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Law & Order: SVU Just Made a Very Important Point About Women in the Military

One thing you can always count on with Law & Order: SVU is that the show will tackle topics ripped straight from the headlines, and they’ll manage to present them in a way that is both original and on point. Such was the case with this week’s episode, “No Surrender.”

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The episode started with a group of what appeared to be senior-level military personnel briefing a young female ranger and decorated war hero on a new public relations campaign centered around her. The woman, Beth, was being dubbed “Army 2.0” — she was to be the face of the new order of the military… one in which everyone has parity regardless of gender.

But before embarking on a cross-country press tour, Beth headed home to celebrate with family and friends. Only, in the wee hours of the following morning, a jogger finds her bleeding and brutalized in a local park.

On the surface, it seems as though Beth’s attack (and the episode in general) could be pointing to resistance women in the military face from men who believe they have no place there.

Following this line of thought, the detectives find a man in online forums who continually makes menacing comments about Beth. As they try to track him down, they pursue other potential suspects as well. It is in doing so they discover Beth has been taking part in an underground fight club to win money to pay for medical treatment for her mom.

When they discover Gary was actually at Beth’s fight that night, detectives turn the heat up on him. He admits he followed Beth a bit, but only to offer her a handshake for a good fight.

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Beth’s IDs him as her attacker, which obviously contradicts his story. Then, in a twist, the detectives find video footage that does corroborate Gary’s story. So what does this mean for Beth? Was she lying?

Yes and no. It’s possible Beth really didn’t remember what her attacker’s face looked like at first, and she simply assumed it was the creeper who’d been following her around. And, as we learn later in the episode, she wanted to handle the situation herself since the attacker turned out to be her fiancé.

Or ex-fiancé, as it were — she broke it off with him after her welcome home party, which was the provocation he needed to feel justified in attacking her.

After all of this comes to light, though, Beth still doesn’t want her name to be used at her fiancé’s arraignment. She doesn’t want the story to break because she is afraid it will lead people to believe she is weak. Of course, our girl Olivia gives her the kind of pep talk she needs to see the light by reminding Beth that “Rangers always lead the way.”

Ultimately, Beth holds a press conference and publicly announces herself as the rape victim in the case. She then goes on to explain her sole mission in doing so is to encourage other sexual assault survivors to come forward as well, saying, “There is only honor in surviving.”

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Why is this such an important episode? Because it speaks straight to the heart of an issue that is very real and very current. Women have more rights and parity in the military than ever before by law, but they are often still seen as weak or inferior.

It’s easy to see how trying to outrun this perception could make a female soldier feel like she couldn’t come forward about sexual assault. The more women like Beth share their stories, the more readily apparent it will be that women in the military being assaulted is not a sign of weakness on their part — but rather evidence of the inherent weakness in the men who prey on them.

Before you go, check out our slideshow below.

Mariska Hargitay through the years
Image: NBC

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