Note: Do not read on if you have not seen Season 15, Episode 8 of NBC's Law and Order: SVU, titled "Military Justice."
While every episode of Law and Order: SVU is pretty emotionally draining, this week cuts out all the bells and whistles -- no faux American Idol judges or fun cameos -- leaving only the raw story that unfortunately reaches beyond the realm of television. As much fun as it is when the detectives lighten the mood a little, not even Finn cracks a joke this time around. The episode deals with the sexual assault of a female officer in the military and, more so, how the military chooses to deal with the rapists. Just an FYI. No Ashanti this week, folks.
The victim: We start off watching a security camera video of a Amelia Albers (Shiri Appleby) getting pulled over for DUI after driving the wrong way down a one-way street. With blood dripping down her forehead, she identifies herself as a member of the Coast Guard after belligerently shouting at the arresting officer.
The evidence: At the precinct with Liv and Amaro, she drunkenly explains that she's only an ensign and needs to get back to her sector at Sheepshead Bay immediately. Although She protests due to her unauthorized absence from her Sector, she goes to the hospital for further tests. All signs suggest that she was raped and possibly even choked and restrained. Even after being poked and prodded, Amelia adamantly wants to return to Sector. Amaro reminds her that she's still awaiting arraignment for DUI, but Amelia says there's no point in holding her because she can't remember anything about her attackers. But she does reveal she went out for drinks with a few guys from the Coast Guard, but ended up dancing with some "maybe Mexicans" in the kitchen. She begs Liv and Amaro to tell her mother not mention this incident to her father, an admiral, because he'll be so disappointed. "I'm an ensign. I'm supposed to take care of myself," she explains.
Looking for answers: Cragen, Rollins, and Finn head to the Sector. For a brief moment, Finn reminds us that he was an army ranger for 2 tours (just in case you're planning an 'SVU' trivia night and looking for some often forgotten facts. But here's an even better fact: Ice-T himself enlisted in the Army, where he served for 4 years). The detectives speak with officers Lipitt, Wooten, and Graver, who claim Amelia was wasted at the bar and hitting on everyone, so they left her there. Graver says Amelia shouldn't have talked, seeing as she's in enough trouble with the Commander for missing curfew.
The guilty victim: Learning this information, the detectives pay Commander Taverts a visit. Like the other guys, Taverts claims Amelia is a train wreck. While he's "sickened" by what he heard and acknowledges the added difficulty of being a woman on ship, he's already cut her a lot of breaks because he's worked closely with her father. He worries the effect this will have on her current standing. Seeing as she was not following protocol -- not with a buddy, publicly intoxicated, arrested for DUI -- he ultimately calls it "poor judgement on her part."
Following up on Amelia's mention of chefs at the bar, they head over to Seahorse Bar and Grill. Upon arriving, Amaro gets a call from his ex, Maria, asking if he can take their daughter for the weekend. It's clear she's on a date of some kind. After agreeing to take Zara, he goes into the bar to question the chefs. Although they initially run, both men claim they didn't rape Amelia, although she did "put her chichis" in their faces, probably to make her "buddies" hot. After identifying her buddies as fellow officers, they both say she was still with them at the bar when their shifts ended.
New suspects: Back with Amelia, Liv asks her more about the officers who went with her to the bar that night. After much hesitation, she admits that they made out a bit, but then Lipitt started kissing her and put his hand up her skirt. She begins crying for fear of being dishonorably discharged. She identifies Lipitt, Wooten, and Graver as her attackers.
The detectives head back to Sector to speak with the men before they realize they're suspects, but they're met by Commander Traverts who says all three men are off-base for training...off the coast of Somalia. As in any tight legal situation, they visit ADA Barba who immediately issues a subpoena. Next thing we know, all three men are back at Sector -- albeit a little sleepy.
Sudden story changes: Lipitt says he cheated on his wife with Amelia, but wore a condom. No DNA. Wooten claims the sex was consensual. Graver admits to holding her hands down, but denies any sexual involvement with the victim before lawyering up. Seeing as there were two DNA hits, Cragen orders their arrest.
Military justice: Amelia comes by the precinct after word of the arrests. Just as she begins to open up about the female hazing that takes place on the base, several officers barge into the office, arresting Amelia for fraternization, disorderly conduct, and adultery. They drag her out of the office. Shocked, Liv doesn't understand how they can charge her with adultery when she's single. Barba explains that since Lipitt is her junior, he won't be charged. What's more, now that she's been charged, the charges against the men will be dropped. The next step will be an Article 32 hearing -- which is like a grand jury, except that they can ask anything they want. As if a grand jury wasn't traumatizing enough.
Clearly orders are coming from higher up the ladder. Seeing an opportunity, Rollins urges Amaro to talk to Maria, who works in Washington ... especially now that she owes him a favor for taking care of their kid last-minute. She hopes Maria will be able to find out more about the secret goings on. Amaro agrees to give it a shot, but their conversation is cut short when Finn announces there was only 1 match for semen, but none of the suspects match the second sample, meaning there was a fourth rapist that Amelia failed to mention...
A new attacker: Amelia stops by the precinct, where she is met by her father, the admiral. Immediately, she begins apologizing for everything that's happened, but he only wants to know if she's okay. Liv asks her about the fourth attacker. Although Amelia continues to freak out about the repercussions of telling the truth, her dad reassures her that they need her to ID the last rapist. He reminds her that her attackers have already brought disgrace upon themselves for what they did. Reluctantly, she says the remaining attacker is Commander Taverts. He's been trying to sleep with her since day one, but she refused him. She keeps apologizing to her dad, but he only says she has "nothing to be sorry for."
With the Article 32 hearing out-of-the-way, Amelia takes the stand before the grand jury. She's forced to admit to flirting with her attackers, drinking, adultery, and missing curfew. When the defense asks if she said no at any point, she said she never did because that would be against protocol which instructs victims to submit to their attackers rather than resist. But with so many other violations of protocol, the defense accuses her of enjoying herself during her attack. Even under pressure Amelia stands by her story.
Garrity Ruling (aka more military mumbojumbo): Blowing off steam at a bar, Liv, Rollins, and Barba discuss the unlikelihood of the attackers being put on trial, that is, until Amaro proudly announces he has Taverts' testimony from the military hearing, dropping a fat folder on the counter. But ooooh no! Barba freaks out. They're forgetting about the Garrity Ruling -- everything in that file is dirty because the testimonies are considered to be coerced. Anyone who looks at the file will be forced to recuse themselves. After Amaro admits to reading it, Barba forces him off the case. But before he exits the bar, he suggests they look at Graver one last time. Dun dun.
A change of heart: At the prison, Liv reminds Graver that Amelia will live with the consequences of this rape her whole life. With Graver clearly moved by empathy, Rollins tells him to "step up and speak out." He tells them about a time he went out to a bar about a year ago, when some of his fellow officers learned he was gay. He got drunk and three guys from the base started calling him names, pushed him into an alley, and raped him. He didn't report the incident after consulting with his CO, who told him to man up.
With his unfortunate detailed knowledge of the sexual assaults at Sector, Graver testifies at the trial stating that Commander Taverts planned the whole attack as a way of "teaching Albers a lesson." He graphically describes the rape, but admits he didn't come forward for fear of the violent consequences of being outed. He apologizes to Amelia, but it's too little too late at this point.
The verdict: Lipitt, Wooten, and Taverts are ruled guilty of rape in the first degree. Although Amelia is ultimately honorably discharged as a result of the trial, her father says he's proud of her for coming forward -- she has more guts than any of those guys.
What do you think of this episode of Law and Order: SVU? Did you appreciate its frankness? Or are the episodes more digestible with occasional celebrity sightings and snarky dialogue? Sound off in the comments.