On Wednesday, Feb. 16, 2011 at 7 PM, Promoting Awareness, Victim Empowerment (PAVE) screened an episode of “Law and Order: Special Victims Unit” called “Confrontation.” Post the viewing, PAVE hosted discussion about the portrayal of, among other things, rape and stalking.
“Confrontation” opens with the
rape of Elizabeth held at knifepoint. She soon confronts her rapist with
a club and starts to hit him. Detective Stabler, lead detective for the
Special Victims Unit, eventually finds her dead in an alley. Her murder
sparks an intense investigation into a series of rapes in the Brooklyn
area. During the investigation, the SVU discovers the victim had been
stalked by her rapist and was likely rape more than once. This holds
true with the rapist’s other victims. Throughout the episode, his other
two victims encounter a lot of turmoil, including one, Gina, committing
suicide. Eventually Luke Dixon, an office assistant at the realtor’s
office his victims were renting through, is arrested for his heinous
crimes. It is later uncovered that he rapes women to impregnate and thus
create a master race.
All of the students found “Confrontation”
disturbing, especially its pervasive stereotypes. The first myth the
show encourages: victims do not know their attackers. This is false.
Around 90 percent of rapes occur by someone close to the survivor—an
acquaintance, a friend or partner. Myth number two: survivors cannot be
raped more than once. This, too, is false, especially since rape
survivors are at least twice (and even as high as four times) more
likely to be raped again, with people caught in a cycle of domestic
violence often experiencing repeated rape. Myth three: rape is only rape
when it’s violent. Only 10 percent of rapists use extreme force and/or a
weapon. The fourth myth the students remarked on was the show’s notion
that there is only one way to “get over” being raped: anger. There is no
one or right way to cope with being assaulted; every victim is
different, every victim wants and needs different things. Saying there
is only one way to heal adds to the victim blaming that often occurs.
the students were upset with the episode’s myths, they did remark on
its highlights. For instance, “SVU” did a good job of portraying that
rape is not about sex, but instead about power and control (although
“Confrontation” did say it was about power and rage, which perpetuates
the image of rape as angry and violent). In addition, the episode did an
excellent job of showing how under-reported rape is because of victim’s
fear of not being believed. The episode even touched on victim blaming,
showcasing that it is not always men who blame women (who are the
primary victims) for the rape. That said, students were upset that
victim-blaming occurred in the first place.
Stalking was another
crime featured in the episode. Students remarked that it was barely
touched on, and even though it occurred, it was sensationalized and
suggested that all stalkers are psychopaths. This is a falsehood some
people would like viewers to believe, when in fact more than 75 percent
of victims are stalked by someone they know, while 30 percent of victims
are stalked by current or former intimate partners.
portraying rape and stalking in sensationalized ways, the media
perpetuates myths and stereotypes about these two topics. This is not to
say that all media does this, and therefore that media is bad. However,
one needs to use a critical eye and hear when the media talks about
said issues; enabling stereotypes only covers up the reality.