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.