My interview with Stephen Collins: Were there red flags for child abuse?
The NYPD is investigating actor Stephen Collins after he admitted in a therapy session that he sexually abused several underage girls.
TMZ obtained audiotape of Collins, 67, confessing to molesting and exposing himself to at least three girls, one repeatedly over the course of three years. Two of the incidents reportedly happened in 1972 while Collins was in New York. The New York Police Department released a statement that there is a formal, active complaint involving the actor. More disturbing is that Collins is no stranger to this type of investigation. A few years ago he was the subject of another sexual abuse case, but the statute of limitations had run out on that one and the investigation was abandoned.
Perhaps Collins thought that was the case here, that the statute had again run out. However, according to TMZ a crime committed against a child under 14 has different qualifications, which is why his estranged wife Faye Grant was able to secretly record Collins admitting to his crimes. Grant's lawyer advised her that this tape, with the express purpose of gathering evidence in a violent felony case, is indeed legal in the state of California.
Since the disclosure, Collins has been fired from Seth MacFarlane's film Ted 2, UPtv has pulled 7th Heaven from its lineup and Collins was asked to resign from the National Board of the Screen Actors Guild.
In my book, The Cult Of Celebrity, I interviewed Collins about blurring the lines between actor and character (Pastor Camden, in this case) and he told me, "The longer the show was on, the more people tended to treat me as if I really were a minister." In other words, people trusted him.
He also told me that on rare occasions he would cross the line with a fan. In one case, he recounted to me that he struck up a long-lasting relationship with a child therapist in Iowa. She had approached him first, telling the actor that she had seen Tales of the Gold Monkey and had been using it to work with a child who had been physically abused. Collins said that the therapist "noticed immediately that my character was both physically strong and gentle. This combination of traits turned out to be a revelation to the child."
Then he told me what, at the time, seemed innocuous, even sweet, but now seems less so. He said he went on to correspond, for years, through the therapist with another child. He even flew to Iowa to attend that child's high school graduation. He concludes, "I never regretted it."
Collins was an actor who played a priest, two professions that cause our expectations to supersede any suspicion of wrongdoing of any kind. So, the question remains, can you actually spot a child molester? According to the authors of Inside the Minds of Sexual Predators, any creep skulking around a schoolyard is the minority; it's the covert molester, the one who is sewn into the fabric of a community that is to be feared, the ones who look harmless but enjoy hurting children. Those are the most dangerous, and go undetected because they are so nice and because they fit in... or because they are celebrities.
Research has shown that people do not confess crimes to therapists that they did not commit, and I don't think anyone is arguing that Collins is trying to retract his statement. At least not yet. But this instance, not unlike Jerry Sandusky, should illustrate that Hollywood and celebrities are a microcosm of the rest of society. We have murderers. They have murderers. We have people with psychological disorders, and alcoholics and child abusers, as do they. There is no research that suggests celebrities offend at a higher rate, they are only scrutinized and publicized more. The only problem that occurs is, if they offend as much as the population at large, why aren't they convicted and sentenced at the same rate?
Photo credit: Michael Tran/Contributor/Getty Images
Cooper Lawrence is one of the best-known female radio personalities in NY. A radio veteran, she is currently the entertainment news reporter on ‘The Todd Show’ on 95.5 PLJ. She has a PhD in developmental psychology from Fordham University. Follow her on Twitter.