Who would have thought that a show with a single prominent theme could run for over 20 years? Well, “Law and Order – SVU” premiered on September 20th, 1999 on NBC and became on September 27th, 2019 the longest-running primetime drama!
I have to say that Mariska Hargitay and her team of detectives are some of my favorite peeps to watch on TV, week after week, in their attempts to make the streets of New York City a safer place.
What never seems to amaze me is that the number of stories of violence made against children, young girls, teenagers, and women (and occasionally men) is so copious the writers of the show never seem run out of “inspirations”: numbers are staggering.
No doubt in my mind it helped shift our perceptions around the pandemic of sexual assault and domestic violence, and hopefully made a difference in how we perceive survivors. By showcasing the trauma endured by victims having to maneuver through the justice system, pointing out how abusers operate and cunning they can be, among other things… the show has allowed millions of viewers to get acquainted with the reality of assault victims but also the job of detectives.
In my opinion, L&O also contributed to the fight against the crimes of domestic violence, sexual assault, dating violence, and stalking by giving us the tools to recognize it and the language to describe + “normalizing”, if you will, the process of reporting it. It opened the door to discussions we never would have had if not for it. Moreover, episode after episode it persistently delivers a potent truth: It is never the Victims’ fault.
There has been advancement and I want to stay hopeful for the future even if we still have a long way to go as women’s bodies are continuously under attack, attempted to be shamed, controlled, policed, and silenced by men, women, the justice system and institutions.
I hope to see even more men getting involved and taking responsibility to dismantle the system they put into place and benefit from – maybe a place to start can be Marishka’s foundation website, the Joyful Heart Foundation, and read its insightful report Defining Manhood for the Next Generation – which the main goal is to offer “greater insight into how young men’s understanding and definition of manhood, the role of men and women, and sexuality and sexual orientation so to navigate authentically building upon the positive underpinnings of masculinity to promote an aspirational view of masculinity and change attitudes about manhood.“
Here are a couple excerpts:
” While many young men state that gender equality and the respectful treatment of others are priorities, the views some hold regarding gender, gender roles, sex, and sexual assault underscore the challenge to catalyze a cultural shift. Too many young men refuse to push back against and outright disagree with antiquated and dangerous societal norms.”
“One out of every four young men does not disagree that the victim is to blame in cases of sexual assault.”
Even if this report focuses on young men, it highlights many beliefs that may be carried on in adulthood *This may explain why some people still defend predators* – so it is worth for everyone to take a look at.
To me, violence against women starts when we tell little girls to be “good”, little boys “don’t act like a girl”, and we fail to cultivate empathy and compassion within our communities. Shows like Law and Order SVU, demonstrate the consequences of our shortcomings. A conscious form of edutainment in its attempts to bring awareness. It created a launching pad for change, and combined with people’s efforts and truly hope it’ll minimize even further the stigma and shame associated with sexual and mental abuse.
The Hotline® – National Domestic Violence Hotline
The Duluth Model – Domestic Abuse Intervention Program
The Power of Vulnerability TED TALK by Brené Brown