these children.
And knowing from experience with these people, I can also see the dynamic of “it takes a village to abuse a child” in other arenas and other forms. After watching both parts of “Leaving Neverland,” the truth of Wade’s and James’ experiences and the “it takes a village” dynamic was very clear and very resonant.
How People Out in the World Responded
to “Leaving Neverland”
Many denied the experiences revealed by Wade and James. Michael’s family. Michael’s estate. Many of Michael’s still devoted fans. Twitter was alive with denials and attacks on these two brave men and the people who created the documentary.
While perhaps many of Michael’s staff remained silent, it seems some came forward and revealed things they had been aware of.
The families of the two children, who had allowed their boys to sleep in Michael’s room with him, finally knew what had happened and spoke of their regret, sorrow, and more.
All of these people made up the village who, in one way or other, participated in the ongoing sexual abuse of Wade and James and …. others.
And then came another shocking example of a participant. Someone who people would have perhaps never have suspected. Barbra Streisand. “Rolling Stone,” March 23, 2019, reported:
“Speaking to The Times UK, ahead of her London concerts this summer, Streisand said she ‘absolutely’
believed the accounts of Wade Robson and James Safechuck, but added, ‘You can say ‘molested’, but
those children, as you heard say, they were thrilled to be there. They both married and they both have
children, so it didn’t kill them.’
“ ‘His sexual needs were his sexual needs, coming from whatever childhood he has or whatever DNA
he has…’ Streisand said of Jackson.”
How Barbra Streisand could think, feel, and say those things is a painful mystery! What wounds does she carry within her – both those known to her and still repressed deep beneath her awareness – that could be revealed in her responses to the documentary? What trauma of her own is still unhealed within her that she could believe her attempts at apology could carry any weight? Any resonance to truth? And Barbra Streisand is simply one of millions – although a celebrity icon, at that! With a lot of impact. A celebrity icon like Michael Jackson was a celebrity icon.
The World Village that Abuses Our Children
After the release of “Leaving Neverland,” something came across my desk about art in different forms that had been created by people who had acted out destructively in their lives. The essence of the message was ‘don’t stop looking at or listening to a particular work of art just because the artist was destructive.’
This message took me to the lyrics of two of Michael Jackson’s most famous songs. Although I was not at all a fan of Michael Jackson in his lifetime, I had seen and heard bits and pieces of him singing these two songs from time to time on the radio or television. I had had no interest in going further.
When I recently saw the lyrics, I was so deeply affected. I saw that they so very likely described both someone who had been abused as a child and also someone who would perpetrate abuse on children, or already had been doing so. I know “Thriller” was not written by Michael, but he did sing it, dance it, embody it, live it on stage again and again for years. And apparently, he also lived it in his life … probably his life as a child, and now it seems more certainly revealed that he lived it in his adult life with little children. And Michael did write “Bad,” and also embodied it and likely lived it in his life.
Some lines from each …
Thriller … (1982)
It’s close to midnight
Something evil’s lurking from the dark
Under the moonlight
You see a sight that almost stops your heart
You try to scream
But terror takes the sound before you make it
You start to freeze
As horror looks you right between your eyes
‘Cause this is thriller
And no one’s gonna save you
From the beast about to strike
And from “Bad” (1987)
Your butt is mine
Gonna tell you right
Just show your face
In broad daylight
I’m telling you
On how I feel
Gonna hurt your mind
Don’t shoot to kill
Come on …
Well they say the sky’s the limit
And to me that’s really true
But my friend you have seen nothin’
Just wait ’til I get through
Because I’m bad, I’m bad come on …
And the whole world has to
Answer right now
Just to tell you once again
Questions flooded through me! How many people had been seduced by these two songs because they reflected the listener’s own childhood wounds? How many had been drawn in by the horror of the memory of their own abuse presented outside them in a song, dance, video, performance. We often do that – what we can’t tolerate remembering or feeling from our own young experiences, we project onto, or find something in the outer world to mirror it for us. How much of Jackson’s fame and fans had been responding to this?
And how many had been drawn in by the compulsion fantasy to do to others what had been done to them, also a common response to childhood abuse? The fantasy and feelings almost always, even if repressed. The acting it out – not always, not necessarily, but often expressed in other ways … among them, watching horror shows or songs entitled “Thriller” or “Bad.”
However people were drawn in to Michael Jackson, it’s so important to explore what it was in each person that was vulnerable to being seduced … even by his songs.
I’ve wondered … If I had read the lyrics to these songs way back when, would I have realized the mirrors they were of the abuse of Michael and the abuse by Michael? Would I have had enough experience working with people’s suffering from childhood encounters with sexual abuse in particular and any kind of abuse in general … that I would have recognized it and been able to create a way to expose it, reveal it, help people pierce their defenses against it?
I don’t know. But I do know … it’s right there in his songs and has been all along. Any one or more of us could have seen it … if we’d had the awareness, the sight, the vision, the heart, the willingness to receive and connect beneath everything else that was going on.
This is a painful example of how we all contributed to the abuse of children all over the world. This is a single painful example of how we have all been part of the village that abused the children.
Some Who Work to End the Abuse of Children
There are some in our world who get it. Who get how much child abuse and child sexual abuse goes on in our world. There are some who get the pattern of grooming that is so enmeshed with the sexual abuse itself. There are some who get the seduction in many forms – including both trusting and frightening, both seemingly gentle and violent, and all very confusing for a child.
Among those I know get it:
There is the California Protective Parents Association.
There is Oprah Winfrey: who spoke out after the release of the movie, saying that this moment is bigger than Michael Jackson; acknowledging that she did 217 shows in 25 years on sexual abuse, trying to get people to see the scourge on humanity, the societal corruption that was being revealed once again through this movie.
There are those I have worked with who have been sexually abused, who are thankful, as I am, for the MeToo Movement, but … who are so distressed that these recent movements don’t attend to the sexual abuse that is happening to children all over our country and our world every single day.
There are a few of my colleagues who have supported and encouraged me to write about this again and again.
And there is, of course, my heart and soul and my own muse – calling to me again and again to help more and more deeply, more and more broadly, to heal child sexual abuse as one specific form, and, of course, child abuse in all its forms.
As I ended Part One of this series …
Mind you, this is a mirror to us not only of how we react to the sexual abuse of children, but also of how we react to other serious problems in our lives – in our families, in our institutions and organizations, in our countries and in our world.
Tune in soon for the next installment to learn more about the impact of the village that helps to abuse children … the impact by us and on us all over our world, every single day.
* Child grooming: https://simple.wikipedia.org/wiki/Child_grooming
Note 1: To read or listen to Part One of this series: https://judithbarr.com/2019/05/18/it-takes-a-village-part-1/
Note 2: There are many ways you can learn about child abuse, grooming, sexual abuse, and the repetitive cycle of abuse in our world. It is, of course, a painful learning; but so very crucial. Some of the ways that are, in addition to painful, also grounded, sensitive, and inspiring, include:
The movie, Leaving Neverland
The book, Little Girl Leaving: A Novel Based on A True Story, by Lisa Blume
The book, How Did We Get Here? Our Refusal to Know the Truth About Ourselves: Blowing the Whistle on Us – For the Trauma We’ve Experienced and the Trauma We Create, by Judith Barr
If you plan to watch the video or read Lisa Blume’s book and have been sexually abused or think you may have been, or even if you don’t think you may have been, or even if you don’t remember, please create a plan to take care of yourself before reading or viewing. That plan would include having support people available, even to watch with you, and having a therapist you can work with, if something opens up that you need help with.
© Judith Barr, 2019.