“7th Heaven” actor Stephen Collins says he is “absolutely not” a pedophile, claiming that the three underage girls he confessed to having sexual misconduct with were isolated incidents.
“I’m absolutely not attracted, physically or sexually attracted to children,” Collins told Yahoo Global Anchor Katie Couric in an exclusive interview that aired on ABC News’ “20/20.”
Collins also denied that there have been any more victims, saying if more come forward, claiming he had been inappropriate with them, “it would not be the truth.”
“I didn’t white-knuckle this… I’m not fighting. It’s not like if I miss therapy next week something’s going to happen,” he added. “I’m a human being. I have faults, and I’ve done things that I deeply regret.”
The 67-year-old actor, best known for his role as Pastor Eric Camden, the family patriarch on the TV show, “7th Heaven,” confessed this week to sexual misconduct with three underage girls years ago, a shocking revelation that has made him an entertainment industry pariah.
Allegations of Collins’ wrongdoing first surfaced in October when a 2012 audio recording of his confession during a marriage counseling session with his estranged wife, Faye Grant, was released by TMZ. The audio included Collins admitting to the three incidents of sexual misconduct.
Collins said Grant had secretly recorded every disturbing word, and he didn’t know his wife was wearing a wire until she told him after one of those sessions.
“She took me into a stairwell, and she told me there,” Collins said. “She revealed that–she said, ‘I recorded. I was wearing a wire. I recorded that session.’ … and she said, ‘Here’s our settlement. You’re going to sign it now. Or … that recording is going to find its way to the media.’”
“I’ve always said this, marriage is absolutely unfathomable,” he added. “You think you understand someone else’s marriage, nobody does. Nobody does.”
Grant denies being the source of the leak, and in a statement to ABC News today, she said, “Stephen’s statements about me are false and appear to be an attempt by him to deflect from his conduct. I sincerely hope Stephen gets the help he needs.”
But the fallout from the leaked audio recordings was fast for Collins. He was dropped from a recurring role on ABC’s “Scandal” and fired from the soon-to-be-released movie, “Ted 2.”
In talking with Couric, Collins described an inappropriate encounter with one of the underage girls, saying he knew he had done something “unthinkably wrong” that he couldn’t take back.
Collins said there were two times in 1973 where he exposed himself to the “young woman.” He was 25 years old at the time, and she was 10.
According to Collins, the underage girl had come to visit and stay with him and his first wife, and after his wife had gone to sleep, he and the girl were watching TV together.
“And I took her hand and moved it in such a way that she was touching me inappropriately,” he said. “I knew that something unthinkably wrong had just happened that I couldn’t take back, And I–I think we both just sat there. We really didn’t move a muscle.”
“And after about–what I recall was about 45 seconds, I took her hand and moved it back,” Collins continued. “I waited a couple of minutes, because I just didn’t know what to do or say. And then I got up and left the room.”
Collins also confessed to exposing himself to a 13-year-old girl in 1982, the same year he met Grant on the set of “Tales of the Gold Monkey,” and to a third girl, a 14-year-old, in 1994. But he said “there was no physical contact of any kind with either of them.”
“The look on the one in 1982 was such that it immediately… just stopped everything cold,” he said. “It was clear that she was disoriented and frightened, and that just made me want to stop and cover up, and I did.”
“It was not exciting. It was not gratifying. There was no gratification,” he added.
For the past 20 years, Collins said he has been in intensive therapy, which has included therapeutic workshops, religious counseling and a 12-step program. In discussing his difficult past, Collins speculated that the reason he committed these acts was because of something he experienced in his own childhood.
“The thing that makes the most sense to me, and it’s not an excuse, because none of this is an excuse… but I did have someone in my life when I was between the age of about 10 and 15, an older woman, who repeatedly exposed herself to me,” Collins said.
Collins said that older woman would appear in “various states of undress, or complete undress” on several occasions.
“And I think that that distorted my perception in such a way that some part of me thought–because–I never felt like I was molested. Never occurred to me, that word never crossed my mind as a 10- to 15-year-old boy. It was a very intense experience. But I think somewhere in my brain I got the equation of, ‘well, this isn’t so terrible. I mean this person who I trust is doing it,’” he said.
“It’s not why I did it,” Collins continued. “I’m not blaming her … I’m just saying, I think that’s an aspect that went into my own distorted thinking as a young man.”
When asked why he did these things, Collins said, “It was a combination of poor impulse control, arrogance, 25-year-old arrogance.”
“I think it is about power, but not consciously,” he said. “There is a statement that says ‘figuring it out is the booby prize.’ Now that sounds odd. What that means to a lot of people in recovery is you can figure it out, you can intellectually understand it, but what’s important is what your behavior is. I’m still in regular therapy. I always will be out of respect for those women and it’s just not going to happen again and it hasn’t and I feel very confident that it won’t.”
Until now, Collins had kept a low public profile, avoiding questions about the scandal and his nasty divorce to Faye Grant. He said he wanted to do this interview because he hoped it will help him move forward.
“The truth as painful and it is less painful than the stuff that was flying around the Internet and some of the rumors, and I feel very, very sure that these things are behind me,” he said.
But Collins said he is constantly atoning for the harm he caused three young girls years ago.
I think of those women–every day,” he said. “And I would say, ‘With all my heart, I am sorry for what I put you through… and I want you to know… that nothing like that will ever happen again.’”