"He minimized the truth" -- A Stephen Collins accuser speaks out

A girl from the notorious recordings tells her side of the story

By Mary Elizabeth Williams

Senior Writer

Published March 12, 2015 2:31PM (EDT)

Stephen Collins         (Reuters/Phil Mccarten)
Stephen Collins (Reuters/Phil Mccarten)

The girl was 13. The man was a 35 year-old television actor. And she says what happened was "terrifying." Nearly six months after recordings of former "7th Heaven" star Stephen Collins allegedly confessing to inappropriate sexual behavior with young girls first emerged, one of his accusers has come forward in an intense new interview with the Daily Mail.

April Price is now a 44 year-old wife and mother living in Oklahoma. But in the summer of 1983, she was a teenager spending the summer with her aunt in Los Angeles. Collins was her apartment complex neighbor. She says she'd never been kissed, never seen a penis. That soon changed.

It began, she says, soon after she'd knocked on his door and confessed she was a fan of "The Tales of the Gold Monkey," Collins' "Raiders of the Lost Ark" style TV series. Shortly after, she noticed him walking past her aunt's window. "He was completely naked," she says. "He had no clothes on whatsoever. He had a wad of clothes in his hands... At the time, I didn't think it was necessarily sinister really, but I thought it was odd. It was not like he tried to cover up. He knew I was there while he was naked. He could see me there." A few days later, she ran into Collins in the courtyard and mentioned she'd been having trouble hooking up her Atari. "I don't know at what point he did it," she says, "but when he turned around, his pants were completely unfastened. His penis was hanging out and I'm just shocked. He doesn't make any mention of it. He doesn't act any differently. I kept my gaze at eye level. I didn't want to be rude. He was doing something for me. He was fixing something for me. I didn't want him to think I wasn't appreciative of that." The last incident came when she was sunbathing by the pool, and he invited her to his apartment to look at some memorabilia from his show. She explains, "He's an actor and he's nice looking and he seems normal, it's flattering. I'm telling myself he's a nice guy." But when he asked if could make himself comfortable, he left the room and returned naked. "I remember I just sat there on his couch as tight as I can be. Arms together, legs together. I'm thinking to myself, 'Oh my gosh, oh my God.' And he is nonchalantly fixing some light or fixture that is three feet away from me. It was a standing light and I think he was changing the bulb. But he puts his genitalia right at my eye level." Fortunately, she says, she spotted her aunt outside and fled. In a photograph accompanying the story, Collins has his arm around the girl and is smiling. Price, meanwhile, looks tense and uncomfortable.

Price says she tried to put the incidents out of her mind, and didn't see Collins again until the mid nineties, when she wound up working craft services on a project on the set of Collins' own show. She says he approached her and said, "'I want you to understand what I did. I know it was extremely wrong. I really apologize for it, if I ever made you uncomfortable." In the Collins tapes, he refers to a neighbor girl he saw "12 or 15 years ago and made an amends to."

Price says that until last fall's revelations that Collins had reportedly had been involved similar incidents with at least two other girls, she'd put the whole thing behind her and moved on. But she says it was "a gut punch finding out that others were hurt," and infuriating that Collins he only exposed himself to her "once." She says she's "angry" about Collins' public statements since the tapes became public, statements in which she says, "He really deflected and minimized the truth."

In December, Collins sat down with Katie Couric for an interview in which he denied being a pedophile and said, "I had a distortion in my thinking where I acted out in those ways."  He also wrote an essay for People in which he admitted, "I did something terribly wrong that I deeply regret" but also defensively insisted, "The publication of the recording has resulted in assumptions and innuendos about what I did that go far beyond what actually occurred."

In light of Collins' shaky atonement, Price was subsequently motivated to contact both the New York and Los Angeles police departments about what happened all those years ago and give statements even though, because of the statute of limitations, "I knew it was going to be a dead end."

What's clear from Price's account of events is how, again and again, she says she couldn't reconcile the nice neighbor who helped her hook up her Atari and who gave her an autographed photo with the man who repeatedly exposed himself to her. She says, "I didn't want to be rude." She was a child who was shocked and confused – and make no mistake, sexual predators depend upon the shock and confusion of their victims. "There's a part of me that makes me want to take some responsibility, even though it wouldn't have been good for me to speak up at age 13," she says now. But she adds knowingly, speaking for so many others who've had similar experiences, "Nobody would have cared. Nobody would have believed it."

By Mary Elizabeth Williams

Mary Elizabeth Williams is a senior writer for Salon and author of "A Series of Catastrophes & Miracles."

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April Price Sex Abuse Stephen Collins