There are a lot of things that upset me about the Stephen Collins being a child molester.
The first is the personal betrayal. I loved Stephen Collins. He was one of my Fake Dads. That show (7th Heaven) made me feel better, when I missed my own fucked up family. It was a poorly written (but life is pretty poorly written too) version of what I always thought my parents were aiming for.
See, my parents were also really religious. Like, I taught vacation bible school. We went to church 3x a week. And they obsessed about my virginity. And my sister’s. In the same, creepy, fanatical way that Ma and Pa Camden were obsessed with their kids virginity.
If they hadn’t been bat-shit crazy, abusive, narcissistic dicks, 7Th Heaven was where Sherri and Jon (my parents) wanted to go. So, it reminded me of my own childhood. A lot. But there was no shouting, no slut-shaming of your daughters because they’d been molested, on 7th Heaven. It was just a nice show where people talked, stiltedly, sometimes woodenly, through their problems. Even with the awful writing, the show was still a really nice version of my own childhood.
Now it turns out my Fake Family is just as fucked up as my Real Family.
Personally, I feel betrayed. I fucking LOVED Stephen Collins. I pined a little for him. I tweeted to him. I got really excited when he made cameo’s on shows I liked. I thought he was a good actor. I thought he was a good person.
Finding out he’s not is a huge deal for me.
Every year, another Sex Abuse Scandal comes out. And every year, I lose myself, reading, listening to and thinking about every aspect of the case. I believe most of them. Bill Cosby is a rapist. Here is Hannibal Buress, using that fact to insult Bill Cosby. When he says shit like this, I feel like Hannibal is sticking up for me.
I fucking love Hannibal Buress right now.
I’ve heard a lot of rape stories in my time. And I know what a real story of trauma is. Mostly, it’s boring. And after listening to the Stephen Collins tape, I believe that he molested those kids. The tape is as banal and stilted as my own sexual abuse stories. And he has the tone of voice of a man who is coming clean to save his marriage. He doesn’t sound like he understands the problem with touching 11 year old girls.
And he probably doesn’t. He probably doesn’t think past his own pleasure.
Catherine Hicks is defending him. Which I understand. It’s just ridiculous. Of course she never saw any signs that Collins was a child molester. She’s not a child. He was probably funny and charismatic and kind to Catherine. He probably never mentioned to her that he was worried he’d molest his first-born son. She’s not his actual wife. And she’s not an 11 year old girl.
Her character reference just doesn’t mean much, because not being his confidant, or his target, she wasn’t in a position to see much.
I’m just a little sick of people Not Getting It about Sexual Harassment, Abuse or Discrimination. If you’re not a predator’s target, you’re not getting their creepy messages. That doesn’t mean that those messages aren’t getting sent or received. It’s an extension of that thing where men disbelieve women. Strangers don’t compliment and then threaten you on the street. So, you don’t believe me when I tell you a story about it happening to me. Or you don’t believe that I was scared because someone complimented my legs. And you think I’m making up the danger that I could be in for, if I don’t react right.
Hopefully, the police are asking people who DID fall into his target market. Hopefully they’re using the common sense I learned from watching 250 episodes of SVU.
The thing is, I’ve found a lot of good things about this scandal. While I do not ever want another person to ever be sexually abused, the way people are reacting to this makes me feel like we, as a culture, are starting to support survivors.
Nobody but Collins is falling for the “My wife is a lying, money-grubbing whore.” non-defense, defense. He didn’t try to deny the charges, and nobody in the media seems to be falling for the “Look! That girl’s a bitch! So, I must be a pretty good guy!” defense, which worked between Woody and Mia Farrow. And generally, worked for a lot of other people, in the 90’s. Hell, if I’d been 14, instead of 13, it could have worked for the man who molested me.
I like that nobody dithered. He’s a child molester, he’s not going to act again, nobody wants to buy his shows, his 30 years worth of work are out-weighed by his disgusting acts. We automatically believe and condemn him. All of which took about a week.
I like that the media is, for once, using gloves. No-one is putting the kids who worked for him on trial, following them around or generally being a dick to them.
This year, this scandal, I had a friend I could talk to. Usually I’m alone in my downward spiral into predator scandals. “I’ve been having nightmares ever since it came out.” T confided, over wine at the bar. “Yeah.” I mused “I think the hardest thing for me is that it makes me jumpy.”
I’ve had 17 years worth of therapy. I don’t really get flashbacks anymore. That’s the benefit of therapy twice a week, group therapy and working The Courage To Heal. Which, by the way, is an amazingly comforting book about healing your child sex abuse. It really can help you work out a lot of your scary, complicated feelings.
But the residual feeling, even after all that healing, is that men can’t be trusted. I’m sure that there are people who have been abused by women who don’t trust them. That’s cool. But I was verbally, sexually and physically abused by different men, as I grew up. And it left me pretty terrified of them.
I do a great job covering. As a woman, I don’t get to just not interact with men. And when I do, I’m not overly defensive. However, you can see the scars of my history in my personal life. I’m straight, but I haven’t had a lot of relationships with men, as an adult. Mostly my choice. I don’t have a lot of close men friends. I don’t often believe men when they say things to me.
And after a story like this, I flinch a little more. I find myself more worried about my safety, walking down the street. I make less eye contact. And I just feel really fucking vulnerable. The scars inside of me are from real wounds. And a story like this brings them to the surface of my memory, not as they are now, but as they were, when they were fresh.
Even when the media is condemning him, and believing the un-named woman who first accused him, even when everyone acts right in the end, it still fucks me up. The story itself reminds me of all the men who preyed on me. And all the women I know who have been raped, harassed, and beaten.
I’m glad we’re moving to a place where we automatically believe women and kids when they say something awful has happened to them. I’m glad, as a society, we are pissed at people who molest children. That’s new. In the 90’s, we blamed the kids.
I’m glad that Ray Rice got a rash of shit for beating his girlfriend. Temporary, as it seems like that was. But I don’t even care how long it lasts. Compassion is addicting. And I’ve been looking for it in the media, for survivors of abuse, since I was 11 years old.
I love this new wave of righteous indignation that we are seeing in our media. I love that it reflects compassion. I think some of this is because between Daytime Television, Twitter, and the new numbers of women in our governments, we are just generally hearing more women’s voices and reactions. I think that the fact that we’ve been working on equality is being reflected in our public ability to sympathize.
All of which makes me feel good, about the kind of culture I live in, and the progress we’ve made since my shit went down, in the early 90’s. I feel like my voice counts. And I’m seeing people who are kind, who are saying the kinds of things I would want to hear, and do want to hear, in the media. We’re becoming the kind of society I’ve always wanted us to become.
I think we need to recognize that. And pat ourselves on the back a little. I also think that while we’re getting better at compassion, I want to shine a light on the people who will be triggered by these events.
I want those of you who aren’t triggered: you lucky few who made it through childhood and adulthood unscathed, to be sensitive. I just want you to know that no matter how well the story turns out, it still reminds us of stories that turned out shitty. And maybe we need a little more care and kindness, in the wake of that kind of scandal.
I know I’ve been hitting the chocolate/bubble baths/shower crying/weed/kitty cuddling pretty hard in the last week. And I’ve been crying through every sweet tv scene, where people are just kind to each other, that I could find.
The end of last week’s episode of Chicago Fire had me bawling. I watched it 4 times. “Thanks for taking me in,” says the wayward cop’s daughter. “You’re about the best thing that ever happened to me” the wayward cop says back, making awesome, “I like being your dad” eye-contact.
It feels like Collins’ Revelations dried up all the kindness I’ve ever tried to remember. Leaving me all alone, without love-protection, in a room filled with the memory of every bad thing I’ve heard a man do to my friends, to my cousins, to my sister, to me.
I need someone to dump a fuck-ton of kindness on me. And pad me up with it, so I can find the doorway to the Real World, where there are good men, who don’t hurt women and kids.
Hearing a little from Alan Cumming about his latest book helped. So did hearing other survivors acknowledge how hard it is, like Rose O’ Donnel and Whoopi did on The View. And it makes me cry every time, but I guess it’s the kind of crying I need to do, in order to get out of this Trigger-Space.
So, if you know someone who’s had this kind of trauma happen to them, please check in with them. Send them some chocolate or a really, really nice text. Let them know they can be a mess around you. Shove some kindness at them, in case they really need it right now.
In the end, we don’t have the ability to end child abuse. Not right now. But the nicer we are to survivors, and the more we hold child abusers accountable, the safer we make kids.
Sometimes comfort and empathy are all you can offer. But they make other people feel worthwhile, loved and safe. And that’s a lot.