Whipped with a strap and beaten: Everything we know about Michael Jackson's abusive childhood.


Warning: This post contains descriptions of physical child abuse.

There is absolutely no excuse for the deplorable acts of child abuse Michael Jackson allegedly committed as an adult.

It is, however, clear that Michael Jackson experienced abuse as a child.

The beatings he received from his father, Joe Jackson, have long been reported. But according to various sources, including the man himself, the trauma Michael experienced as a kid extended far beyond what you might have heard.

“He was rough.” Joe Jackson’s regular beatings.

Cracks may had already formed, but the facade of Michael Jackson and his siblings’ idyllic family life came crashing down in 1991 when La Toya Jackson published her memoir Growing Up in the Jackson Family.

In the book, and in subsequent media interviews, Michael’s sister shared how she was sexually abused by her father Joe Jackson, and her brother was beaten.

“You know all those big awards shows? Michael would go, get all these awards and go home and get beaten up by Joseph. It was embarrassing,” La Toya told Associated Press in 1991. “It didn’t matter how old you were. If he’s mad, my father would just punch you.”

Joe later admitted to beating his children. Clockwise from bottom left: Jackie Jackson, Tito Jackson, Marlon Jackson, Jermaine Jackson, Michael Jackson, Randy Jackson, Joe Jackson (front). Image: Getty

Joe and his wife Katherine at the time denied he abused their nine children.

But in 1993, Michael told Oprah that he would get so fearful being around his father, that he would vomit.

Then, in an interview with British journalist Martin Bashir as part of the 2003 documentary Living with Michael Jackson, Michael recalled how his father would watch the Jackson 5's dance rehearsals with a belt in his hand, ready to beat them for any mistakes.

Michael gave further insight into the extent of these beatings in recorded conversations with his religious advisor Rabbi Shmuley Boteach, which were released in 2009 in the months after the pop star's death.

"He was rough, the way he would beat you, you know, was hard," Michael said, according to excerpts published by CNN

"He would make you strip nude first. He would oil you down. It would be a whole ritual.

"He would oil you down so when the flip of an ironing cord hit you, you know, and, it was just like me dying, and you had whips all over your face, your back, everywhere.


"And I always hear my mother like, 'No, Joe, you're gonna kill him. You're gonna kill him. No.' And I would just give up, like there was nothing I could do. And I hated him for it. Hated him."

Before his death in 2018, Joe Jackson did admit to beating his sons with a strap. He told Oprah Winfrey in 2010 he didn't regret it, saying "It kept them out of jail and kept them right."

Forced to "play sleep" while his brothers had sex in the same room.

As the youngest member of the Jackson 5, Michael Jackson sang on stage with his brothers Tito, Jackie, Jermaine and Marlon when he was just eight years old in the mid-1960s.

From then, his life became about touring, singing, and producing hits. He later told Oprah Winfrey through that musical success, he lost his childhood.

But in the documentary Living with Michael Jackson it was revealed that he also may have lost his innocence at that same young age.

Jackson 5
The Jackson 5: (L-R) Tito, Marlon (front), Jermaine, Michael and Jackie Jackson. Image: Getty

Michael told interviewer Martin Bashir that as a pre-pubescent boy, he regular was forced to pretend to be asleep in the same room while his brothers had sex with groupies.

"I had to share a bedroom with my brothers on the tours and there was action going on in my room every night. I could hear it... I heard everything," he recalled.

"My job was to play sleep and I was told by one of my brothers 'no matter what, don't get up, don't open your eyes'. I go 'I promise, I won't'."

Brooke Shields gave an insight into how unhealthy Michael's relationship to sex might have been in her memoir. The pair were close friends, an in 1993 appeared to be dating, but according to the actress "nothing happened romantically" between them.

"I would be like, ‘Oh please, knock it off.’ He was like this kid who would ask you [about dating and romance]," she wrote about Jackson, who was 20 when they first met in 1978.

"Nobody was telling him and nurturing this stuff and I think he was terrified. He was terrified and sort of juvenile. I think there was an arrested development."

Why this isn't "the reason" he allegedly abused kids as an adult.

Reading this, some might point to the abuse Michael suffered as a child and say that it led to him becoming an abuser of children. But that conclusion isn't correct.


In a thorough investigation of the popular "cycle of abuse" theory, Slate magazine found that the data suggests it's far murkier than simply suggesting because someone was abused as a child, they will go onto abuse children.

In a 1989 study psychologist and criminologist, Cathy Spatz Widom found that victims of childhood abuse are at a greater risk of becoming criminals as adults.

However, a 2016 study of 38,282 Australian men found that of those who were molested as children, just three per cent went on to commit a sexual offence (compared to 0.8 per cent of the general population). Meaning that 97 per cent of those abused had not been charged with any form of sex crime.

So while Michael Jackson's childhood may have increased the likelihood, statistically, that he would commit abuse as an adult, it's not an excuse, or a reason.


For more on this topic:

Without us noticing, it looks like Michael Jackson groomed us for decades.

The signs Michael Jackson was grooming the children he was close to that so many missed.

"It wasn't going to mean anything": Why Michael Jackson married Lisa Marie Presley.

'Blanket' Jackson was just seven when his father died. This week he stopped talking.

The two boys who followed Wade Robson into Michael Jackson's bed insist they weren't abused.

Debbie Rowe says she gifted Michael Jackson two children because he was a 'wonderful man'.