Many can recite this popular TV show introduction by heart. For those who may not know, this is the opening for NBC’s hit drama series, Law and Order: Special Victims Unit. I have seen many individuals become emotionally attached to this show (myself included). I have learned it is not necessarily the stories that individuals become attached to, it is often the characters on the show, particularly, Olivia Benson.
Olivia Benson has this fierce and empathetic essence about her- it is hard to not feel attached to her when life seems to be falling apart around you. I’ve observed that many look to this show as a comfort, because the world around us is not always as comforting, fierce, and empathetic as Olivia Benson. The world we live in does not always keep people safe. The world we live in does not always believe survivors. The world we live in does not always fight for survivors.
There comes a soul crashing moment when one realizes that Olivia Benson does not exist.
For me, I often realize Olivia Benson is not real during injustices I observe. Such as, the Cyntoia Brown case or the casual rape jokes that I hear on a day-to-day basis. It is in those moments the reality of the world sets in, again.
Sometimes, it is hard to heal when we live in a world that scrutinizes our trauma or puts the blame directly back onto us. In my personal and professional life, I often see people desperately wanting to be believed, and more often, I see people desperately wanting to be heard. Yet, society often tells survivors to be quiet. Society often tells survivors that they are not believed.
There came a point where I would get angry that there was not a real life Olivia Benson (until I realized Mariska Hargitay was a powerhouse of a woman herself). I was angry because I wanted individuals to be heard. I wanted Olivia Benson to really fight for these people. I wanted a real life Olivia Benson because I see the healing she does on and off the screen. I wanted that to be real.
But there also came a point when I realized that I held the power to be the real life Olivia Benson. No, I am not a lieutenant; I am a therapist, but I can carry out the message Olivia Benson holds. I can be the change that I want in the world. We all hold that inner power.
So no, Olivia Benson does not exist. She is a fictional character- but I’ve come to witness that her essence is alive in many. I see it every day. We can all be a little bit of Olivia Benson.
And in case nobody has told you this today, you matter. I believe you. I support you.