Sexual assault isn’t just something people have to face in real life: Sometimes it pops up on our favorite TV shows, too. The topic is tough to portray, and actors often work closely with organizations like RAINN (Rape, Abuse, & Incest National Network) to accurately and sensitively portray sexual assault victims.
As our Sexual Assault Awareness Month coverage comes to a close, we wanted to pull together a list of shows that have featured sexual assault storylines. Sexual assault is a theme you'll hear -- and watch episodes -- about beyond April, and we hope this month inspired you to learn more about the issue.
Here are four shows that tackled the topic in recent months.
+ “Real World Portland”
If you tuned in to MTV’s “Real World Portland” a few weeks ago, you know roomie Nia Moore opened up about her own experience with sexual assault at age 18. This isn’t a scripted show, and that’s exactly what makes Nia so brave. Nia knew her attacker, which is the case in two-thirds of sexual assaults. By opening up about her own sexual assault, she encouraged survivors to come forward and tell their stories.
+ “Law & Order: Special Victims Unit”
If you know anything about "Law & Order: SVU," you know it’s no surprise that this show popped up on the list. The crime drama deals almost exclusively with “sex crimes,” which means each week the team tries to track down justice for another sexual assault victim. "Law & Order: SVU" has always been known to pull real-life situations and use them as inspiration for storylines, which is why last week’s episode “Girl Dishonored” might have looked familiar to you.
The episode’s storyline focused on what is currently a major issue in our country: college students who have been assaulted and are speaking out against their universities’ responses to their assaults. Several women who have recently spoken out about their experiences have come together for the “Know Your IX” campaign, which encourages all students to know what rights are afforded to them under Title IX.
In last week’s “Glee” episode, two glee club members opened up about their sexual assaults. In “Lights Out,” Ryder (Blake Jenner) and Kitty (Becca Tobin) discover that they both experienced sexual abuse at a young age. It’s not the light, breezy episode you would expect from the show. It’s incredibly sad to watch Ryder being chastised by his peers for feeling the way he does, and to hear how Kitty was forced to change schools after her peers accused her of lying about her assault. Kitty and Ryder are excellent examples of how victims are shamed for coming forward about their experiences, which is why it’s so important that people know that it’s never appropriate to blame the victim or make light of sexual assault.
+ “Private Practice”
To be fair, “The Time Has Come” actually aired last year, BUT it’s worth noting for two reasons. First, the show highlights the issue of sexual assault in the military. Second, this is the first time a television drama has focused on a male victim of sexual assault in the military. Although most victims of sexual assault are female, it’s important to realize, as the episode highlights, that men can be victims, too.
To find out more how you can help survivors of sexual assault, take action below.
If you or someone you know need someone to talk to, the National Sexual Assault Hotline is free, confidential and available 24/7 at 1.800.656.HOPE. If you don’t feel comfortable speaking to someone over the phone, you can log on to the National Sexual Assault Online Hotline.