Law & Order: Special Victims Unit

The cast of NBC's “Law & Order: Special Victims Unit” solve rape and murder cases each week.

With the ample amount of television we are consuming due to COVID-19, I started to question why I even like some of the shows I watch.

More and more recently, I’ve been finding comfort in shows about rape and murder.

Why am I like this?

Turns out, I’m not alone.

In a completely unscientific poll of my Facebook friends, women had a strong reaction to shows like “Law & Order: Special Victims Unit” and “Dateline” — they were either were disgusted by them or consumed the shows with a voracity.

For the women who didn’t like these shows, they indicated the heavy subject matter as the main deterrent.

However, for the women who did love these, many found them comforting because it’s a mystery solved, a puzzle pieced back together and a perpetrator being brought to justice.

The cathartic release felt while watching shows like “Law And Order: SVU” for some women was perhaps deeper because they themselves are survivors of sexually based violence.

For myself and my fellow survivors, it comforts us to see victims believed and treated with respect and compassion by the criminal justice system because the reality is so vastly different.

According to conservative estimates, we have about 400,000 untested rape kits sitting in police custody in this country. So, clearly, real life cops don’t all have Olivia Benson’s attention to detail.

It’s comforting to watch a fantasy world where the bad guys aren’t only caught, they’re brought to justice.

According to Michelle Ireland-Galman, a psychology instructor at Pasadena City College, survivors could get some therapeutic value from shows like “Law & Order: Special Victims Unit” because they’re seeing their emotional responses to trauma validated.

“Maybe it’s a result of feeling validated as a person who is a survivor because when you think about that show in particular in general has been seen as very validating and a therapeutic kind of show,” Ireland-Galman said.

She also referenced social learning theory that states that new behaviors can be learned by observing and imitating others.

So, could it be about learning survival tips?

Women statistically are more likely to be connected to violent crime as victims and survivors whereas men are more likely to be the perpetrator.

Do some women see rape and murder shows as a how-to guide for not getting murdered? Or, are we simply drawn to examples of the resiliency of the human spirit and justice triumphing over evil?

I definitely don’t have all the answers, but I do know that I’ll watch anything that teaches me how to avoid being killed.

To paraphrase the hosts of the popular podcast “My Favorite Murder,” I’m just out here trying to stay sexy and not get murdered.

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