What’s the Word?
Note: I’ve known Lily (not her real name) for nearly fifteen years. When she reached out to me this morning, I asked if she’d be comfortable sharing her thoughts on the blog. The subject matter of this post is controversial, but what she has to say is important. Please be respectful with your comments.
Why Lily Couldn’t Sleep Last Night
Before I went to bed last night I took a last-minute glance at online news. I saw a headline that wouldn’t normally get my attention, but this one did. So I clicked into the story.
I can’t express how I wish I take it back. How I wish I didn’t know what today I know. How I don’t want this to be true, not any of it. And how many, many memories and emotions it brings back.
There it was, with photos, social media, articles, everything screaming at me that someone had done something terrible to someone else. Stephen Collins, the actor who for eleven years played someone I often wished was my own dad (the Pastor on 7th Heaven), purportedly admits to molesting three young girls.
But is it really that simple? I laid awake most of the night, fighting confusion and feelings I’d not felt since I was their age. I wanted answers and so I kept researching. That’s what I told my husband, Michael. Don’t worry. I’m not going back to that place. I’m looking for more information. Because information is how I fight the enemy. Finding it, sharing it, and speaking it.
But the more information I found, the more restless I became.
Here’s the information (and questions) I have:
His wife secretly taped a counseling session. He admitted to the offenses, noting they took place nearly forty years ago! The audio tape, originally provided to police, was somehow leaked to the public. No charges have been filed. No victims have been located. There is one woman who started the revelation but as I understand it, she waited nearly forty years to come forward, after having seen him on television.
Here are the problems I have with all of this. As you’ve no doubt guessed, I was molested when I was young. My husband and I have chosen to not discuss this with our kids, or other family. I don’t keep it locked inside. It’s just that we don’t talk about it with others.
The media loves to do two things: First, it keeps the victim as the victim. Second, it completely demonizes the perpetrator. How many of you when reading stories like this think, “Oh, that poor girl.” “Damaged goods.” “How did she ever get out of it?”
I got out of it because I fought to do so, and I fought hard. I chose to not stay a victim. I chose to be stronger. There are times when it hits me. Times when my husband can’t do anything but sit next to me and explain to our kids why mommy’s having a bad day. Times when I need to be alone for a few hours or just take a drive, but I always come home to the life I built after.
Throughout last night, searching news articles and twitter feeds, and (thankfully) finding that the older the story got the less traction it had on front pages, I was glad I wasn’t alone. Mike was nearby, as always, letting me work it out for myself. He doesn’t act like I’m something fragile or about to break. From the day I first told him (and what a day that was!), he’s been by my side. Not pushing, not pulling, but just being with me. Sure there’s times he has to reign me in but every relationship has those moments, don’t they?
The thing is, I’m not a victim. And the news is treating this woman as though she is still a victim. I’m not saying what happened to her as a child isn’t terrible, monstrous even. But stop saying he ruined her life. He didn’t ruin her life. Certainly, she has had some terrible circumstances to overcome. Of course it’s not been easy or light. But, she’s still alive. And married. So in some aspects she’s been able to move on. Will the media let her continue to do so, or will she now be a perpetual news-made victim? Will she ever really be able to put this behind her, if she’s known as his victim?
I just don’t want this to be true. This man who showed on TV everything that I thought a real loving dad should be. The show I escaped to because it was honest. I don’t want my memories of family time with our young kids watching reruns to know be tainted with the idea of lies.
Two networks have immediately stopped showing 7th Heaven reruns. But the bigger networks still showed NFL during the Ray Rice controversy, and that’s a current event, not something that happened a lifetime ago. He received a two-game suspension at first. It wasn’t until public outcry grew so loud that the Commissioner took another look and handed down a bigger punishment. Isn’t that hypocritical?
I think the world needs more TV shows like 7th Heaven, if for nothing else then to show what good family life can be. If we follow the lead of these networks, then shouldn’t sponsors stop supporting Miley Cyrus? Tony Stewart? Reality shows that encourage sabotage and underhanded behaviors?
I’m not shy to admit I’m going to keep watching my 7th Heaven DVDs. In fact, I feel the need to watch them now more than ever. The actor may have been despicable but the show is a good show.
Deep breath. I am not a victim. I am no longer a victim. I am so many things, and at times I still feel the scars. I feel them more than I want. But my life is good. I refuse to let society shake their pitying heads and call me a victim.
I am not a victim!
Now here’s the other thing. And I know a lot of people don’t agree with me. I’m not saying this about every child molester. But in this case, in the information I’ve been able to find out, these things happened nearly forty years ago! Since then, Stephen Collins has gone on to do good things. Is that a mask? Is he a predator? Maybe.
But I can’t get my head around the idea that my beloved TV Pastor is a monster. Bear with me for a minute while I explain this. And please don’t call me ignorant. Mike was worried when I told him I wanted to talk about this, but I really think it’s worth considering: It’s said that people can’t change, especially criminals. But if there’s been no new evidence (and wouldn’t women be coming out of the woodwork in droves now that the story’s been out for two days?), is it at all possible that he knows what kind of tormentor he is, and has tried very hard to not be that person? Is it possible that the goodness he projected for eleven years as a Pastor and dad on one of the best-loved TV shows in the last two decades, isn’t it possible that was his penance? Maybe projecting God to the rest of us was his way of trying to make amends?
There are days when I want to beat the shit out of Mike just because I’m angry and he’s a man. Do those thoughts make me guilty of domestic violence? If I scream, “I hate you!” am I guilty of a hate crime?
I get it. Pedophilia is not in the same market as losing my temper. And there are many, many monsters that need to be locked up. I’m saying the evidence on this situation is complicated.
Maybe I’m just not seeing it. I don’t think I have blinders on. Believe me. I went through therapy. Counseling. Sleeping pills. Before Mike, there were some . . . unhealthy relationships. Until there came that time when I didn’t want to be ME: The Victim any more. And I started to talk to people. And listen. And forgive. And be accountable.
That’s right. I had to be accountable. What happened to me when I was young was wrong. It was terrible and it really messed me up for a while. But what I did after that, in high school, in college, after college . . . those were my choices. Those were my decisions to stay victimized.
I don’t think the media constantly reminding me that my life is tragic helps. So I choose to not believe them. And I choose to not believe that every good thing that Stephen Collins ever did is washed away. There are no 100% bad people on earth, just as there are no 100% good people on earth.
I would like to have room to continue to grow and get better. But if you say he can never change, you’re also saying I can never change. Which means I’ll always be a victim in your eyes, and nothing else. You’ll always be just a little nicer when you smile, or you’ll always be just a little more understanding of my bad days. You’ll always be just a little more complete than you’ll ever let me be.
I say no.
I am not only a victim. And he is not only a perpetrator.
So it’s with a deep breath, and a desire for peaceful sleep with my husband tonight, that I say to Stephen Collins,
I forgive you.
And Frankly, My Dear . . . that’s all she wrote!