“Multiple People Allegedly Given Date-Rape Drugs At UC Berkeley Fraternity”
“85 Colleges Are Now Under Federal Investigation For Sexual Assault Cases”
“Fewer Than One-Third Of Campus Sexual Assault Cases Result In Expulsion”
These are just three of the headlines that currently appear on front page of the Huffington Post’s “Breaking the Silence” page, an entire section devoted to addressing sexual assault on campus.
It’s a shameful statement that an entire section of a prominent online website is warranted to cover this topic, but if anything is going to change with regard to this problem, constant coverage like this is absolutely necessary.
Jumping in to keep the topic at the forefront, Wednesday night’s “Law & Order: SVU” presents an episode that once again attempts to tackle the extremely complicated matter of campus sexual assault.
“Yes, we’ve done a few other episodes about this,” admits Executive Producer Warren Leight. “But clearly, colleges are still responding with a sort of 1950’s mentality; blaming and punishing the victim while the predators are allowed to graduate. You just have to look and there are hundreds of articles each week about different colleges. It’s just so difficult to believe that supposedly progressive universities and colleges are still sweeping this under the rug; protecting fraternities out of fear of alienating their alumni who are the big money donors. It’s infuriating and it doesn’t seem to be getting any better. It’s just not going away. So, yes, we have to tell this story again and again and again, because it’s, very sadly, something that’s still extremely relevant.”
As with all storylines on ‘SVU,’ this one contains an additional variable that makes the handling of this particular case that much more complicated for the detectives and the prosecutor.
At the center of this story is Evie, a co-ed who turned to porn to pay her tuition. When two classmates assault Evie, the issue of her consent, because of her past, is called into question.
“We wanted to explore what happens when a sex worker is assaulted, how is it handled and should it be handled any differently from any other assault case,” reveals Leight. “In theory, the burden of proof shouldn’t be any different, but, of course it is in our society, and that’s troubling.”
By combining these components into one storyline, Leight feels that the mission of the episode is accomplished, saying, “We’re exploring the fact that despite there’s constantly talk about doing something to stop these sorts of assaults, they’re still happening every week, every day, every night on college campuses and that the burden of proof is on the co-ed who comes forward to say they were assaulted, and that’s just not right, no matter how you look at it.”
Presenting these elements and reaching a conclusion that’s satisfactory for every member of the audience will prove to be tricky, but that challenge is one that the- powers-that-be at ‘SVU’ readily accept.
“I think a lot of times in the real world, victims don’t get justice and I really believe one of the reasons people watch our show is to at least see that we try to get justice,” explains Leight. “Whether or not we accomplish that in the end, and whether or not it will change society, I don’t know, but we do try.”
“Law & Order SVU” airs Wednesday at 9/8c on NBC.
For a recap of this episode after it airs, please visit The New York Observer here.
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