Since its premiere in 1999, Law & Order: SVU has been bringing us some of the most intense storylines on television. Often “ripped from the headlines,” the topics that the long-running NBC series address can become controversial. These topics are dark, as they deal with a variety of topics primarily regarding sexual assault and rape.
Some weeks, the storylines can get downright uncomfortable as the SVU detectives work to solve some very disturbing cases.
Handling these topics is never easy. But, notes one study, exposure to the storylines featured on Law & Order: SVU may actually be a good thing. The study suggests that these intense topics addressed by Law & Order: SVU over the show’s twenty-three seasons on the air have actually created positive impacts on our culture as a whole.
According to a 2015 Washington University study, Law & Order: SVU’s storylines do have an influence on its audiences. However, notes the study, these influences are positive ones, creating changes that work for the better.
According to the study, viewers of the series tend to have a “lower rape myth acceptance.”
‘Law & Order: SVU’ Viewers React Positively To Controversial Topics
The study also notes that those who have regularly watched Law & Order: SVU tend to be more aware of how to go about seeking “consent for sexual activity.”
SVU viewers also tend to be more observant of ways that they can refuse “unwanted sexual activity,” the study notes.
The Washington University study goes on to note that many Law & Order: SVU viewers had “greater intentions to adhere to decisions related to sexual consent.”
In all, the 2015 study concludes that “exposure to the Law & Order franchise is associated with decreased rape myth acceptance and increased intentions to adhere to expressions of sexual consent and refuse unwanted sexual activity.”
These observations certainly bring to light the positive influence Law & Order: SVU has had on our culture, especially in regards to how rape culture is viewed.
The long-running NBC drama has even had an impact on one of the series stars, as well.
Hargitay Joins the Effort
In 2004, Law & Order: SVU star Mariska Hargitay founded the Joyful Heart Foundation. This foundation is a nonprofit organization that aims to support sexual abuse and domestic abuse survivors.
Additionally, the actress, who portrays Captain Olivia Benson on the hit series, has followed in the footsteps of her character. Hargitay is now a trained rape counselor.
In fact, Hargitay has even testified before Congress in an effort to address the backlog of unanalyzed rape kits across the country.
According to Hargitay, this backlog is “a crystal clear microcosm of what is wrong with our society.”