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Why We Shouldn’t Publicly Shame ‘7th Heaven’ Star Stephen Collins

Stephen Collins, the 67-year-old actor best known for his role as Reverend Eric Camden on 7th Heaven, has confessed to recent child molestation charges. 

The confession came after a recorded therapy session with his ex-wife leaked, in which she questions him about the three alleged accounts:

Of course, you can imagine the horrified internet reactions that began to roll in. I was horrified too. And then I remembered a recent episode of podcast This American Life called “Tarred and Feathered.” The theme for the week was public shaming, and one particular story stuck with me. It focused on Adam, a 19-year-old who has been struggling with pedophilia his whole life. After realizing at age 16 that he had formed an unhealthy addiction to watching porn that featured kids around his age and younger, he sought therapy. But he felt judged by his therapist, who had no real understanding of the disease and was unable to help him. Ultimately, Adam had to form his own support group for people his age suffering from the same problem. [Editor’s note: Scroll to the bottom of this post to listen to Adam’s story.]

Because we forget that pedophilia is a disease. A gross, confusing, scary disease, a disease that most people cannot understand. But, it is a disease just like depression, anxiety, bipolar and kleptomania. Did we forget about the death of Robin Williams, the message of Silver Linings Playbook, that time Wynona Ryder stole a bunch of shit from Saks Fifth Avenue? I thought we were taking steps to become more sensitive to mental illness in this country? Perhaps because pedophilia isn’t as sexy as anxiety (if anxiety is actually sexy than I am Giselle fucking Bundchen), or as edgy as depression, we don’t want to feel bad for those who suffer from it. It’s too hard for us to look at Collins as a sick person suffering an illness, so instead we ostracize him and relish in headlines like “Dad from 7th Heaven is a Child Molester!”

And that’s another thing: how come when Woody Allen’s adopted daughter recounted intimate details of Allen molesting her as a child, half of the country was kind of grossed out and then forgot about it, and the other half was like “I mean, we don’t know for a FACT if it’s true.” So, is it easier for us to dismiss Collins because he didn’t make as many good movies as Allen, thus we don’t mind viewing him as a monster? Whereas to admit that Woody Allen is a pedophile means we won’t be able to get as much enjoyment out of watching Annie Hall?

Sure, there is an argument to be made that, while folks can suffer from pedophilia, only the real “monsters” are the ones who take action on their urges. But, based on the information gleaned from This American Life, seeking help for this disease is not that easy:

If a therapist thinks someone poses a threat to a child, they’re legally obligated to turn them in, because of mandatory reporting laws. They can lose their license if they don’t. So when it comes to counseling a pedophile, therapists have to gauge how likely that person is to act. They’re in a sticky situation where they have to make a judgment call about how dangerous someone is.” – TAL reporter Luke Malone

Maybe that’s why Collins’ therapy session, which should have been protected under patient-doctor privilege, was secretly being recorded?

I’m not giving Collins a pass–the children he exposed himself to may have suffered deep trauma, and will likely spend years reconciling what happened. But at least he came out and admitted what he did and was seeking help. That’s more than I can say for Woody Allen.

Comments

Rochelle
Reply

Excellent and dead on.

nbjr
Reply

I have to chime in on this. As a victim of some pretty horrific sexual abuse by a male babysitter when I was 6-7 years old, I will speak on the victim platform. Pedophilia can be viewed as a disease, but if so, how come doctors and scientists haven’t figured out how to determine if someone is predisposed to it as a child?
It’s also on an insanely short lists of diseases that so negatively affect others. Personally, I do not buy it. Sure this guy needs help, but so do those with cancer. Yeah, doesn’t sound right correlating the two, which is why I don’t see it as a disease, but rather a disorder.

Lastly, I have been in therapy – intense, invasive therapy – for years now because of what happened to me. I hid it for almost 20 years, developed so many awful traits and became a liar and manipulator because I couldn’t come to grips or deal with part of my life taken – forcefully and physically – because some guy needs to get off on kids.

I have no sympathy for pedophiles. I’m tired of running from my past. The nightmares can never be erased.

Does it seem fair that victims have to go through all of this while we as a society try to rationalize this behavior? No child ever deserves to be forced into something so horrible, whether the offender has a “disease” or not.

Thank you though. This is a solid post, and don’t take my words here as anything more than a counter to your point.

Angela Bunt
Reply

thanks so much for the insightful and gutsy comment. <3

nbjr
Reply

It is a topic that is very close to my being. I have spoken a few times at panels on this topic and continuing to do that has actually helped me a ton.

It’s been a while, dude. Cheers to an article that should promote some serious discussion. Be well!

Rochelle
Reply

@nbjr No one would disagree with anything you said and certainly we all are sympathetic and horrified by your experience. The thing is that for someone with this mental illness,disorder, or whatever to even seek help ( as apparently Stephen Collins was trying to do) it is almost impossible.
Unless or until there is a way for a person to get help (not to say this excuses the behavior) then there can be no progress made for anyone including future victims.

nbjr
Reply

I guess I can see that, and I understand your point. Problem is that for every one person who realizes his or her problem, there are thousands that do not, thus producing countless victims. If people knew these impulses were wrong, they’d be able to seek help, and that is where i see the disease part factor in. And I am all for getting those people help, but I guess I can’t be objective on this matter. Two years ago I would have said anyone who sexually abuses a child needs to die. I even wanted to confront my attacker and inflict a world of pain on him. But what would that solve? Not a darn thing.

I wish I could somehow stop this from happening everywhere on the planet. I’m about as far from a perfect person as you can get, and I have learned that it is up to me to fix myself abd not lay blame on others, and wouldn’t wish this kind of pain on anyone. Every time I was told to “man up” and forget about it, it just hurt more. I guess I am lucky enough to have hit rock bottom without something terrible happening to me at this age so I can bounce back and continue the happiness I have found.

Last year I did a research report for a non-profit in Syracuse (The Vera House – check them out. They are amazing) and was inspired by so many who came through child abuse and while they don’t forgive, they don’t keep it bottled up.

Alright I’m done for now, Mrs. Bunt. I hope all of you guys are well!

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