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Stephen Collins admits to sexual molestation

Actor Stephen Collins attends the Disney ABC Television Group's Summer TCA party at the Beverly Hilton on Aug. 1, 2010, in Beverly Hills, California.

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Stephen Collins is speaking up for the first time since TMZ released recordings of him admitting to sexual abuse of underage girls.

In an exclusive -- and lengthy -- statement to People magazine, the former "7th Heaven Star" addresses the tapes recorded during a 2012 therapy session and released in October.

According to People, Collins, 67, confesses that he had inappropriate sexual contact with three female minors.

"Forty years ago, I did something terribly wrong that I deeply regret. I have been working to atone for it ever since. I've decided to address these issues publicly because two months ago, various news organizations published a recording made by my then-wife, Faye Grant, during a confidential marriage therapy session in January, 2012. This session was recorded without the therapist's or my knowledge or consent," he said.

Collins also opens up in detail about the incidents, which he says happened with three girls from 1973 to 1994. "I have not had an impulse to act out in any such way" in the last 20 years, he told the magazine.

"On the recording, I described events that took place 20, 32, and 40 years ago," Collins added. "The publication of the recording has resulted in assumptions and innuendos about what I did that go far beyond what actually occurred. As difficult as this is, I want people to know the truth."

Collins says he had the chance to apologize to one of the women 15 years later and that she was "extraordinarily gracious."

"But after I learned in the course of my treatment that my being direct about such matters could actually make things worse for them by opening old wounds, I have not approached the other two women, one of whom is now in her 50s and the other in her 30s," he continued.

This week's People magazine has more from Collins about the incidents. He's also expected to interview with Katie Couric for Yahoo! -- which will stream on the website and air Friday on ABC's "20/20."

Grant and Collins married in 1985 and have one daughter together, born in 1989. Collins filed for divorce from Grant on May 7, 2012.

"My wife and I are moving forward separately in our lives," he said in a statement at the time. "She has been my dearest friend and a loving mother. I know that we'll go through this process in a way that honors our family."

In October, the New York Police Department confirmed it had a formal complaint against Collins on file and that it was investigating the matter. After that, Collins' career trajectory took a turn. He was dropped from "Ted 2" and also resigned his position on the National Board of the Screen Actors Guild.

Aside from the long-running series "7th Heaven," Collins has appeared in the TV series "Revolution," "Sisters," "It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia," "Law & Order: Special Victims Unit." On the big screen, he's appeared in "Star Trek: The Motion Picture," "All the President's Men" and "Blood Diamond."