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Scott D. Pierce: HBO just might convince you Michael Jackson was a child molester

FILE - In this Jan. 24, 2019, file photo, Wade Robson, from left, director Dan Reed and James Safechuck pose for a portrait to promote the film "Leaving Neverland" at the Salesforce Music Lodge during the Sundance Film Festival in Park City, Utah. Michael Jackson accusers Robson and Safechuck say that the Sundance Film Festival is first time they've ever felt public support for their allegations the King of Pop molested them. The documentary which premiered at the festival last month and will air on HBO in two parts on March 3 and 4, chronicles how their lives intersected with Jackson's. (Photo by Taylor Jewell/Invision/AP, File)

In this #MeToo age when we’re beginning to understand the importance of hearing and believing women’s stories of abuse, isn’t it about time we started hearing and believing the men who tell us they were abused by Michael Jackson?

How can you support the women who accused Harvey Weinstein, Bill Cosby and R. Kelly and attack the men who accuse Jackson?

For anyone willing to listen, HBO’s two-part, four-hour documentary “Leaving Neverland” is harrowing. Not because it’s loud and hysterical; it’s precisely the opposite. Two men simply tell the story of what happened to them when they were befriended and — they say quite convincingly — molested by the self-proclaimed king of pop while he was at the height of his fame.

For James “Jimmy” Safechuck, it began when he was 10. Wade Robson was 7. Not only did the abuse continue for years, they say, but the effects continue today. And it didn’t just affect them, it ravaged their families — who are also interviewed.

They don’t need me to argue their case for them. I will tell you that “Leaving Neverland” (Sunday and Monday, 6 p.m., HBO) is deeply affecting. (It’s also very frank. HBO warns viewers about the graphic descriptions of child sexual abuse.)

It’s not hard to understand why Jackson’s family has sued HBO in an attempt to prevent “Leaving Neverland” from airing. It’s devastating. But as the documentary’s producer/director, Dan Reed, correctly points out, “This is not a film about Michael Jackson. It’s about two very ordinary families whose paths crossed with Jackson’s.”

It's true that Jackson isn't here to defend himself, but the documentary includes multiple clips of his adamant denials.

But, again, “Leaving Neverland” is about Safechuck, Robson and their families. Reed's goal was to get viewers “to understand all the complicated family dynamics that evolved over years. Why was it the mothers never realized? How could this have gone on for so long? Why didn’t Robson or Safechuck tell anyone? And why have they decided to speak about it now, after denying it for so long? The answer to all of that is made plain in the film, but you need to watch the whole thing.”

I agree — even though I know I’m going to get blasted by a certain segment of Jackson fans, perhaps including the same people who (unsuccessfully) tried to launch a boycott of Utah’s Sundance Film Festival, where the documentary recently premiered. All I can tell you is — watch “Leaving Neverland” and decide for yourself.

This just might be the turning point in how the public perceives Jackson. Yes, these stories have circulated for decades. Yes, he was charged with molesting two other young boys — he settled one case for a reported $23 million and was acquitted in the other. But he remains an icon a decade after his death.

It took a standup-comedy bit by Hannibal Burress to set in motion events that landed Cosby in prison after he had drugged and raped women for decades. It took a documentary on Lifetime to set in motion events resulted in R. Kelly being charged with 10 counts of aggravated sexual abuse of women and underage girls — after decades of women not being believed about what they said the singer did.

Lifetime executive Rob Sharenow took a bit of a victory lap, telling TV critics that “Surviving R. Kelly” was “a catalyst for change. I’m so proud we were the platform for these survivors to be listened to, and finally believed.”

Despite the protests, despite the lawsuits, HBO should be proud for letting Safechuck and Robson be heard.

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