Michael Jackson: Predator or Victim?

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Child abuse is not some novel behavior born in the new millenium. It’s been there lurking in the shadows; people just don’t like to talk about it. Putting on those rose-colored glasses doesn’t make abuse disappear; it’s still here and by some statistics is growing to epidemic proportions. But, perhaps it’s always been there in epidemic proportions; we’re just now beginning to admit it exists – beginning to admit it’s a major social problem and beginning to initiate more programs to bring public awareness and education to this issue.

Long gone are the days where the word pedophile conjures up images of evil old men wearing trench coats lurking behind bushes at the local school. With scandals in the Catholic Church and worldwide child porn rings busts, society is being forced to deal with this issue. One of the effects in bringing this problem to the forefront is that more cases are being reported to law enforcement. This places the blame squarely where it should be -- on the abuser, not the victim. It’s no wonder, then, that allegations are surfacing, yes, even among our celebrities. Being famous doesn’t immunize one from this mental disease, but perhaps the money that comes with being famous makes it easier to hide.

Michael Jackson is the newest celebrity to be accused of pedophilia. In August 1993, the Los Angeles Police Department launched a criminal probe after a 13-year-old boy claimed he was sexually abused by Jackson. The case ended in Jackson paying millions of dollars to this boy’s family, but not before he issued a statement in December 1993. In that statement he said:

I am not guilty of these allegations. But if I am guilty of anything it is of giving all that I have to give to help children all over the world. It is of loving children of all ages and races, it is of gaining sheer joy from seeing children with their innocent and smiling faces. It is of enjoying through them the childhood that I missed myself.

With this case settled, Jackson continued with his career and lifestyle -- married twice, divorced twice, became a parent three times, and then the accusations hit again -- all this in just 10 years.

In February 2003, a British documentary aired in which Jackson talked about sleeping with children. I have slept in a bed with many children, he said. He explained there was nothing sexual involved. We go to sleep. I put the fireplace on. I give them hot milk, you know, we have cookies. It's very charming. It's very sweet. It's what the whole world should do.

This documentary prompted an investigation into Jackson’s behavior. Law officials and social services interviewed a boy who admitted he had slept in Jackson’s bed. Over the next few months more allegations surfaced regarding inappropriate conduct on Jackson’s part and on November 18th a search warrant was issued on Neverland Ranch. An arrest warrant issued on November 19th was for a violation of Section 288(a) of the California Penal Code, which prohibits lewd or lascivious acts with a child under 14.

On December 28th, 60 minutes aired an interview between Mr. Jackson and Ed Bradley. Let’s look at some of this interview.

ED BRADLEY: What is your response to the allegations that were brought by the district attorney in Santa Barbara, that you molested this boy?
MICHAEL JACKSON: Totally false. Before I would hurt a child, I would slit my wrists. I would never hurt a child It's totally false. I was outraged. I could never do something like that.

What is your response?
(My response) is totally false.

In typical fashion, Jackson talks about never hurting a child. He doesn’t say: I would never molest a child. Pedophiles think that giving love to a child, even sexual love, is not hurting the child. They don’t understand why society frowns upon their behavior because they don’t equate having sex with children as harmful to the child. To illustrate this point, the below quote is from a professed pedophile, who maintains a website on girllove.

“I am not the enemy. The enemy is the one who wants to hurt your little girl. I am the one who would never do anything to cause harm to come to her.
Indeed, I wish to treat her with the utmost respect, to talk to her, to listen to her, to laugh with her, to play with her, to love her. The love that I wish to bestow upon her will start with phileo, the love which is equated with friendship, companionship and affection. As I get to know her better and appreciate her for the unique individual that she is, this love will deepen into agape, a profound respect and admiration. Our friendship and mutual respect will allow us to fully appreciate the joys of our eros, or physical love, which will, in turn, affirm and reinforce the beautiful bond we have created together.

In the above he says he is not the enemy. The enemy is the child abductor, the child murderer. In the interview between Jackson and Bradley, Jackson states the same philosophy in a slightly different manner.

MICHAEL JACKSON: Of course. Of course. Why not? If you're gonna be a pedophile, if you're gonna be Jack the Ripper, if you're gonna be a murderer, it's not a good idea. That I'm not. That's how we were raised. And I met — I didn't sleep in the bed with the child. Even if I did, it's okay. I slept on the floor. I give the bed to the child.

Bradley then asks Jackson to characterize his relationship with the boy.

ED BRADLEY: How would you characterize your relationship with this boy?
MICHAEL JACKSON: I've helped many, many, many children, thousands of children, cancer kids, leukemia kids. This is one of many.

Jackson evades the question. There’s power in numbers. He answers the question in broad generalizations: I’ve helped many. It also would have been another opportunity for him to proclaim his innocence, but he doesn’t.

ED BRADLEY: Given the allegations, given the innuendo — why would you put yourself in a position where something like this could happen again?
MICHAEL JACKSON: Well, I'm always more cautious. But I will never stop helping and loving people the way Jesus said to. He said, Continue to love. Always love. Remember children. imitate the children. Not childish, but childlike.

ED BRADLEY: Would you allow your children to sleep in the bed with a grown man, who was not a relative, or to sleep in the bedroom?

MICHAEL JACKSON: Sure, if I know that person, trust them, and love them. That's happened many times with me when I was little.

There are some interesting themes going on in this portion of the interview. First, Jackson explains that he is more careful now, but that he will continue to love the children. He also suggests that he is childlike. He blames this on his celebrity status as a child. The effect of always being in the spotlight was that he was not allowed to have a normal, childhood. However, given the statement Jackson makes in reference to adults sleeping in children’s beds: That’s happened many times with me when I was little, this childlike behavior may be a result of his own abuse. In a speech given at Oxford University in March 2001, Jackson stated:

He trained me as a showman and under his guidance I couldn't miss a step.
But what I really wanted was a Dad. I wanted a father who showed me love. And my father never did that.

Child abuse is learned behavior. Many adults who abuse were abused themselves as children – the cycles continues. There have been strong rumors that Jackson’s father physically abused him, but perhaps there is more abuse in his past, and his own mental development has been arrested because of this abuse and the lifelong issues this involves.

However, psychiatrists warn to not judge to quickly. According to one article, Michael Borack, a forensic psychiatrist at the University of Cincinnati Medical School, who has evaluated many pedophiles says Jackson does not fit the usual profile.

If Jackson does suffer from some form of psycho-emotional retardation, it's possible he thought innocent snuggling in bed would be OK, experts say. However, Borack pointed out, "Jackson is an adult with an adult's sex drive. (ABC, Arrested Development? Michael Jackson Seems Stuck in Permanent Childhood, Psychiatrists Say, November 21, 2003)

Experts argue that Jackson’s eccentric behavior is not typical of pedophilia. Pedophiles normally try and fit in with the community, not behave in outlandish ways that draws attention. However, when you deal with celebrities, isn’t outlandish the norm?

Jackson has Neverland Ranch -- his own Disneyland behind gates. The ranch is equipped with exotic animals, amusement park rides, trees to climb -- a child's dream. He opens this dream to any child he chooses. What child would not want to participate? Is he grooming the child? This is typical behavior for a pedophile.

Charles White, a convicted sex offender serving 13 years, didn't have the money Jackson had, but exhibited some of the same behavior by offering gifts to one of his victims and dangling a Corvette for her to drive if she came to live with him. (Case Study of a Pedophile .)

The American Psychiatric Association defines pedophilia as:

A person who over at least a 6 month period has recurrent, intense sexually arousing fantasies, sexual urges, or behaviors involving sexual activity with a prepubescent child or children (age 13 years or younger). The fantasies, sexual urges, or behaviors cause clinically significant distress or impairment in social, occupational, or other important areas of functioning. The person is at least age 16 years and at least 5 years older than the child or children. Not to include an individual in late adolescence involved in an ongoing sexual relationship with a 12 or 13 year old (straight or gay). Individuals with pedophilia generally report an attraction to children of a particular age range. Some individuals prefer males, others prefer females, and some are aroused by both males and females. Pedophilia involving female victims is reported more than pedophilia involving male victims.

Unfortunately there is no ironclad profile for pedophiles; they don’t have large signs on their backs that say “I’m a pedophile – keep me away from your kids,” but there are general characteristics that they share. Pedophiles are:

Jackson does possess some of the qualities of a pedophile. There's no doubt about that. But, just because someone has some of the qualities doesn't necessarily make him a pedophile, or does it?