I grew up with the Jackson 5. In fact, they were home-state heroes. Hailing from Gary, Indiana—just minutes away from my dad’s hometown in Hammond—they almost felt like neighbors. I spent my school years in Indianapolis belting out “ABC” and “I’ll Be There” with the radio in my dad’s convertible Mustang. It was impossible to sit still when a Jackson 5 tune was playing.

Then when Michael launched his solo career, I fell more deeply in love with the man and the music. His tunes inspired my dance and copying his dance moves—minus the crotch grab—made me ecstatic. I was caught up in the MJ hysteria for decades. Then Thriller was released and although it was masterfully spooky and met with wide acclaim, I started to see the darkness of Michael creep in. And the anger. If you contrast his joyous boyhood performances with his later ones—especially in the 1990s, you see him twitching with rage. The pure delight he once conveyed on stage was supplanted with a palpable darkness.

There have been whisperings that he was abused by his father—possibly even sexually. But according to research, the absolute risk that any given victim of sexual abuse will go on to become a sexual offender is very low.

At the apex of superstardom, rumors surfaced about his penchant for boys. We heard accounts of sleepovers and slumber parties with pre-pubescent boys. Jesus juice. Porn. Masturbation. The backdrop of a theme-park-styled ranch designed to attract and delight children. A predator’s web artfully created to lure his prey. Then there were accusations of child molestation. And the trial. But he was acquitted—flying doves and all.

All the while, I kept my blinders on and remained in the camp of people who believed the parents of the boys were fortune-seekers. For me, MJ moonwalked on water. I never wavered because I wanted to believe that my guy, Michael, the creative genius and sensitive soul, wasn’t capable of such monstrous acts. And, to be honest, I didn’t want thoughts of these unconscionable acts to interfere with my enjoyment of Michael’s music.

After watching Leaving Neverland, which was painful to sit through, I have little doubt that Michael was a plotting, manipulative pedophile, grooming boys and their families. If the accusations and accounts are true, he sexually assaulted little boys believing or convincing himself that he was expressing his deep love. But he allegedly didn’t sexually violate his own children, so, if true, a part of him knew what he was doing was wrong. He victimized other people’s kids but protected his own. That shows consciousness of guilt.

I’ve spent days after watching Leaving Neverland filled with grief and anger—but mostly rage. I’m enraged that no one intervened. Based on interviews with his sister, LaToya, in the 1990s it seems the family knew about his pedophilia but did nothing, or, if they did, it didn’t stop Michael’s behavior. Was it because he was the family’s gravy train? Was it because they didn’t want to be extracted from the Michael Jackson payroll?

When someone is as rich and famous as Michael Jackson, people in the orbit of such a superstar never say no, and if the person is sick, that allows the warped behavior to continue unabated. The mothers of Wade Robson and James Safechuck appeared to be star struck, benefiting from the perks, possibly paid off, and loving the limelight, so much so that they failed to do the one thing parents are charged with doing—protect their children. Take away Jackson’s star power, money, and make-believe ranch and the equation was this: thirtysomething man wants to sleep with a 7-year-old boy. Alone. To not see that this is warped is to want to believe that the privileges Jackson was doling out didn’t come with a price. In essence, the mothers made a deal with the devil; the price was the lives of their vulnerable, trusting children.

Abused children can seem fine until decades later when, as adults, their lives unravel. That’s because children are resilient and in survival mode during childhood, which, let’s face it, can be brutal. Adults who withstood trauma as children are vulnerable, fragile, and broken. They’re lucky if they ever heal enough to be whole. I ache for all Michael Jackson’s victims—for all the Robsons and Safechucks that we’ll never know.

As much as I would like to continue to delight in the tunes that have brought me joy for so many decades, I can no longer separate the man from the music.