Why Law & Order: SVU Matters

Law and Order: Special Victims Unit, a popular spin-off of the hit television show Law and Order is famous for its intense, emotional episodes with true-to-life stories. The show has been running for 17 seasons, with many of the original cast still involved, and doesn’t look like it will stop anytime soon.

I love this show for its sensational appeal. It is an interesting, thought-provoking television show that works to keep up with the times and remain relevant to what is happening in our world right now. But the show has a much deeper impact than just being good television. It’s bringing awareness to important issues in a significant way.

Law and Order SVU deals primarily with sex crimes. With many of the story lines pulled from newspaper headlines and true stories, the show doesn’t exaggerate the problem: rather, it sheds light on the crisis that our country is facing. Sexual assaults are on the rise; Approximately every 2 minutes, an American is sexually assaulted (rainn.org). This is especially true on college campuses, where it is estimated that 1 in 4 women will be sexually assaulted by the time they graduate. We live in a culture where sexual assault is no longer seen as an anomaly- it is viewed as the norm.

The reason this show resonates is that the stories are real, and the people playing them do an excellent job of portraying them accurately. Not every victim in the show gets justice; This sadly is the case in real life as well, with 68% of sexual assaults going unreported, and 98% of rapists never seeing a day in prison (rainn.org). Law and Order SVU has been calling attention to the fact that sexual assaults are not treated as a horrible crime in our culture. They are seen as a cultural norm.

Law & Order: SVU tackles other important issues too. Since the beginning of the show, they have been addressing transphobia, homophobia, racism, and classism, along with the obvious addressing of rape culture and slut shaming. As a feminist, this show is inspiring to me for many reasons, including its bravery with topics, the number of POC who are in starring or supporting roles (the M.E., Melinda Warner, and one of the lead detectives to name a few) and the way it stays true to reality, even if reality sucks. Law and Order SVU is easily one of the best, most progressive, shows on TV right now.