Looking for a television show that empowers victims of sexual assault and spreads awareness about the issues? Then some Law and Order: Special Victims Unit is just what you need.
We’re right in the middle of April, which is Sexual Assault Awareness Month (SAAM). It has officially been observed nationally in the U.S. since 2001. This month, we should make an extra effort to spread awareness about sexual abuse and, in turn, help prevent it. SAAM deals with all kinds of sexual assault — from street harassment to child sexual abuse.
It’s important to talk about issues like sexual assault. The average person age 8-18 in America spends more than 7.5 hours per day with media, not including cell phones. In the media, women aren’t always treated well or represented accurately.
Music is one form of media that shows especially violent images of women. The recent Rick Ross rape lyrics controversy is a perfect example. Unfortunately, TV and movies aren’t any better. From 1998 to 2007, portrayals of violence in the media rose by 75%.
Despite all the negativity regarding sexual assault on TV, there is one shining example of a show that focuses on helping victims — Law and Order: Special Victims Unit. This detective show focuses on “sexually based offenses”. It’s wonderfully awesome and empowering to watch this kick-ass detective team hunt down rapists and child abusers and get justice for the victims.
There is also a realistic and depressing perspective shown on the show; SVU demonstrates how hard it can be to convict abusers. The detectives struggle to get women to file charges against their abusers and then have even more difficulties getting convictions.
Most victims don’t have Detective Olivia Benson (Mariska Hargitay) and the rest of the SVU team there to support them. Benson is often featured as a victim but she always comes out stronger. The show has even taught the cast about the trauma of sexual assault.
Hargitay is a trained rape crisis counselor and is doing wonderful work as the founder of the Joyful Heart Foundation, whose mission is to educate people about sexual assault, domestic violence, and child abuse issues.
With an awesome combination of empowerment and bringing an overlooked social issue to the media spotlight, SVU is a must-watch show. Don’t just take my word for it:
“With at least 1.2 million women raped each year in the U.S. alone, we need to question the types of messages in shows like SVU that focus almost entirely on similar crimes… SVU also does attempt to raise awareness of some neglected issues and often advocates for changes that could be seen as feminist.” —Gender Focus
Bitch Media described Benson as “dignified” and “righteous”, and the show as “refreshing” and “soothing”.
SVU, and especially Olivia, gives us hope that there’s someone out there fighting for everyone who has been abused, giving them justice, and preventing future crimes of this nature.
If you’re not already familiar with SVU, clear your schedule, because Netflix has 12 seasons available for instant streaming and NBC is currently airing the 14th season.
Take some time to get inspired by Olivia Benson and spread the word about sexual assault! Together, we can help prevent it and support victims by educating the world around us about the severity of these issues.
Katie Boyer is a blogger and social media expert living in Oakland, CA. Katie spends her free time analyzing the media, reading, writing, bicycling, and playing with her pet rabbit.
I think Law & Order should constantly get awards for the way they portray their cases. It’s so varied that I believe it’s very much like real life. Mariska Hargatay tries to get women to report their rape when they choose not to, as well as doing scenes herself of rape which are very realistic. I haven’t witnessed anything on this show yet that would cause viewers to minimize what rape is to women! If anything, it’s a huge help to get the word out, as is Mariska’s Charity. Thank God we have shows like SVU and stars of their caliber.