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"Leaving Neverland": Why individual stories of abuse have more impact than statistics

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Almost 1.5 million people watched the documentary "Leaving Neverland" earlier this month, making it the third most-watched HBO documentary in a decade. The four-hour documentary describes how Michael Jackson allegedly groomed and sexually abused two children, James Safechuck and Wade Robson, during the late ‘80s to mid-'90s.

Child sex abuse of the type alleged in "Leaving Neverland" generates strong and negative visceral reactions. Little of the information presented in "Leaving Neverland" was new, but it was a compelling narrative framed to draw in the audience and maximize sympathy for the alleged victims.

In her post-screening interviews of Jackson’s articulate and thoughtful accusers, Oprah Winfrey said child sex abuse is rampant: “It is happening right now. It is happening in families. We know it is happening in churches, and in schools and sports teams everywhere.”

Winfrey isn’t wrong. Nonetheless, the suffering of 1,000 children should concern us more than the suffering of one or two children, but it does not. This is why fundraising........

© Salon