No Friend of Dorothy
The Michael Jackson jury has been selected, and, not unlike Jackson himself, it's two-thirds female and mostly white. And if this jury doesn't help convict Jackson of the child-molestation charges brought against him in Santa Barbara County, California, he'd better watch his back -- because Dorothy M. Neddermeyer, Ph.D., is gunning for him. Neddermeyer, an Ahwatukee-based specialist in sex abuse prevention and recovery and the author of the recently revised If I'd Only Known . . . Sexual Abuse In or Out of the Family: A Guide to Prevention, is mad as hell about the Jackson case, which she says typifies every weaselly angle that child molesters use to exploit kids for their own deviant purposes. Neddermeyer has been making her case lately with as-yet-unpublished letters to the editors of local papers, which she hopes will give any Jackson supporters second thoughts about what Jackson's been calling "these sick, dirty accusations against me."
New Times: I guess what I want to know about Michael Jackson is why it took so long to bust him on suspicion of child molestation. He's been publicly romancing boys for years. He took Emmanuel Lewis to the American Music Awards. As his date! On his hip!
Dorothy Neddermeyer: Well, for some people it took a while to get suspicious. Not me. I knew from the first that he was having relationships with young boys and that it was pedophilia.
Neddermeyer: I know. We're all in denial about what sexual abuse really is. We're in denial about any kind of behavior that's different than our own. We're taught that we're not to be critical of differentness. That to be a good person and a religious person, we cannot be judgmental.
NT: Please. All people are judgmental. It's the foundation of our Christian nation.
Neddermeyer: We all need to learn how to be appropriately suspicious. There are some behaviors that are unacceptable, and when you see them, you have a responsibility to speak out. As long as the perpetrator isn't walking around with crazed eyes and a day-old beard and a dirty trench coat, we assume they're okay. Which is part of how people get away with it -- all you have to do today to be a successful child molester is portray yourself as an upstanding citizen who loves children, and you're in.
NT: It doesn't hurt to have an amusement park in your backyard, either.
Neddermeyer: In these Michael Jackson documentaries, he says that when he thinks of going to bed with boys, he doesn't think of sex; it's the dirty-minded people out there who make it sexual. Perpetrators are good at deflecting, and you have to remember that 80 percent of abused children are abused by family members. Nineteen percent are abused by someone they trust -- like Michael Jackson.
NT: Couldn't someone with Michael Jackson's money just hire 18-year-old hookers who look like they're 11?
Neddermeyer: But his focus is on having young boys he can control. He might not be able to control an 18-year-old. When a perpetrator has a compulsion, which is what child molestation is, it doesn't have to make sense. [Jackson] has a classic profile: He's admitted that he's a child-abuse survivor, and physical abuse often translates into having sexual connections, meaning that he becomes sexually aroused when he's being physically abused.
NT: Why is it out of the question that this is a case of some flaky rich guy being taken advantage of by opportunists who want a cash settlement?
Neddermeyer: Well, what would prompt him to be flaky in the first place? People are not born weird or flaky. They become flaky or dysfunctional in order to deal with their emotional pain. Michael Jackson, because of his money, can afford to be flamboyant or flaky in a big way. He has all that money because his parents pushed the family to work in show business because they happened to have good singing voices.
NT: Which is a different kind of abuse.
Neddermeyer: Right. I think we need to stop thinking that the child has to be penetrated to cause damage. Copping a feel, and [grown] guys ogling young girls can cause as much damage as penetration. There's no such thing as minor sexual abuse; either you were or you weren't.
NT: How about this argument: Jackson never got to have a childhood, and he's stuck in preadolescence, and just wants a bunch of playmates?
Neddermeyer: What about the millions of other people who haven't had a proper childhood who haven't done what he's done? They haven't solicited young boys as friends or been accused of sexually abusing children. If this were the case, he wouldn't be the only one. And notice he only entices young boys to his amusement park. If he wanted to be a benevolent person because he loves children, which is what he claims, why not boys and girls? Because he's attracted to boys. Boys turn him on, excuse the expression.
NT: But don't you think that there are some kids who just want to get laid? I'm guessing there are some kids that could be had for a box of Thin Mints and a dime.
Neddermeyer: But do you know who those kids are? They're sexual-abuse survivors who are acting out exactly what they've experienced. They've been sexualized prior to seducing someone.
NT: Why would any parent allow their kid to bunk down with a middle-aged man?
Neddermeyer: We have parents who are letting their kids go with him despite the previous cases because of the reverence we have for celebrity.
NT: Okay, so we're all star-struck. But if Brad Pitt came to your house and asked to defecate in your oven, would you let him?
Neddermeyer: No, but people don't want to be seen as bitchy or nasty, and certainly not with a celebrity. And there's the seduction of the celebrity: the glamour of the money and the gifts and the travel and la la la. In the case of Michael Jackson, the kids love his music, and he seduces the parents as well as the kids [with his fame]. And their common sense goes out the window. It doesn't help that we don't teach our kids appropriate suspicion.
NT: You keep mentioning that.
Neddermeyer: The truth is we need to start protecting children from sexual abuse from the moment they're born -- including from family members. Only 1 percent [of sexual abuse] is from strangers. The guy lurking around the playground in a dirty trench coat is not the main danger. If your husband is alone with the children, if he's bathing the children, dressing them, you walk into the room. Keep an eye on him. That's appropriate suspicion.
NT: You're going to have a hard time selling the idea of keeping an eye on one's spouse for signs of child abuse.
Neddermeyer: The man you married may not know he has it in him, until your child turns a certain age.
NT: And then one day, he morphs into a child abuser? Kind of like Michael Jackson morphed from a young black man into a scary white woman?
Neddermeyer: It's a direct connection between him and his abuse. He's trying to put distance between the small black boy that he was -- and he was quite dark when he was young -- and the person he is today. So he won't have any connection with that other person, the boy who was abused.
NT: I keep seeing interviews with Jackson family members defending Michael, which seems like the wrong way to go. I mean, once you have your nose surgically removed, your credibility goes straight out the window.
Neddermeyer: Well, no family believes their family member is a perpetrator. They have to believe this way; it takes a lot of courage for them to say, "What I'm looking at is very suspicious."
NT: Jackson does seem to be boasting about his proclivities. That whole "I love to share my bed with kids" interview on international television was really creepy.
Neddermeyer: Michael Jackson is flaunting it in our face, begging us, the United States and the world, to stop him. Because he can't stop himself -- no perpetrator can, because it's a compulsion. But because he's a celebrity, he might very well get out of this and not go to jail. I hope not. I hope the DA has enough evidence that the jury can't let him off with reasonable doubt.
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