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‘Law and Order: SVU’ Saved My Life, Then Broke My Trust

When I first began watching “Law & Order: SVU,” I was 16 years old and a sophomore in high school. It was season 15 that was airing at the time, and I quickly became enamored with the fearless and badass Detective Olivia Benson. I even bought a necklace from the Joyful Heart Foundation, the organization founded by lead actress, Mariska Hargitay. I hoped that the charm which read “fearlessness” would inspire me to be brave, too, and to live a life free from anxiety and depression.

I don’t remember if I was wearing my necklace when I went to a party my freshman year of college. I do know that I was already struggling at school—that although the university I attended was only two hours away from home, it felt like a foreign country. Despite my education from SVU and society, I never expected the events from that night to transpire. Regardless of the hours I’d spent in Manhattan’s 16th precinct, how do you prepare yourself to be poisoned by a stranger, to awaken in a bedroom, pinned to a mattress? Later, I would think about what Olivia had taught me. To report the crime. To go to a hospital. To test yourself for STD’s and seek out counseling. To this day, I remain ashamed that I did not do any of those things. I attempted to move on, to pretend as if nothing had happened, but this soon proved itself impossible. In the coming semester, I would drop out of school. My mental health would spiral until eventually, my family had no choice but to intervene. I started treatment—inpatient residential, and then outpatient group therapy. I spent hours with my individual psychologist.

My journey was not linear, but I made progress and eventually, a new member joined my treatment team—Olivia Benson, along with various other characters.

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