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Why Shonda Rhimes Went to Bat With ABC For This Critical Grey’s Anatomy Scene

The March 27 episode of Grey’s Anatomy, “Silent All These Years,” may go down in the show’s history as one of the all-time most powerful and poignant episodes thanks to the way it handled issues like domestic violence and rape. The episode overall has garnered near-instant reactions of praise for the stories it told, including Jo (Camilla Luddington) learning she was a product of rape after finding her birth mother, and Jo helping a female trauma patient (Khalilah Joi) at Grey Sloan.

But one key moment, where Jo orders a rape kit to be administered for her patient, almost didn’t make it into the episode. In an interview with The Hollywood Reporter, Shonda Rhimes reveals she fought with ABC to keep the rape kit scene in the episode and what this moment could mean for the way television handles the depiction of the treatment of sexual assault survivors.

Per THR, the crucial scene was flagged by ABC’s Standards & Practices team as something that needed to either be edited or cut. While it’s a normal part of the television making process to submit episodes to a network’s S&P team for review and make edits based on those notes, Rhimes wasn’t interested in bending to the notes this time around. It was important to keep this scene in.

“We received notes initially from ABC’s broadcast standards and practices. They give these standard notes: ‘don’t be too gory’; ‘don’t be too explicit in your language’; ‘no side boob.’ But the ones we got on this script included, ‘Please don’t show any fluid on the Q-tips’ and ‘Please don’t show any body fluids under the blue light,” showrunner Krista Vernoff told THR.

Vernoff added, “Shonda wrote back a pretty passionate response of the myriad ways that networks are willing to show actual violence but that what we were doing here was the medical process that happens in the wake of violence and they were trying to tell us we couldn’t show it. She said, ‘Respectfully, I decline these notes.’…Ultimately ABC understood that she was right. I really give them credit that they came back and said, ‘You’re right. You can proceed as scripted.'”

Ultimately, the powerful scene — which you can watch above — not only stayed in the episode, but Rhimes and the S&P team found an even happier resolution when one of the executives involved joined the female characters who line the walls of Grey Sloan as Jo wheels her patient into surgery. According to Vernoff in a separate interview with Entertainment Weekly, “The women in that hallway are almost all the women on the writing staff. Many of the women are on the crew, or they are assistants at Shondaland, or they are women who work at ABC. I think there were more than 100 women.”

Even long-running television crime procedurals like Law & Order: Special Victims Unit rarely, if ever, go into showing detailed depictions of rape kits being administered on characters who are survivors of rape and sexual assault. Showing this onscreen helps to normalize the conversation around rape kits and make it clear this is a helpful, necessary part of the healing process for survivors.

Rhimes, Vernoff and Grey’s Anatomy writers should be applauding for creating this episode and fighting to keep this crucial scene in. And even more important, that the women at the helm came forward about what went into bringing it to air.

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