Strikingly similar to a Rolling Stone's article I read months ago, tonight's episode purposefully pulls from the debacle surrounding "A Rape on Campus" and the fallout from such a public string of false accusations.
While Heather, and "Jackie" in that article, both suffered from some form of trauma during the night in question (whether it be a "gauntlet" of shame involving gross jeers and thrown beer, or an actual act of violent rape), they're insistence on, for lack of a better word, sensationalizing the incident led to them never fully receiving justice for the crimes committed against them.
Law & Order: SVU Season 16 Episode 18 highlights the pitfalls of such "false" accusations, and the damage tampering with criminal evidence can do when it comes to truly attacking "rape culture."
The plot, although a majority of the core details were cherry picked from the aforementioned scandal surrounding the Rolling Stone article, managed to seem unique and engaging mainly due to Laura Fraser's portrayal of a the neurotic rape advocate, Professor Dillon.
Not only did Fraser, "Lydia" from Breaking Bad, channel her former character's aura of always being on edge, she managed to embody all of the noise on the far end of the rape advocacy spectrum into one character.
While exposing rape culture to the public is absolutely of utmost importance, Professor Dillon represented a small fraction of advocates whose own relentlessness actually set back progress. The truth matters when trying to cause a significant change in dialog at this level.
They thought this would be the case to change rape culture, and it did. It set the clock back 30 years.Benson
The fact that Rolling Stone couldn't, or simply didn't, verify their facts further than what it took to publish such a trend-worthy story, is mirrored by Skip Peterson's "America's Worst Crimes" segment. As he puts it, starting the dialog is definitely important, and there's some solace to find in that. But beyond that, it's irresponsible journalism and could lead to ruining other people's lives.
At least one of the men in this episode, Connor, was absolutely guilty of rape, but in reality, there are times when innocent men get accused, and subsequently stripped off their chance at a normal life.
However, as Skip mentioned, a typical case of this nature wouldn't even make it on air. If it isn't being brushed aside by the presidents of colleges, or the victim isn't being shamed into not pressing charges, the mainstream media still wouldn't have enough interest in the story unless there was some more scandal involved.
And that's what Professor Dillon provided through Heather.
Unfortunately for Heather, this led to her inadvertently forfeiting her right to bring Connor, her true assailant, to justice. Brian's actions were questionable at best (and reprehensible at worst if you consider the acts him and his fellow frat members allow to take place), but both Heather and him were intoxicated. There was no way around Connor's actions, or motives.
Ryan came in, he saw everything. Then he turned and walked away, like you're doing now.Heather
But that wasn't the story anyone wanted. It may sound morbid, but this episode seems to suggest that the public wants sodomy, or gang-rape, in their stories – because, otherwise, no one seems to be giving the topic the time of day.
In reality, it shouldn't matter what happened.
It doesn't matter what happened to her. What matters that it happens everyday. And these frat boys strut around like they're bullet proof. So a few of them have to take responsibility, good!Professor Dillon
The episode did a great job of showing everyone, from Benson and Rollins, and even Carisi at one point, getting swept up in Heather's story. Carisi's usual boorishness actually helped him eventually pick apart the fallacies in her account, but he learned his lesson as far as the reliability of an SVU case goes. There are always many balls in the air – which is why it's important that Barba is as good at his job as he is.
His focus and clear thinking always helps him formulate the best case possible, and even he couldn't help out Heather after her and Professor Dillon's lies came to surface. It's not entirely Heather's fault, as Fin suggested, but rather Dillon's influence.
Hopefully these kinds of incidents are as rare as they seem, and they don't discourage thoughtful discussions about rape culture. Benson may believe that false accusations on this scale set us back decades, but I believe that opening up the dialog is still worth the associated backlash.
Ignoring a problem is always the worst answer.
Watch Law & Order: SVU online to relive the many tales Heather weaves in an attempt shed light on a dangerously overlooked violent crime, and head over to Law & Order: SVU quotes for more highlights from tonight's episode. As always, make sure to leave any thoughts you might have on the subject down below!