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La Toya Jackson: ‘I Just Want to Break the Silence’

September 10, 1991

NEW YORK (AP) _ It doesn’t take long for La Toya Jackson to shatter the myth of her family as the talented, close-knit Jackson clan.

Forget the platinum albums. What La Toya Jackson wants to talk about these days is her claim that she and her siblings paid for their success by enduring emotional, physical and sexual abuse by their parents. Several of the nine children attempted suicide, she said.

Jackson, 35, the older sister of Michael and Janet, shifts in her chair in her Plaza Hotel suite. A hired bodyguard lurks outside. Her manager, Jack Gordon, whom she says she married in 1989 to protect herself from family kidnapping attempts, sits nearby.

She pauses as she recalls her childhood in Gary, Ind., before the Jacksons were famous.

″My sister Rebbie and I slept in the same sofabed,″ she recalled. ″My father sexually abused Rebbie. I’d tremble down at the other end of the sofa. I wouldn’t want to look. Every now and then my mother would come by and say, ‘Not tonight, Joseph.’ She needs her rest.‴

Both Jackson parents, Joseph and Katherine, strongly denied their daughter’s allegations Tuesday, calling them ″a bunch of lies.″ Both blamed Gordon, saying he’s ″brainwashed″ La Toya.

Rebbie Jackson, now 42, and a housewife and mother in Simi Valley, Calif., could not immediately be reached for comment. Her telephone number is not listed; her parents said they would pass along a message to her but would not give out her number.

La Toya said her sister called the police several times during their childhood because of the abuse, and also pleaded with their mother. She said Katherine Jackson ignored the problem, the family deterred the police and Rebbie left home at 16 to live with relatives.

After that, La Toya claims, her father began to sexually abuse her.

″It’s very hard for me to talk about it,″ said Jackson, whose new book, ″Growing Up in the Jackson Family″ omits any mention of sexual abuse. She said the publishers were ″worried.″

Jackson said her father fondled her while the family lived in Indiana. The Jacksons moved to Southern California when La Toya was 12 years old.

″He only sexually abused me once in California,″ she said. ″But he still kept up a lot of verbal abuse toward me.″

″That’s not true,″ her father said by telephone from Los Angeles. ″La Toya is telling a bunch of lies. We never sexually abused her. We never punched her or any of the kids.″

″The whole book is full of lies,″ Katherine Jackson added. ″Joe didn’t beat the kids. Do you think they could function if we beat them like that? They’re out there singing and dancing and raising families. They couldn’t have gone to school and done all that they did if we had beat them like that.″

La Toya said all her siblings were traumatized by years of abuse.

″You know all those big awards shows?″ she said. ″Michael would go, get all these awards and go home and get beaten up by Joseph. It was embarrassing. It didn’t matter how old you were. If he’s mad, my father would just punch you.″

Jackson recounts a severe beating at the hands of her father in her book. ″The next day it was like nothing ever happened,″ she said. ″That’s how dysfunctional the family is.″

La Toya, whose nude Playboy pictorial was a best seller, said she has never had a boyfriend and has never known Michael to have a relationship.

Her marriage to Gordon has never been consummated. Gordon says they will only divorce when he believes La Toya is ″safe″ from what he says has been her family’s two attempts to kidnap her.

She has not been in touch with her brothers and sisters since the book came out but Michael called once through his publicist.

″I keep hoping this book will make my brothers and sisters unite and stand up for themselves for once,″ she said. ″We bleed inside. We had everything but none of us is happy.″