New Law and Order: SVU episode sends message to students

Tonight’s episode of “Law and Order: SVU,” arguably one of television’s hottest and longest running dramas, may serve to both intrigue and shock college students.

The show, now in its eleventh season, follows New York City detectives as they investigating a range of crimes that fall under the label of “special victims cases.” These cases include serial murders, missing persons and sexual assaults.

Tonight’s episode, entitled “Gray,” will air at 9 p.m. and takes place on a college campus where partying is commonplace and sexual consent is a fuzzy topic for some students.

After a fight breaks out between a male and female student on the Hudson University campus, Detectives Olivia Benson (Mariska Hargitay, 2006 winner of Best Leading Actress in a Series) and Elliot Stabler (Christopher Meloni, 2006 nominee for Best Leading Actor in a Series) investigate the girl’s claim that she was raped by the male student. The case becomes muddied and boils down to what the unit’s assistant district attorney considers a “gray” rape – a rape where no clear consent was given.

Though the episode is not based on a true event, it is based on true to life themes. It was inspired in part by the shocking statistics that one out of every four female students is raped on campuses around the United States and that college women are four times more likely than non-college women to be sexually assaulted.

The episode also includes a reference to “Take Back the Night,” a candle-lit vigil for the victims of sexual violence that is held on college campuses around the nation, including USF.

The Rape Abuse Incest National Network (RAINN) has collaborated with NBC and AOL to further discussions beyond the episode. RAINN and Dick Wolf, creator of the series, are using this episode as a platform to inform students about sexual violence on college campuses.

In addition to the premiere of the episode, they will hold a private screening at New York University and allow students to ask the producers and stars of the show questions.

Followers of the show will also have the opportunity to ask their own questions starting at 7:30 p.m. via the show’s Twitter and Facebook pages, which can be accessed at

Legal twists and turns, surprising scenes and the unsuspected return of a former character in the series make tonight’s episode a good pick for viewers of all ages and walks of life.

But for college students, it is a must-see as it brings to light a serious issue concerning college campuses. The issue of rape on campus is concerning yet often overlooked and this episode can help educate previously unaware students as to what really goes on behind closed doors.