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Series / Law & Order: Special Victims Unit
aka: Law And Order SVU

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"In the criminal justice system, sexually-based offenses are considered especially heinous. In New York City, the dedicated detectives who investigate these vicious felonies are members of an elite squad known as the Special Victims Unit. These are their stories."


The first spin-off of the Law & Order franchise. Like the original, the show features detectives investigating crimes and attorneys prosecuting the offenders. Changes in scene are marked by black screens stating the place and date, as well as the franchise's trademark "chung chung" noise. However, SVU focuses more on the detectives and less on the attorneys, whereas the original show usually shifts from the investigation to the prosecution at the halfway point.

The SVU detectives investigate sex crimes—usually rapes, rape-homicides, and various forms of child abuse. The voiceover at the beginning identifies such crimes as "especially heinous," and the show often focuses on the characters' struggle to deal with unspeakable crimes and living victims.

SVU has included since its beginning characters from two other shows: Capt. Cragen from the original Law & Order and Det./Sgt. Munch from Homicide: Life on the Street. There have been numerous Crossover events with the other Law & Order shows.


SVU was retooled between the first and second seasons. The first season featured more of the characters' private lives, random courtroom scenes unrelated to the episodes' primary cases, and much brighter lit squadroom scenes. Also, there were several recurring Assistant DA's instead of a regular character serving that function. Some early episodes did not feature a trial portion at all. At the start of the second season, ADA Cabot was assigned to the unit and the show began to more closely resemble the original Law & Order series.

The show is known for its dual-action It's Personal/Idiot Ball trope, in which each episode will usually feature one of the main detectives developing an extremely personal, unprofessional attachment or aversion to a victim or criminal, due to their personal history. This may sometimes cause them to follow false leads, or fall under suspicion and need to clear their name. These will manifest themselves in just about any episode that deals with crimes of a certain nature. Characters with "hot-button" issues are:


  • Benson: Rape, alcoholism (she is a child of rape and her mother was an alcoholic.)
  • Stabler: Pedophilia, incest (due to the many male offender/young female victim cases he has worked; it doesn't help that he has kids himself).
  • Tutuola: Drug abuse, race (especially how some victims are treated compared to others), homophobia (not as much as Huang, but still touchy because his son Ken is gay).
  • Munch: Suicide, big government, infringement of civil liberties.
  • Cragen: Alcoholism (he is a recovering alcoholic and card-carrying member of AA).
  • Cabot: Obstruction of justice (particularly when being kept from doing the right thing by legal loopholes).
  • Novak: Mental illness (she has a deceased schizophrenic ex-fiance and is likely to show more mercy/leniency to mentally ill people).
  • Huang: Pseudo-psychology (because this deceives the public and people who need treatment), doctors abusing their power, homophobia (as he himself is gay).
  • Warner: Unethical medical practices.
  • Greylek: Civil rights issues (IE: sexism, discrimination against AIDS victims, the death penalty, Greylek is a crusader)
  • Rollins: Rape, sexual assault, gambling.
  • Amaro: Cheating, deception, violence against women (being the child of a domestically abusive relationship), corruption of children (having two of his own).
  • Barba: Racism/class issues. He also seems especially protective of younger people, willing to fight for them long after he would have moved on from any other case.
  • Carisi: The falsely accused, corruption, use of religion to justify a crime.
  • Tamin: Misogyny and homophobia (she's bisexual and several of her LGBTQ friends turn up as victims of the week throughout the series, making it personal).

This trope works backwards too; we learn more about the detectives by noticing what kinds of people they empathize with. When the usually cool attorney Casey Novak is uncharacteristically lenient to a young girl who committed vehicular manslaughter while off prescription medicine (thanks to following the advice of a popular artist who was against them, after his own tragic story), you later find out that, quite predictably, she has a personal history with mental illness—her ex-fiancé (who she abandoned and later found in the streets) suffered from schizophrenia.

Sesame Street did a spot-on parody with muppets called Law and Order: Special Letters Unit. The primary audience probably doesn't watch the original (we hope).

Character Sheet can be found here.

Not to be confused with the Special Vehicles Unit.

For a while SVU was currently the only American Law & Order series still in active production, following the cancellation of Criminal Intent in 2011. In 2019 it began production on its 21st season, thus surpassing the already incredibly long run of the Mothership. As with another famous and long-running crime drama, NCIS, it is suspected that the show will continue for as long as its star — in this case Mariska Hargitay — wants to do it.


"Special Tropes Unit":

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  • Abusive Offspring: "Dominance" - As if it wasn't bad enough that he raped his younger brother, Charlie is shown to be abusive and violent to his Alcoholic Parent, beating his father up and generally terrorizing him.
  • Abusive Parents: several victims have these but the worst was probably in "Sick"—the woman who was poisoning her granddaughter to make it appear she had cancer. She used the child's "illness" to bilk charities, and then convinced her to say she was molested by a celebrity so they can get money from him, telling her she would die if they didn't.
    • Elliot had a physically and emotionally abusive father and a mother with undiagnosed and untreated bipolar disorder, causing her to give her son emotional scars and (on her part) unintentional injuries from her manic episodes.
    • Olivia's mother was an alcoholic who (at least at times) resented Olivia for being a Child by Rape. Mostly it seems to have been emotional abuse and Parental Neglect (forcing Olivia to care for her instead of the other way around), but at one point Olivia recounts an incident when her mother came at her with a broken bottle when she learned that Olivia intended to marry an older man, forcing Olivia to kick her to get away.
    • As of "Padre Sandunguero", Amaro is revealed to have been physically abused by his father as a child, and in the present day both parents and his sister engage in some hardcore denial/gaslighting about how bad it was. In the same episode it's also implied that Rafael Barba's father was abusive as well.
    • "Hothouse" had a man put his two daughters through Training from Hell from a young age in order to make them into geniuses, forcing them to learn advanced mathematics in a freezing cold room for hours daily and viciously punishing them for mistakes with beatings and cigarette burns. He threw his elder daughter out of the house at 16 for supposedly not being as smart as her sister, because she had an IQ of 135 and her sister's was 165. She sees him again for the first time in years during the episode, and his first words to his wife are, "She is dead to us." Surprisingly, he actually turns out to be innocent when the detectives are investigating the death of his younger daughter.
    • "Institutional Fail" had a girl who was beaten, starved, and locked in a dog cage by her mother and stepfather for crying too much. The same episode briefly mentioned a four-year-old girl admitted to the ER for cigarette burns all over her body and an eight-year-old boy forced to drink bleach by his mother.
    • "Design" has a woman who conceived her daughter by purchasing a famous musician's semen in hopes of having a gifted musician for a child, then angrily asking her doctor, "Now what am I supposed to do with her?" when the daughter can't play Mozart, despite only being a toddler. Despite seeing very little of her, it is clear that she does not care about her daughter, only the fame and fortune she thinks will come from having her.
    • Marilyn in "Home" controls every aspect of her homeschooled sons' lives and doesn't give them enough to eat because she believes that processed food causes cancer. She gets investigated by SVU when her younger son, Jacob, is seen eating out of a trash can. When she hears that ACS is coming to do a check on the house, she forces her older son, Adam, to kill his little brother so he can't be put in foster care; Adam obeys because she's convinced him that foster care is a Fate Worse than Death. The episode later reveals that she had a third son, Daniel, who was removed from her care after she beat him, blaming him for her husband's death.
    • An abusive foster parent/grandparent duo shows up in the season 3 episode "Care," in which Dorothy Rudd abuses her own foster child and then forces her adult daughter (who is also implied to have been abused by Dorothy when she was a child, which is why she's so compliant to everything Dorothy wants) to take in more foster kids and help her "discipline" them (restraining them so Dorothy can beat them), leading to the death of one child.
  • Acceptable Breaks from Reality: In real life, suspects are under no obligation to talk to police if they are not under arrest, and can leave an interrogation at any time. Moreover, physical assault by a police officer during interrogation is a great way to get sued, and is also a great way to get the case thrown out of court due to police tampering.
  • Acquitted Too Late: The detectives of the SVU have a long and storied history when it comes to arresting the wrong person, making lots of public accusations regarding sex crimes, and then not even caring about the destruction they've caused to other people's lives.
    • Season 2's "Taken" starts off with a teenaged girl stumbling out of an elevator during a hotel opening. The staff shuttles her off to the side, and a suspect (who is on the sex offender registry as a pedophile) is later arrested. Turns out it's a scam to get money from the hotel, the supposedly under-age "victim" was in her 20s rather than her teens, the sex was consensual, and the "suspect" was a patsy set up by the girl and her family. Unfortunately, by the time anyone remembers that they have an innocent man in jail, the "suspect" had already been killed in prison (pedophiles being very unpopular in prison populations). Fortunately, that made the woman and her accomplices legally culpable for murder.
      • Disturbingly enough, Munch is the only one who is bothered by the suspect's death (as opposed to being glad the woman and her accomplices didn't get away) and takes the trouble of informing the dead man's ex-girlfriend (who, it turns out, was the same girl the suspect was arrested for raping — it was a clear statutory rape case, because he was 22 and she was only 15, but she loved him and continues to do so, and by this point she's well old enough to make that call).
    • In Season 3's "Repression", a young woman "recalls" that her father sexually abused her in her youth after a psychiatrist "recovers" memories of the abuse. In typical SVU fashion, it goes downhill from there, with the father being vilified as a monster by everyone, including the SVU department and his own family, culminating in the father being shot by his other daughter in a misguided attempt to protect her sister from him. Only then does the truth come to light, which is that the girl is actually a virgin, meaning no abuse could have taken place at all. They are able to use this to get the psychiatrist arrested for malpractice.
    • A variation in "Unstable" where they find out a man was wrongfully imprisoned and arrest the right man. Unfortunately, the real criminal, the only person who could exonerate the wrongfully accused man, either commits suicide or is murdered by a hothead detective (we only see the aftermath), rendering them unable to free the innocent man. A similar scenario is very narrowly averted later that same season in "Confidential".
    • During "Contagious" where a young girl is found to have been sexually abused, she eventually points the finger at her soccer coach who is also a close friend of her family. The man is taken into custody and held responsible for his actions but it's soon revealed that the only reason the girl accused him is because she was scared by the amount of pressure placed on her by the detectives. The episode ends with a Downer Ending for the originally accused man, because in the course of the investigation it came out that he lied about a sex crime charge (dropped) from his past, so he lost his job and will also never be able to apply to be a teacher ever again and is moving upstate with his family to his in-laws.
  • Acquired Poison Immunity: In the episode "Wet", a suspect is believed to have committed murder by poisonous mushroom spores, which he built up an immunity to through years of exposure.
  • Action Girl: Olivia. And how. Rollins, too.
  • Activist Fundamentalist Antics: In "Spectacle", a guy has tried for eight years to get his kidnapped brother back. The police and everyone else stopped caring many years ago, so now he resorted to kidnapping and raping a woman just to get the police's attention. Oh, and the woman is of course in on it. Pulling off a little Romanticized Abuse show to the audience as her "rape" gets broadcasted on the web.
  • Adam Westing: A rare non-comedic example with Jerry Lewis, whose Jerry-Lewis-like behavior is part of the manic episode "Uncle" that ends in murder.
  • Adult Fear: The show centers on Ripped from the Headlines plots, doesn't hesitate to whip out the truly alarming statistics on domestic abuse, sexual assault, incest, and child molestation. In one particularly upsetting-for-grownups episode ("Conscience"), a little boy goes missing at a birthday party and is found dead shortly afterward. The security tape from the party shows him holding a balloon as he walks out of the camera's viewpoint— only for the balloon to roll by it without the boy only seconds later. The big kicker? He was killed by another child. An adult might have a healthy suspicion of other adults around their kids, but who would ever question another kid at a birthday party?
    • "Raw" centers around a shooting at an elementary school that kills one child and injures two others. The boy who was killed had recently been adopted; his parents thought they were saving him from the messy foster care system. Ends up subverted in this case; the parents adopted the boy specifically so that they could have him killed for the insurance money.
      • Played straight with the other kids, especially the two who were injured. Not only is your kid terrorized (and in two cases wounded) by a sniper on their own school playground, but it turns out that it was the parents of another child who arranged for it to happen.
  • An Aesop: If the murder investigation doesn't hammer it in hard enough, the B-plot with Elliot's family for that week will usually parallel the investigation in some way.
  • Aesop Amnesia:
    • Cragen and Elliot have had weeks where they've been forced to learn that railroading suspects can lead to wrongful convictions and they need to consider that the suspects they finger might be innocent after all before pushing it. But then continue to operate like that at least every other week.
      • This was subverted in the episode "Double Strands", where they look into the background of a seemingly-guilty suspect, and find the true culprit, the original suspect's twin brother.
  • All Girls Want Bad Boys: Many episodes feature a girl with a criminal boyfriend. It usually ends badly for her.
  • All There in the Manual: It's never explicitly stated on the show, but the reason Cragen had himself transferred to the SVU was because after his wife died in a plane crash, he started drinking again and soliciting prostitutes, so he joined to take control of his life again.
  • Aluminium Christmas Trees: The 2011 episode "Flight" seems to be obviously based on the Dominique Strauss-Kahn case, but in fact predated the incident by several months.
  • Always Female: Up until Barba, the ADA. There have been more than half a dozen recurring ADAs, all of whom lacked a Y-chromosome:
    • Abbie Carmichael, crossing over from the original Law & Order, was the de facto ADA for most of the first season; she appeared in five of the first ten episodes.
    • Alex Cabot became the first permanent ADA for SVU in the premiere of season two; she lasted into season five, when she made a sudden and dramatic departure in time for November Sweeps.
    • She was immediately replaced by Casey Novak, who served for five seasons (holding the franchise record for longest-serving ADA, beating Carver, Cabot and Rubirosa); she was fired and disbarred at the end of season nine.note 
    • She, too, was immediately replaced, by Kim Greylek, who lasted for the first half of the tenth season. After her rapid departure, she was replaced by:
    • Alex Cabot, for her second stint, lasting most of the tenth and eleventh seasons, interrupted by:
    • Sonia Paxton, an older and more senior ADA (her rank is explicitly given as EADA, the same as that of Jack McCoy before his election as DA).
    • After Cabot leaves yet again, she's replaced by Jo Marlowe, a former cop and partner of Stabler's, played in a four-episode stint by Sharon Stone.
    • Mikka Von was intended as the new ADA for season twelve, but the actress who played her left after one episode to film Mission Impossible IV. Her replacement was Gillian Hardwicke.
    • Starting in season 13, Alex Cabot and Casey Novak both return in (mostly) alternating episodes.
    • Subverted in "Disabled" where the EADA, Garrett Blaine, is male. Given a lampshade in his first appearance in the episode:
      Cragen: You find me a replacement for Alex Cabot?
      Blaine: Still looking. Stuck with me for now.
    • Season 13 has recurring EADA David Haden and a couple of guest appearances by Law & Order's Mike Cutter, but neither appears often enough to be considered a regular (and Haden is only the prosecutor on SVU's cases in two of his four appearances; in the other two, he appears primarily as Benson's boyfriend).
    • Averted from Season 14 on. The recurring in Season 14 and then regular ADA, Rafael Barba, is male. However, there is another recurring ADA handling child cases who is female, Pippa Cox. As of Season 19 Barba is replaced by Peter Stone, Ben Stone's estranged son and recently arrived from Chicago, and Stone himself is replaced in Season 21 by Carisi, who moves from SVU to the DA's office.
  • Ambiguous Disorder: Glen, the older foster brother of a murder victim in the season 3 episode "Care", seems like he might be autistic. He is intellectually disabled, has self-injurious stims when stressed, doesn't make eye contact, and has a special interest in the Sword Quest video game (which turns out to help the detectives figure out that the real perp is female, like the final boss in the game). But an actual diagnosis is never given. (There is some suggestion that it may be trauma-induced rather than a genetic disorder like autism.)
    • Gabriel Duvall, a perp from the season 6 episode "Night". He has obsessive-compulsive tendencies, but the closest we get to a name for his condition is "oddball genius". Subverted in the Trial by Jury crossover episode, "Day," deals with Gabriel's trial, and the possibility of him having Asperger's syndrome is discussed at length.
    • Lewis Hodda, a perp from the season 14 episode "Manhattan Vigil" and the season 17 episode "Depravity Standard". He seems detached, agitated, and has unusual speech patterns. Dr. Huang describes him as "scarred" from an abusive childhood, claiming that the abuse made him highly suggestible when threatened violence, but Huang never puts a name to whatever condition the guy might have.
    • Holden March, his parents mention the possibility of him being on the spectrum, but a former boss of his thought he had OCD.
  • Ambiguous Situation: SVU loves to leave stuff unresolved for the audience to ponder. Usually it's on the simple level whether the guy is guilty or not (such as in the episode "Doubt"), but sometimes they take it to a much deeper level. The detectives just keep spawning new theories, and none of them either gets verified. For example, the episode "Slaves" features a husband, his wife, and their nanny/girlfriend/Sex Slave, Ilena. They keep the relationship hidden...
    • Either because Ilena is in the country illegally, and also because her conservative aunt and other relatives would not approve of her living in a polyamorous relationship,
    • Or because they have kidnapped Ilena and held her against her will until Stockholm Syndrome set in.
    • So, it's Safe, Sane, and Consensual, polyamory and Casual Kink versus monster and A Match Made in Stockholm. The husband claims the first option, but that might just be From a Certain Point of View or even Blatant Lies. As for Elena, she never gets a voice in the matter. The kidnapping theory is implied to be the correct one, but if it's actually verified then that happens after the episode is over.
      • The only outright verification given for the monster viewpoint comes from the wife, and only AFTER she has been...
      • A. proven guilty of murdering Elena's aunt without her husband's knowledge or consent.
      • B. force-fed "oh, go ahead and blame it on your husband anyway" by the detectives as a "Get out of Jail Free" Card.
      • The whole case was started by Ilena telling a fruit vendor she was "trapped in a situation she [couldn't] escape from" (in a phrasing that, according to said vendor, strongly implied abuse) and asking him to tell her aunt she needed help, so that suggests she was less than a willing participant. Not to mention she's clearly been starved long-term, that's not usually part of a consensual BDSM situation. It is true, though, that Ilena never expressly confirms as much to the detectives.
    • The verdict is left up to the audience to decide for the episode "Doubt".
  • And Starring: Before Christopher Meloni's departure, the credits had always started with "Starring Christopher Meloninote , Mariska Hargitay, Richard Belzer" and ended with "And Dann Florek". In the first season, Florek immediately followed Belzer; up to Season 12, there have been a total of eight people credited in between the two of them (at different times). As of Season 15, Belzer and Florek have both left the cast, and no one gets And Starring billing anymore.
  • Anticlimax: A good number of episodes end with them catching the bad guys and nothing else. The viewer doesn't get to see the trial, or, most satisfyingly, the guilty verdict. This kind of ending is even more infuriating if the suspect had been in court previously in the episode, but the case was foiled for some reason.
  • Anyone Can Die: While quite subdued in killing off main characters compared to other shows in the franchise, a few important characters have bit the dust, like Mike Dodds, Sonya Paxton, and longtime recurring character Ed Tucker.
  • Arch-Enemy: Averted with Lewis, for Benson, when he kills himself in front of (and all over) her in his fourth episode.
  • Armoured Closet Gay: In "Lowdown", a closeted gay Bronx D.A. is found murdered in his car. They exhaust the list of suspects until they land on his black male coworker. Fin then explains the phenomenon of being on the "down-low" in the African-American community. They investigate the coworker's poker group, and sure enough, they are all "on the down-low" and have sex with each other when they are supposedly playing poker. One of the friends, a former football player, actually refuses to testify after revealing this because he does not want to tarnish his image.
    • Inverted in "P.C.", where the leader of a lesbian rights group known for its hostility towards other members of the LGBT community is reverse outed as bisexual after being caught with her male lover.
  • Arson, Murder, and Jaywalking: Actually Rape, Murder, and Jaywalking — literally. In the episode "Avatar", the detectives are trying to find something to arrest a man for before he can flee the country. Said man is suspected of kidnapping, rape and murder. At the last possible second, when it seems that the detectives can't get him for anything, the suspect jaywalks at the airport, giving Detective Stabler an excuse to arrest him. This buys them time to pull together a case on the more serious charges.
  • Artistic License – Biology: In "Identity", the medical examiner shows a DNA sample to have XY chromosomes. However, as anyone who has actually seen a karyotype before will know, Y chromosomes are very small, in sharp contrast to the very large X-shaped X chromosome. This "Y chromosome" looks like a Y: It is really an X chromosome with one leg missing. This was possibly done because the crew didn't think most viewers would be able to identify a real Y chromosome.
    • There are at least two mentions in the series ("Repression", "Acceptable Loss") of a woman undergoing a medical exam that determines whether or not she's a virgin. One problem: there's no medical way to tell if a woman is a virgin or not. The "Acceptable Loss" mention might be excusable as a bluff to make the suspect think they could medically disprove her story, but it's a major plot twist in "Repression" that a medical exam supposedly shows that the girl is a virgin.
  • Artistic License – Gun Safety: On "Intimidation Game", one of the bad guys says (apparently being serious) that shooting a gun in a video game is exactly like in real life.
  • Artistic License – Law: Insanity defenses are used very liberally by defense lawyers, and sentences of "not guilty by reason of mental disease or defect" are treated like "Get Out Of Jail Free" cards. In truth, Insanity defenses are rarely used, and on the rare occasion that they succeed, the defendant often ends up in a mental hospital for longer than if they were convicted.
    • Just about every show in the franchise has shown the cops barging into a doctor's office/exam room/operating room to arrest the doctor in question or their patient. This is grossly inappropriate behavior that would never happen in Real Life (possibly even lampshaded by the fact that there's always someone present yelling, "You can't go in there!"). These actions would not only violate patient privacy (very often, they are present when the cops walk in), they would compromise the sterility of the OR and cause a huge swath of problems for the hospital/clinic staff.
    • The detectives regularly threaten to arrest people for things that aren't actually crimes in order to get them to cooperate in their investigations. For example, they often threaten to charge witnesses and victims who don't want to talk with them with hindering the police. This isn't just an idle threat to trick people into helping them, they have arrested people for not talking to them, which is a violation of their rights.
    • It's not uncommon for the SVU team to threaten perps with the death penalty to get them to take a deal and confess to a crime, even though New York has banned capital punishment since 2008 (Season 10). The threat is all the more empty given the New York's last execution was in 1963.
    • Like the mother ship suspense is often generated when judges allow patently absurd defenses or suppress crucial evidence on flimsy interpretations of the law. This forces the team and the DA's office to find a new way to find justice. These decisions are taken as final, even though in real life judges decisions can and are appealed by the State. Reversals disallow the defense or re-admit the evidence.
  • Artistic License – Traditional Christianity: In "The Undiscovered Country" Catholic teaching is referenced in discussing the morality of withdrawing life support from a baby. However, in the show, the baby is incapable of breathing on his own, and this condition is permanent. Under those circumstances, Catholic teaching defines a ventilator as "extraordinary treatment", and would counsel allowing the boy to die naturally.
  • Ascended Extra: M.E. Warner, Dr. Huang.
  • As Himself: Then-Vice President Joe Biden appeared at the beginning of "Making A Rapist", where he commends the team for their work in getting backlogged rape kits tested.
  • Asshole Victim:
    • In "Signature", a male victim is found alongside a female victim of a particularly sadistic Serial Killer. The detectives theorize that he had the bad luck to come across the dump site in the act. He was actually the killer, and was gunned down by The Profiler as revenge for the murders, and for driving her mentor to suicide.
    • A nonfatal (and literal) one is the Private Military Contractor CEO in "Official Story", who's sodomized instead of killed. It's Pay Evil unto Evil by the Papa Wolf dad of a girl the CEO himself had gang-raped before (and his Screw the Rules, I Have Connections! let him get away with it). But sadly overlaps with Revenge Before Reason for the dad—the CEO's survival consequently lets him use his PMC for his own payback, and the episode becomes a Race Against the Clock for the SVU to get him.
    • Another non-fatal one is 12-year-old Sean Hamill in "Alien", who had been picking on and harassing a younger girl at his school for months because she had two mothers, to the point of sending her an instant message that strongly implied he was going to rape her. After he tried to forcefully kiss her and cut off her ponytail with scissors, to "make her look more like a dyke", she grabbed the scissors and stabbed him in the back, paralyzing him from the waist down.
    • One thing that comes up in SVU from time to time is that there can be an Asshole Victim without a Sympathetic Murderer. Assholes hang out with assholes, after all, and sometimes they turn on each other. For example:
      • "Mean": The victim was part of a clique of popular girls who were known to be bullies; the victim in particular singled out an overweight classmate and tormented her for years. She was killed by the clique's Alpha Bitch because she failed a Secret Test of Character the killer had set up for her.
      • The victim in "Angels" was a pedophile who kept two boys captive to rape and abuse them. He was killed by another pedophile who objected to the victim's physical abuse of his children, but he believed that having sex with children didn't necessarily qualify as abuse, and had been "loving" his own stepson in this way for some time.
  • The Atoner: In "Turmoil", a girl sells out her friend, a victim of rape by a boy at their school, and lies in court that the victim recanted her rape claim, putting a huge dent in the prosecution's credibility. She later retracts her statement and willingly goes to the witness stand (off-screen) to publicly state that she herself lied about the victim lying.
  • Attempted Rape: Has happened several times to Olivia. In "Undercover", she's nearly raped by a prison guard, but is saved by Fin. Then, in Season 15, Olivia is nearly raped in two different incidents by the same person, William Lewis.
    • Not to mention all the cases that have involved it.

  • Baby-Doll Baby:
    • They find a women walking around the park with a plastic baby doll. She says that after god took her real baby he gave her one who could never die. They take the baby from her and refuse to give it back until she says whether she kidnapped a real missing baby.
    • In "Bullseye", a woman who'd suffered brain damage in a bus accident lost the ability to recognize her real daughter's face, treating the girl as if she were an impostor. Instead, the woman became obsessed with an online video game, and fixated on the virtual "child" of her online avatar as her "son". When the police take her and her boyfriend into custody for neglecting her real daughter, she cries and yells because they'd hauled her away from the video screen when her "son" was in in-game danger.
  • Back for the Dead: Kathy Stabler, last seen in season 12, is the victim of a car bombing meant for her husband in season 22.
  • Backstab Backfire: At the end of "Criminal". One man has a gun to the head of another, intending to kill him, but is eventually convinced to spare his life and let the police take him into custody for a crime he committed. As he walks away, the guy he wanted to kill picks up the discarded gun and attempts to shoot him in the back—only to be gunned down by a police sniper.
  • Bad Boss: The abusive female boss of Luscious Grape wine, who's a cross between Leona Helmsley and R. Budd Dwyer in that her dog got all her money while her abused employees got nothing after she held a news conference to publicly blame everyone except herself for her misfortunes and then shot herself in the head.
    • Jolene Castille, a cooking show host, restaurateur, and barely-concealed racist. She disallows her black employees from using the restaurant's bathrooms or serving white diners, she gets visibly upset when Fin touches her arm, and she tries to guilt Rollins about putting a fellow Southerner in jail for what she did. "Down home, they'd be givin' me a medal." What did she do? Shoot a sixteen year old black boy who happened to fit the description of a rapist targeting white women her age. He didn't do it.
  • Bait-and-Switch: In "Granting Immunity", the defendant who is a mother who opposed vaccines and was responsible for the events of the episode is declared Not Guilty by the jury for child endangerment much to her delight and her supporters...only to then get jail time and probation by a second charge.
  • The Bad Guy Wins: Plenty of instances of this pepper the show, but notable ones that particularly affected the characters include:
  • The Bad Guys Are Cops: At least in "Bedtime". Who killed Cal Cutler? Oh look, it was the former patrol cop played by Jaclyn Smith! And another surprise! Cal Cutler isn't dead after all!
  • Bad People Abuse Animals: Likely to show up in an episode where the Villain of the Week is a sociopathic child or teenager.
    • In "Glasgowman's Wrath", 13-year-old Perry stabs a cat to death, claiming that Glasgowman (a parody of Slender Man) told her to do it.
    • In "Born Psychopath", 10-year-old Henry drowns his neighbor's dog in the bathtub.
    • In "Conscience", when investigating the claims of a 13-year-old boy named Jake that he was abused at a wilderness survival camp, the other boys reveal that he was actually the one who bullied them. One of the things he did was kill a gopher and leave it in another boy's bed.
  • Bait the Dog: In "Home Invasions", the tragic murder of a woman who fought for LGBT rights turns out to be not so tragic when it's revealed that she knew her husband was raping their teenage daughter, and let it happen.
  • Batman Gambit: "Ace". D.A. Marlowe shows the team footage of one of the cases' important witness and evidence being destroyed by a car bomb. So the team focuses on a crooked doctor who goes on to (unintentionally) torpedo the entire case against the mafioso running the operation, by revealing something that was covered under privilege. Turns out, the Feds found the bomb and orchestrated the ruse to appear the witness was killed while Marlowe has everyone else focus elsewhere on the case. The ruse also manages to deceive the mafioso as he is unable to intimidate the witness, as her parents were brought to the USA to prevent his associates from killing them in revenge.
  • Bavarian Fire Drill: "Authority".
  • Be Careful What You Say: In "Sugar", when Vance Shepard finally confesses that it was his daughter (and not himself) who murdered his girlfriend, he notes that at the time she looked as if she might kill him too. When SVU gives him a few moments to say goodbye to her before they arrest her, she buries a pair of scissors in his neck.
    • The detectives and ADAs often make mention of prison rape when interrogating suspects. This turns around and bites Liv in the ass in "Perverted" when one man that she interrogated and was later convicted was raped in prison: he believes Liv arranged for him to be raped, and in revenge, has her DNA fabricated when he gets out so he can frame her for murder.
  • Berserk Button: Don't threaten Stabler or Amaro's families, just don't. If you need a reason or a reminder regarding Stabler, just watch Season 22 Episode 9 and the series it spun off into. Stabler has also thrown temper tantrums as a result of getting an assignment he didn't want, adverse rulings from judges, people he arrested getting acquitted, people disagreeing with him, being at work instead of at home with his family (even when it's by his choice), a suspect not immediately confessing, basically Stabler will completely lose his mind anytime he doesn't get his way.
    • Don't mess with anyone in Carisi's family either.
    • Don't ask not-Chris Brown who's texting him, especially if you're his girlfriend.
    • Don't abuse Rollins' sister Kim. Kim uses this to her advantage and sets up her abusive boyfriend to be killed.
    • In Season 15 and earlier, don't mock Liv when it comes to the fact that she's not a mother. She may just find a reason to lock your ass up.
      • From the Season 15 finale (where she becomes the mother of a foster child) onwards, going after her son Noah is a surefire way to have the entire squad (including Barba), the entire New York Police Department, and damn near every other police department in the country hunting you down with all of the fury they can muster. When he's kidnapped in one episode, the normally gentle Carisi (who's a Friend to All Children, and Noah's Honorary Uncle) actually uses Jack Bauer Interrogation Techniques on one of the people responsible to get him to talk.
    • Do not under any circumstances abuse your powers as a judge to overturn a guilty verdict Rafael Barba has fought tooth and nail for.
    • In "Real Fake News", the team is dealing with a conspiracy theorist pushing stuff on his website like a Congressman using a Chinese restaurant as a sex slave ring. At first, they treat the guy's site as just an annoyance getting in the way. But then he pushes a story on how Benson and Rollins are both "mothers of children of unknown origin", blatantly hinting they stole their kids and are thus covering up a "sex scandal". Needless to say, the two women are now joined in taking this guy down.
    Fin: (seeing Liv interrogate the guy) Think she's going to rip his head off?
    Rollins: If she doesn't, I will.
    • Don't use religious arguments to justify a crime around Carisi, and do not take advantage of your position as a religious authortity to abuse someone who trusts you.
  • Better to Die than Be Killed: Greedy Wine Business CEO Annette Cole goes out this way in "Bully".
  • Beware the Nice Ones: Dale Stuckey in the season 10 finale.
    • The COAP guy in the fall 2010 premiere.
    • A shy comic book guy who raped five women and created a vigilante group just to be with a woman who came to his store once.
  • Big Brother Instinct: Glenn from "Care" loves being a big brother, even if it's only to his foster siblings.
    • Greg from "Spectacle" also qualifies, given that he committed a big and elaborate crime just so the FBI would reopen the case and look for his missing brother.
    • "Parole Violations" shows Carisi to be incredibly protective of his family. First, he's furious when it appears that his sister's fiance cheated on her. When it comes out that her fiance was not cheating but was raped, he then extends this to said fiance; though he is initially very skeptical of the guy's story, once he realizes it's true and convinces the squad to take the case, he's the man's fiercest advocate. He is absolutely livid when it appears that the rapist will likely get away due to the belief that a woman cannot rape a man, and even defends Tommy (the fiance) to his sister when she doesn't believe that he's innocent. (Bonus points for the fact that he didn't much like or trust the guy prior to this.) He shows a similar level of protectiveness towards his niece in "In Loco Parentis".
  • Big Brother Is Watching: CCTV footage is very useful (though not to the extent of, say, Law & Order: UK (yet)).
  • Big Brother Bully:
    • In "Stranger", Nikki repeatedly mentions insulting her sister Heather about her weight and calling her a "heifer", most importantly on the day she ran away and was never seen again. In a twist, it turn out that Heather never ran away, nor was she kidnapped: Nikki pushed her down the chimney stack years ago so she wouldn't tell their parents about the latter's drug habit.
    • Teddy in "Web" is first seen pushing his little brother Jake away from a video game, and flat-out says to Stabler that he doesn't care if Jake gets molested by their father, who once did the same to him. It is later revealed that Teddy had been molesting Jake, as well as making child porn videos of him and selling them to pedophiles through his personal website.
  • Big, Screwed-Up Family: Many victims (and perps) come from messed-up families.
    • The Bernardis from "Babes". A psychotic mother who bullies her daughter's best friend into suicide (or so it seems), a daughter who deliberately gets herself pregnant by a homeless schizophrenic man, and a son who castrates said man and sets him on fire because he thought he raped his sister. The father is not present, but he got his wife pregnant when she was a teenager and is implied to have been a violent man, considering the son's claim that his dad would have been proud of him for brutally murdering his sister's baby-daddy.
    • The drug-dealing couple from "Blood". He makes his elderly mother stand outside in the cold for hours selling her prescription painkillers, she beats up junkies for money and throws another woman's baby out the window of a moving car. He ends up stabbing her to death.
    • Much of the main case has familial problems of their own, too, to say the least:
      • Olivia is a Child by Rape, had an alcoholic mother, and has a half-brother through her rapist father who perpetually finds himself in some kind of trouble.
      • Elliot's mother suffers from bipolar disorder, causing them to become estranged; his daughter, Kathleen, inherited this disorder, accounting for her misbehavior in early adulthood.
      • Munch's father committed suicide when Munch was in his teens, and his uncle also has severe depression; a bad reaction to the treatment for said depression leads to an uncontrolled manic episode in which he kills a man.
      • Amaro's father was abusive to him and his mother, and his mother and sister would later come to minimize the abuse and Gaslight Amaro for his refusal to do the same.
      • Rollins' father was a gambler and was abusive to her mother until he walked out on them completely, and is also revealed later to have developed a drug problem at some point. Her sister Kim is a drug addict who once tried to frame Rollins for murder, and her mother takes Kim's side and accuses Amanda of betraying the family when she won't cover for Kim.
      • Tutuola's undercover work caused his wife to leave him and caused a schism in his relationship with his son (though they later reconciled), but the really screwed up piece comes from the family he married into: his ex-wife was raped by her father and had a child, Darius, who went on to rape and murder a woman, then bury her baby alive.
    • The "family" in "Design" might be the worst one yet. April is a sociopathic Bitch in Sheep's Clothing who frames a man for rape and murder, cons the prospective adoptive parents of her baby out of thousands of dollars, and abandons her newborn daughter without a second thought after she's born. Her separated parents are little better: her mother kept her out of school, taught her how to con people out of their money, and molded her Social Darwinist views, while her father is a doctor who has his daughter drug wealthy men and steal their semen for him in an attempt to create a superior gene pool. Despite being a Well-Intentioned Extremist, he is still the least deranged of the three—when he tries to help his daughter, she asks him why. He says it's because he's her father and he loves her, and she coldly states, "Love is for suckers." At the end of the episode, the father is imprisoned, while April and her mother escape to Florida, having abandoned their newborn daughter/granddaughter as soon as she was no longer useful. Thankfully, the baby's father steps in to raise her.
  • Bilingual Bonus: Munch can speak or understand (at least) English, Russian, Greek, and Yiddish. This has come in handy on more than one occasion when a non-English-speaking witness has tried to pull a fast one on the detectives.
    • Ditto Huang with Chinese and Latin. Hilariously, he corrects the Latin translation of practicing Catholic Stabler.
    • Amaro and Barba are both native Spanish speakers. Amaro often speaks Spanish to suspects or victims, and Barba and Amaro have had an entire scene speaking Spanish to each other.
  • Bittersweet Ending:
    • "American Disgrace": Sweet because the real victim was exonerated, bitter because his reputation is ruined (he'll always be a serial philanderer at best and an accused rapist at worst), his sponsors have abandoned him, being accused of rape — even falsely — is not going to help him in his custody battle, and the woman he's in love with just revealed that she aborted his baby because she believed the rape allegations.
    • Really, most of the episodes are at least a little bittersweet. There's always some sort of hint at the end - something a victim or perpetrator says, a look shared between two characters, something - that says that the outcome is not quite as everyone would like it to be, or that they didn't get all the information exactly right.
      • This isn't even taking into account the fact that the victims have normally suffered horrible, heinous crimes and, assuming they're still alive (which they often are, as this is one of the crime dramas where it isn't Always Murder), the victims are going to need years of therapy to begin to approach a level of coping required to function. Even if the leads get their happy ending with the proper perpetrator convicted, there's no guarantee that the victim of the week is going to be able to work back into life; all they have is the promise of help, which those who have worked with or been through trauma know doesn't always take. There's also the possibility of the perp getting paroled in a few years for good behavior on the inside, or of them sneaking a retaliatory message out, which some episodes deal with.
  • Black-and-White Morality: Mostly displayed by Stabler, who said when asked if a criminal can be rehabilitated "Once a killer, always a killer", and Fin, who believes that criminals are scum no matter what the crime or how heinous it is.
  • Black Republican: Fin is a registered Republican who often times got into it with Detective John Munch, a Jewish Liberal. Over the course of the show, they became good friends.
  • Blaming the Victim: One particular episode has a victim who wrote a novel similar to Fifty Shades of Gray. The perpetrator tries to say that it was a completely consensual act based on her books, hoping the public, and thus the jury pool, will engage in Blaming The Victim and feel that she deserved it. A.D.A. Barba tricks the defendant into demonstrating with a belt how he choked the woman. The man responds, after some provocation, into pulling hard on the belt in front of the jury. Barba demonstrated that as hard as it had pulled on his throat, it had barely left a mark, then showed photographs of the deep bruising it had done on the woman's throat. The jury rejects the defendant's argument.
  • Bland-Name Product: In reality, the unit's called the Special Victims Division.
  • Bleak Abyss Retirement Home: An episode dealing with elder abuse was set in one of these.
  • Blond, Brunette, Redhead: The ADAs. Cabot, Donnelly and and Marlowe are the blondes, Paxton is the redhead, Greylek, Barba, and Stone are the brunettes. Novak is originally a redhead, then blonde, and later redhead again. Hardwicke straddles blond and redhead with stawberry blond hair.
  • Body Double: Featured in both fall 2010 season openers. In the first, a mom forces her foster daughter to become a duplicate of her missing real daughter to the point of giving the kid a nose job. In the second, a different mom believes her daughter to be this due to Capgras delusion; if she only hears her daughter, then she can recognize that it's her daughter, but the second she sees her, the delusion kicks in and she thinks it's an imposter.
  • Bondage Is Bad: The first season episode "Stocks and Bondage" is all about this trope, and many other episodes have featured it as well.
  • Bookends: The season 18 premiere "Terrorized" deals with the ongoing concern of Islamic terrorism in the United States, referencing recent attacks in San Bernardino and Orlando. The season 18 two-hour finale "American Dream"/"Sanctuary" deals with the ongoing issue of Islamophobia in the United States, along with other social issues associated with the Trump administration.
  • Born Lucky: William Lewis, the villain of season 14's finale and part of season 15, is this. Almost his entire criminal career hinges on this (that and a large number of Batman Gambits). He's got shades of Magnificent Bastard to him, but he seems to rely more on the fact that everything (usually) seems to go wrong for the police and the DA while they're after him. For example, in the season 14 finale and season 15 premiere, he refuses to take a plea for indecent exposure and the charges end up dropped when the witnesses go back to their home country. He then tortures and rapes an old woman, but before she can testify against him, she dies. What little evidence they have turns out to possibly be contaminated by the lab tech, which results in a mistrial. He then somehow finds Olivia's address, catches her when no one expects to hear from her for two days, breaks in without leaving any signs of a break-in, catches a seasoned detective off-guard and causes her to freeze instead of reaching for her gun like she had every other time someone broke into her home, manages to subdue her and drag her down the fire escape without anyone noticing, and doesn't get caught for days. It dips into Contrived Coincidence.
    • Lewis' lucky streak is extended later on in the season 15 premiere "Surrender Benson": After kidnapping Olivia Benson, he brings her to a (seemly abandoned) beach house, where he handcuffs her to an old-fashioned iron-framed bed with the intent of continuing to torture her, rape her and finally kill her. After his first attempt at raping her is interrupted by the house maid knocking on the front door, Olivia is able to break the bedpost that she is handcuffed to and is able to subdue Lewis long enough to handcuff him to the bed while he's unconscious. After he wakes up, he proceeds to verbally taunt Olivia; she wants to kill him but he knows she won't go through with it because she "doesn't have the balls". Olivia is finally pushed over the edge and she picks up the broken bedpost and proceeds to beat William Lewis almost to death. Lewis is lucky in that despite the fact that he receives permanent physical damage, he is still alive. (He is even more lucky when it is explained later on in the season that during the ride to the hospital, he literally died and came back to life a total of 4 times in the ambulance.)
  • Bound and Gagged: More than a few victims are restrained this way.
    • Stuckey does this to Stabler in "Zebras".
    • Benson when she's captured by William Lewis.
    • One infamous Hudson University fraternity had Pledge Week shirts with an illustrated hogtied and gagged woman with "We Don't Take No For An Answer" written on the front.
  • Brains and Bondage: "Stocks & Bondage" focuses on a group of intelligent business people, almost all of whom are into S&M.
  • Bread, Eggs, Breaded Eggs: As the "Reasonable Doubt" episode starts, a television producer threatens to kill off the character of an actor who starts bothering him with questions about his motivation.
    PA: I'm not sure we can kill him, Frank.
    Frank : Why? It's cable. Macho characters die or experiment with their sexuality, or die experimenting with their sexuality.
  • Brick Joke: In a dark way. Where an Arab-hating teen kills a Middle Eastern fellow prisoner in a holding cell. It isn't brought back up again until the very last second of the episode, where Captain Cragen gets a phone call informing them the friends of said inmate just killed him in jail.
  • Broken Aesop: "Birthright" centered around a mother kidnapping the daughter of another couple convinced she was her own daughter that had gone missing, and it was discovered she was the child's biological mother: the two had gone to the same fertility clinic and the doctor used the first woman's eggs in the second. Casey was conflicted about the ensuing custody battle and Elliot related her the Judgment of Solomon tale. Casey called the girl to testify and grilled her about the confusion over her parents until she began to cry, and the biological mother called the trial off, unwilling to put her through such an ordeal. The point of the Judgment of Solomon story is that Solomon ruled in favor of the mother who surrendered, because her unwillingness to let the child come to harm proved she loved it more and thus was the real mother. This implies that the first woman loves the child more than the couple and she should get custody, but instead she pleads guilty to custodial interference and moves out of state while the couple retains custody.
  • Broken Bird: Olivia, Alex, Casey, Amanda. In fact, pretty much every female character to ever appear on the show. If she isn't one the first time we see her, it's bound to happen eventually.
  • Broken Pedestal: In "Lunacy", Dick Finley becomes this to Elliot when he finds out that he murdered an astronaut because of his ambition.
  • Brother–Sister Incest:
    • An accidental case occures in "Families" as a teenage murder victim turns out to be the product of an affair between her mom and her boyfriend's father. The boy is horrified and even throws up when he learns of this.
    • In "Identity", a pair of adolescent twins are forced to enact incestuous sex (no penetration, but otherwise going through the motions) by their therapist, who claims it will help encourage the girl twin to think, respond and behave like a female, because she was born a male and had a sex reassignment in infancy after a surgical accident. This, of course, really happened to the late David (Brenda) Reimer and his twin brother. The twins are emotionally close, but not that close, and in fact are sickened and humiliated by these sessions.
    • The criminal couple in "Bombshell" are incestuous twins.
    • Discussed as a possibility in "Patrimonial Burden" when the brother of a pregnant thirteen-year-old is caught on tape non-consensually groping a teenage girl (the friend/piano teacher of another sister), but DNA ultimately rules him out.
  • The Bully: Annette Cole, literally. Guess what the title of the episode is that she appears in?
  • But Not Too Gay: A big deal is made about Fin's son being gay, with Fin having to deal with the news on top of the poor relationship he and Ken have already. But in spite of all the mentioning it gets, it's not until "Learning Curve" (a full six seasons after Ken was revealed to be gay) that any mention is made of an actual relationship.
    • As of Season 18, this trope is thoroughly subverted, with Ken and Alejandro not only married but also expecting their first child (via surrogate).
    • Doctor Huang as well. His coming out was teased to be a big deal, but it was only brought up in one more episode and he has never been seen in a relationship or mentioning a past one.
  • Butt-Monkey: Dale Stuckey, the overeager, inexperienced Crime Scene Unit technician. Although he is initially incompetent (and extremely annoying) the other characters act like he's being a babbling, annoying moron no matter what. When he does contribute something valid, though, it's generally presented in such an annoying manner they snap at him anyway.

  • Call-Back: Season 13's "Justice Denied" harkens back to the opening scene of Season 6's "Quarry", where Olivia is telling Cragen she got a confession after a nine-hour interrogation, with no further details given regarding the nature of the case (a completely different case drives that episode). Seven years later, the viewer is finally given the context for that scene.
  • Canon Discontinuity: Barba's father: either he's been dead for fifteen years, as he tells Amaro in "Padre Sandunguero", or he went into a diabetic coma seven years ago and lingered on life support.
  • Car Cushion: The ending of "Trade".
    • The victim in "A Single Life" also dies this way.
  • Cassandra Truth: The mother in "Locum" insists that her daughter was lured away by an older girl with red hair who was wearing green shorts and an orange top, but the sheriff couldn't find a girl matching that description and was convinced the mother was making the whole thing up to cover for an Offing the Offspring situation. Ten years later, SVU realizes she was telling the truth when they find that the initial suspect, a photographer, had a photo taken a few days later of a girl who fit the description right down to the clothes. The sheriff had asked him if he was traveling with a girl, but didn't ask if he'd seen a girl matching the mother's description, nor did he think to look through the photos taken around that time in case they contained any evidence.
    • Also in "Justice Denied", a man SVU put away eight years ago has continued to insist that his (recanted) confession was coerced and that he didn't commit a particularly brutal rape/assault, but no one believes him, in part because he knew a detail that was never made public; namely, that the scarf used to gag the victim was green. In the course of the episode, the victim mentions casually that the scarf was actually red, and subsequent investigation reveals that the officer who vouchered it was colorblind and wrote the wrong color into the report. At the end of the episode, the real culprit is found and the man who had served eight years for a crime he never committed is set free.
    • In "Dissonant Voices", a gay music teacher was accused of molesting several boys and girls. It turns out he was being set up by the sisters of the first two victims after he dropped them from his private coaching. The charges are dropped, but he'll still never be able to teach again.
  • Catchphrase:
    Elliot Stabler: I Did What I Had to Do!
    Kathy: Well, that's refreshing.
    SVU Portable, we need a bus at ...
    • If you made a video of every time a suspect says "Do you have children, detective?" it be as long as a whole episode.
    • Stuckey has a particularly annoying one for when he figures something out: "Bing, bang, bong".
    • Every member of the team, but especially Benson and Rollins, replies with "Okay," when someone delivers some horrible news. You could almost make it a Drinking Game.
    • “My office. Now.” for Cragen.
  • Categorism as a Phobia: In "Anchor", the villain of the week had killed a lot of immigrant children. The killer was overtly racist with his serial killing being an obvious hate-crime. But the defense lawyer somehow managed to convince the jury that the man couldn't help it - that his racism should be regarded as a mental illness. The defense lawyer took the case because he had seen his father "swept by evil forces" (his father was a Klansman) and believed the same thing happened to his client, but he murdered the client after learning that he fully intended to kill again.
  • Celebrity Paradox: Combined with Product Placement; several episodes have had posters for the "No More" campaign against rape and abuse in the background. The campaign is endorsed by several celebrities, including some who looks suspiciously like the detectives of SVU.
  • Chewing the Scenery: Sharon Stone does this in damn near every scene she has as ADA Jo Marlowe. It's particularly egregious in "Shattered".
  • Chemically-Induced Insanity:
    • One episode has a Villain of the Week who has a girl she was abusing (who witnessed her murder another child in her care) committed and drugged (she managed to convince the staff that the girl was legitimately insane, but the trope was otherwise in effect).
    • "Coerced" inverts it, by having a corrupt psychiatric facility take a patient off his meds to prevent him from telling anyone about a patient who died due to negligence.
    • In another episode, a psychiatrist drugged her teenage patient up to fake a schizophrenia diagnosis in order to cover up the fact that she was sleeping with him. Huang realizes something is off because the boy had been off his meds for months but was fully lucid and showing no signs of the disorder.
  • Child by Rape: Detective Olivia Benson was conceived by rape. There was a moment when it seemed like it was not the case, but then it was made clear that her father raped her mother and her mother was not lying about it.
    • A more villainous example is Darius Parker, whose mother (Fin's ex-wife) was raped by her father. While he may not have known at the time, the fact that this is the reason why his mother hated him so much that it's implied that she threatened him could explain what he became. Darius refused to believe her.
    • Benson eventually adopts another child who was conceived by rape. Noah Benson's biological mother was raped by the sex trafficker who was holding her hostage at the time.
    • Also, a good few cases deal with children conceived by rape:
      • Season 18's "Genes" featured a guy conceived through rape who started committing crimes similar to his father's. His lawyer used this as evidence for an Insanity Defense, arguing he became a rapist because of some inherited genetic defect.
      • The same premise was used in Season 3's "Inheritence".
      • Season 12's "Trophy" involved the team trailing a rapist some thirty years after his attacks. When Olivia talks to the daughter of one of the victims, the daughter — who previously had no idea — realizes she was the product of her mother's rape. As she and Olivia continuing talking and the investigation continues, Olivia realizes that the rapist they're tailing has similar patterns to her own mother's rapist, leading her to believe that the woman she's been talking to may be her half-sister. She's not, which disappoints Olivia a little bit.
      • Season 14's "Legitimate Rape" involves a victim who became pregnant from rape and a rapist claiming that that can't actually happen. Unfortunately, at least one juror buys the junk science.
  • Children Are Innocent: Zigzagged in "Unorthodox". The perp who molested and eventually raped a schoolboy is a boy of a similar age whose father is so neglectful he sends his free time watching porn. Unfortunately, while the videos taught him the mechanics of sex, they didn't teach him anything about consent. He assaulted his classmate to simulate prison rape, taking for a show of dominance that would stop him from getting bullied at school.
  • Coffin Contraband: In "Brotherhood", A victim's fraternity brother places the fraternity paddle that he used to sexually assault an initiate in the coffin of his murdered friend. Luckily for the detectives, the coffin is ceremonial only as the victim is cremated, and the personal items from the coffin are removed and stored until the next-of-kin instructs the funeral home on what to do with them, giving Benson and Stabler time to find the item before it can be destroyed.
  • Cold Opening: There is the "In the criminal justice system..." narration over the logo, the premise of the episode is introduced, and the opening credits.
  • Cold Reading: Done to the cops by the villain in "Pure".
  • Comically Missing the Point: A very dark example at the end of "Pure". The female half of a husband and wife pair of rapist/murderers asks with complete sincerity if their "son" will be allowed to visit her if she goes to prison. Even apart from the idea that that there's an "if" — aside from being an accomplice to her husband, she murdered the boy's real mother — she's completely shocked at the idea that a grieving widower whose wife she killed to steal their baby would never allow said baby anywhere near her again, whining, "But I'm the only mother he knows!"
  • Comically Small Bribe: Played for drama in "Turmoil". A teenage girl is raped by a popular boy, who bribes her friend to sell her out in court by giving her some clothes, an iPod, and an invitation to a popular kids' party.
  • Commuting on a Bus: Many former cast members, most notably Cabot and Novak, became Recurring Characters.
  • Conspiracy Theorist: Munch. Hearing a police officer rant about the nefarious machinations of The Man make them sound all the more ridiculous.
    • On the rare occasion an episode will hilariously turn it into a case of Chekhov's Hobby whenever the case involves needing to worm through a layer of paranoid conspiracy nuts. Then, Munch becomes an effective means of getting through to them.
    • "Zebras" deals with a schizophrenic man who became a conspiracy theorist after the 9/11 attacks.
  • Content Warnings: Even though a show about sexually-based offenses is already shocking enough, there are several episodes that have these displayed before it begins. It could be a formal one issued on episodes aired on USA Network or a crude white-lettering of "Viewer Discretion Advised" on black background on local stations.
  • Continuity Nod: Munch listing the former partners who have left him? Cassidy, Jeffries, and even Bolander from Homicide: Life on the Street.
  • Corpsing: In "Popular", Olivia's lips noticeably twitch when delivering a cheesy pun based on student body. An outtake shows Mariska Hargitay couldn't make it through without breaking down giggling.
  • Crapsaccharine World: On a smaller scale, the seemingly-ordinary elite academy in "Hothouse" that deliberately instructed its students on how to obtain prescription ADD pills in order to improve their performance, leading to one girl staying up for six days, going insane, and subsequently murdering her roommate. Even before that, it was obvious that the school cared more about its reputation than the well-being of its students, when Benson asked the headmistress if she knew about the victim's broken wrist and cigarette burns, and the headmistress's first response was not "Oh no, that's terrible", but "Are you insinuating that happened at Morewood?" The headmistress also lied to Benson and Stabler that the two roommates were best friends, when in fact they despised each other to the point of one of them asking to be moved to a new dorm.
  • Create Your Own Villain: "Making A Rapist", where Shawn Roberts was mistakenly identified as having raped Melanie 16 years prior and imprisoned, and was raped while in prison. He was exonerated but found himself ill-adjusted. While he got along with Melanie's daughter Ashley, he ended up raping and killing her in a drunken rage after trying to confess his love for her. Melanie even agonizes over testifying as if she were right this time, it would acknowledge that she held a bit of responsibility in setting off the chain of events that turned a once-innocent man into a killer and led to the demise of her daughter.
  • Crime Time Soap: Big time.
  • Critical Psychoanalysis Failure:
  • Crossover: Cragen and ADA Cutter came from the original Law and Order, and they got Connie Rubirosa for one episode. Alexandra Eames appeared in two episodes in season 14.
    • The first season was practically an expansion of season 10 of Law And Order, with Lenny Brisco, Abby Carmichael, and other mains from the mother ship making several appearances.
    • One episode in Season 16, aptly titled "Chicago Crossover," was part 2 of a crossover starting with Chicago Fire and ending in Chicago P.D..
  • Cruel and Unusual Death: "Fight" had a gang leader get crushed in a garbage truck. "Wildlife" had a man get eaten by hyenas.
  • Curse Cut Short: in "Penetration", Dana Lewis shoots a warning shot at the man who raped her, and calls him "mother...!" before Olivia interrupts to tell her that her warning shot ricocheted and hit Elliot.
    • Elliot also calls Paxton a "walking cluster..." when Paxton walks in and tells him she agrees, but "wouldn't have censored herself".
    • A milder version; temporary captain Harris is talking about ADA Rafael Barba in "Twenty-Five Acts". Talking about his reputation, he says "guy's got big brass..." and then cuts himself off and says "ego".
    • In "Amaro's One-Eighty," the defense lawyer triumphantly declares her opponents will be "tripping all over their...ties," looking as if it is a mighty struggle not to say "dicks".
  • Cycle of Revenge: The main theme of "Baby Killer". Elliot even compares it to the Gaza Strip.

  • Danger Room Cold Open: In season 14, episode 15, "Deadly Ambition", the episode begins with Rollins and Tutuola interrupting what looks like a man assaulting a woman. They back the man up against the wall and warn him not to resist—but the woman unexpectedly stands up and fires a gun at Rollins. It turns out this was just a police exercise, and as the man explains, the woman was able to catch Rollins off guard because people tend to see women as victims.
  • Darker and Edgier: Than the parent series by a good margin. Both have Crapsack World on display in earnest but this series lands much further on the cynical side. While Law & Order had criminals facing justice one way or another, this series has Laser-Guided Karma as naught but a wistful dream at times and the possibility of becoming a Karma Houdini is always present. Similarly, while the main characters on Law & Order weren't free of vice they were saints compared to the ones here who practically live by Protagonist-Centered Morality and arguably cause more problems than they ultimately solve with their actions.
  • Dark Secret: Too many to count:
    • Darius, Fin's stepson, was born from Fin's ex-wife being raped by her father, and her neglect turned him into a monster
    • Stabler's mother's bipolar disorder
    • Olivia being born from her mother's rape (also the Awful Truth to her half-brother), although she does share it with the people she's close to.
    • FBI Agent Dana "Star" Lewis murdered her ex-boyfriend's fiancee 30 years ago and "unconsciously" pinned it on the serial rapist/murderer she was chasing at the time; things unravel when the rapist is finally caught and his "last victim" has nothing in common with the others.
    • Munch's father committed suicide when Munch was a teenager, and he's been wracked with guilt ever since because his last words to him were that he hated his guts.
    • After several seasons of hints, it's revealed that Amanda was raped by her deputy chief in Atlanta. He first coerced her to have sex with him in exchange for getting her sister out of trouble, and then physically forced her when she tried to back out.
  • Dawn of an Era:
    • Season 2 saw the departure of original cast member Monique Jeffries but introduced four of the show's prominent main characters;: Alexandra Cabot, Fin Tutuola, Melinda Warner, and George Huang.
    • The appropriately named Season 5 episode "Serendipity" introduces Casey Novak, who would turn out to be the show's longest-serving ADA (and second-longest in the franchise history) to date.
    • Season 9 saw John Munch's promotion to sergeant, making him the official Number Two of the The Squad.
    • Season 13 saw the arrival of main cast members Amanda Rollins and Nick Amaro after the departures of original cast member Elliot Stabler and Season 2 additions George Huang and Melinda Warner. It's also the point where the show became the only active series of the Law & Order franchise.
    • Season 14 introduces Rafael Barba, the show's first male ADA and the second-longest serving one in the role (third overall in the franchise) after Novak.
    • With Munch and Capt. Cragen's departures in Season 15, the newly promoted Olivia becomes the commanding officer of SVU. It's also the first year the she show had crossovers with the Chicago franchise.
    • Season 16 saw Olivia's promotion to lieutenant and her adoption of Noah, along with the introduction of Sonny Carisi.
    • Season 18 saw Fin's promotion to sergeant, making him the official Number Two of The Squad.
    • Season 21 saw Olivia's promotion as captain, officially making her Da Chief of SVU, as well as Carisi becoming the ADA. It's also the year the show surpassed both the parent series and Gunsmoke as the longest TV show in American history.
    • Season 22 marks the return of Elliot Stabler after a decade-long absence to headline Law & Order: Organized Crime, officially revitalizing the Law & Order franchise.
  • A Day in the Limelight: Munch and/or Fin, occasionally. Munch got to shine when his uncle Andy (played by none other than Jerry Lewis) got involved in a crime; the same happened with Fin and the episodes involving his gay son Ken, his ex-wife Theresa, and his evil stepson Darius.
    • Warner gets one in Season 7 ("Blast"), and Huang gets a few over the course of the series.
    • "Criminal", "Russian Brides", and the "Lost Reputation"/"Above Suspicion" duo are this for Cragen, who, while important to the squad's work, wasn't the focus of very many episodes.
    • "Web" for recurring character Morales.
  • Deadpan Snarker: Back when Munch had actual lines. Fin gets a few of these as well. Cragen too, occasionally. Once he came on in season 14, Barba became the team's main snarker.
    • Even Olivia has a moment. In "Liberties" After a stalker is bitten by his victim's guard dog and arrested without seeing a doctor first, he demands the dog be tested for rabies. Cue "I highly doubt you gave the dog rabies."
    • The RDK copycat in "Scavenger" was pretty good at this:
    RDK: She got away from him, but not me.
    Elliot: Well, she's a sixty-five year old woman.
    RDK: Not looking good for sixty-six. note 
  • Death by Sex: WAY too many times to count, but considering the fact that it's the main characters' job to investigate sex crimes, it's a Justified Trope.
    • Sometimes subverted by the show. A notable Double Subversion happens in one episode that begins with a couple having an extra-marital affair and the married partner of one arriving. The other flees through a window and discovers the actual Victim of the Week, who is dead in the apartment below. Then it's discovered that she wasn't raped, but that she was staged like the victims of a 1970s serial killer / rapist that is still at large.
  • Death of Personality: Season 8's "Uncle" ends with Munch's clinically depressed uncle coming off his medication to "kill" himself as penance for murdering a suspect while in a mania caused as a side effect of his (different) medication.
  • Deliberate Values Dissonance: In "The Five-Hundredth Episode", Olivia has to confront her relationship with a college student when she was only sixteen. At the time (The '80s), gaining the attention of an attractive twentysomething of one's preferred gender was viewed as the fulfilment of a teenage fantasy, with contemporary works portraying such relationships in a positive light. Nowadays, the twentysomething in question would be regarded as a predator. While early episodes of SVU portrayed Olivia's relationship in a positive light, in this episode, she is forced to confront the fact that her ex-boyfriend was a predator, and he is still preying on younger women.
  • Depraved Bisexual: Flirted with in Season 4's "Dominance" about a series of murders in which the victims were forced to have sex with/rape each other. The perps are a pair of brothers. In an interview with the dominant brother's ex-girlfriend the squad learns that her threesome with the two turns into a twosome which doesn't include her. The girlfriend indicates that the dominant brother forced the other, and the boys' father concurs that it was a rape, but it's not clear that the submissive brother agrees.
  • Destructive Romance: The show has portrayed many of these over the years. In "Persona", Olivia tries in vain to convince a woman to report her husband for Domestic Abuse. Of course, she refuses to betray her beloved like that and eventually ends up dying in Olivia's arms, stabbed to death by her husband.
    • There's the unfortunate singer in "Funny Valentine" who loves her abusive boyfriend even after he beats her face in and killed her producer/father-figure; after she lies for him to the grand jury they go to the Bahamas where he kills her a few days later over the same thing that caused him to beat her the first time years earlier: she asked who was texting him. She was from a dysfunctional family ruled by her mother's boyfriend; her boyfriend's father was a pimp; one person commented they were, unfortunately, "made for each other".
  • Did Not Think This Through: In "Execution", Matthew Brodus deliberately attacks Stabler and Huang mid-interrogation to provoke the guards into beating him, as he knows about the law stating that an injured inmate can't be executed. But while the episode treats this as him getting some sort of last laugh over his victims' families, he's now in an indefinite coma, having to breathe via life-support, and still eligible for execution when/if he ever wakes up — so it's exceedingly difficult to see him as a Karma Houdini or anything.
  • Dirty Harriet: Olivia does this twice, albeit briefly, in Season 10. She goes undercover as a prostitute in "Wildlife", and a madam in "Hothouse".
  • Dirty Old Man: Julian Cooper in "Avatar" is one; he looks to be in his sixties and his victim is 21. Not only that, but he's basically pretending she's a teenager. He's a particularly destructive version of this trope, as his victim dies as a result of the drugs given to her. He also had a sexual relationship with a 15-year-old 25 years earlier, which would still put him in his late thirties at the youngest, and although she was convinced they were truly in love, it quickly becomes clear that the major attraction for him was her age.
  • Dirty Old Woman: Rita Wills in "Bedtime"
    Rita Wills: For you, I'll even say ahh.
  • Disposable Sex Worker: Averted strongly. Any character who expresses the attitude that prostitutes don't matter as much as other victims is almost always immediately in Hate Sink territory if not an outright villain.
  • Disproportionate Retribution: The episode "Juvenile" centers around two young teenagers who broke into a woman's apartment, during which the younger one raped and repeatedly stabbed her. Due mainly to the ages of the two perpetrators, the younger assailant, who was the primary actor, is given the relatively light treatment of family court, while the older but less mature boy is tried in adult court, found guilty of felony murder, and is facing a possible life sentence.
    • The main villains of "Intimidation Game" torture and rape a female game-developer over the Internet; force her to falsely admit onscreen that she's only using her lover to get ahead in her career; and ultimately — despite her being saved in the end — send her over the Despair Event Horizon and cause her to quit her passion. Why? Because they don't believe in Gamer Chicks.
    • The perp in "Father Dearest" turns out to have been framing a former colleague who exposed him for cheating on an exam and later stole his girlfriend. Apparently, this warrants trying to destroy the man's life 20-something years later by trying to frame him for rape and kidnapping and seducing his teenage daughter.
    • In the episode “Swimming with the Sharks,” a scheming secretary frames her best friend for two rapes, embezzlement, destroys her hard earned career & private business, and drives her to the brink of insanity...all because her friend may or may not have stolen her pendant decades ago when they were children at a summer camp.
  • Distressed Dude: Stabler in "Zebras".
  • The Doll Episode: "Dolls", naturally.
  • Donut Mess with a Cop: From "Personal Fouls":
    Benson (to Amaro): "A cop who doesn't eat donuts? How can I trust you?"
    • In a later episode, Benson's love interest David Haden arranges to meet her in a donut shop. She quips that he really knows how to "woo a cop".
  • Double-Meaning Title: At least seven, possibly more.
    • "Swing", about Stabler's daughter's bipolar issues (and her mood swings). When he and Benson find her, she's playing on a playground swing.
    • "Beef", about the death of a young reporter investigating a shady meatpacking plant. To have "beef" with someone also means to have a grudge against them.
    • "Lunacy", about the murder of an astronaut, is also a word that means "insanity".
    • "Babes", about four pregnant teenage girls and their unborn babies.
    • "Bang", about a man who is a serial reproductive abuser and intentionally impregnates several women. When the man is murdered, his neighbors say that they heard a "wet bang" when it happened.
    • "Betrayal's Climax", about a girl whose boyfriend sets her up to be gang-raped, and to her horror, she experiences an orgasm during her ordeal.
    • "Shaken", about a toddler who suffers brain damage from shaken baby syndrome. Stabler is shaken by the severity of her injuries and her young age, recalling an incident when he nearly lost his temper with his own daughter when she was that age.
  • Double Standard: While there are exceptions, female offenders on the whole are more likely to be portrayed in a relatively sympathetic light (usually by means of some kind of Freudian Excuse) than male offenders (who even if they have traumatic pasts will usually be hit with Freudian Excuse Is No Excuse).
    • There's also a racial disparity in how the detectives are treated. Benson and Stabler (both white) never face any punishment, regardless of how stupid, illegal, unconstitutional, or just plain wrong their actions are. Meanwhile Jeffries (black), Amaro (Hispanic), and Lake (Native American) are not so lucky. Munch (Jewish) and Fin (black) are something of a middle ground as they have never been punished, but haven't done nearly as much as Benson and Stabler to deserve it.
  • Double Standard: Rape, Female on Male: The show sometimes tries to avert or subvert this, but more often than not it winds up supporting it.
    • The general belief for the majority of the episode "Ridicule" was that men can't be raped by women. This belief was partially due to the victim Peter Smith being a stripper and male actor. Many people also thought he was lying about being raped because he was a man.
    • Defied and deconstructed in "Parole Violations". Carisi's sister's fiancé is raped at gunpoint by his parole officer. The trope does come into play when the officer's supervisor treats it like a joke and the victim's girlfriend blames him for "cheating" on her (until Olivia sets her straight). However, the police take the case seriously (with no Idiot of the Week unlike the above episode), it's clear that the victim's life is being ruined by the experience, and when the officer tries to explain herself in the end, she gives obviously lame excuses and comes across as wholly unsympathetic to the audience. The double standard is invoked here to show that the case is a hard sell, but it is clear that the writers intend the viewers to reject it.
    • In "Branded" two men are sodomized and mutilated in separate incidents. The detectives immediately treat them as perps rather than victims; when the detectives' assumptions are proven right, and it turns out the victims had raped their rapist years prior, the DA sets them up to be convicted of perjury (when they testify against their rapist in court but initially fail to admit their past crimes) while getting their rapist off on a trespassing charge. Huang gets off a single line early on about how easily the detectives are jumping to blame the victim, but otherwise the trope is played entirely straight; the serial rapist even gets a happy ending when the DA arranges for her to reunite with her daughter who she'd given up for adoption. Give the case a male serial rapist and it's hard to imagine SVU not only arranging for him to go free, but handing over a tween girl to him, just because the people he'd been caught raping had previously raped him. In a fully gender-flipped case one might expect the story-opening victims to be treated sympathetically at first, as apparent victims of a sexual predator; for the twist to come as a shock to everyone; and for the avenging rapist to get his revenge in court but only after accepting a deal for hard time, as punishment for his own crimes.
    • Discussed in "Learning Curve", in which a teenage boy who initially claims he was molested by a male teacher was actually having sex with a female teacher. The boy's father beat up the male teacher, but when the truth comes out, he thinks the kid is lucky for having sex with a hot older woman, even though it's still abuse due to the boy's age and the power differential. The detectives are clearly annoyed, though not surprised, by this disparate reaction, saying that the kid is still a victim but "instead of getting help, he's going to be getting high fives".
  • Downer Ending: A significant chunk of the episodes fall under this.
    • Starting with the events in "Venom", leading up to "Screwed". Everything goes downhill for the cast as their past mistakes come back to bite them in the ass like Stabler's daughter Kathleen's DUI and his subsequent cover up, Benson's supplying money for her brother to escape police supervision and Fin's mishandling of evidence from a narcotics case ten years ago. The results of those mistakes become the key reason why Darius Parker walks away scot-free.
    • Another big example is "Unstable". Basically, a serial rapist was caught, exonerating another man falsely imprisoned for his crime. However, either due to the actions of the Cowboy Cop or the perp escaping, the guy dies and is therefore unable to testify, meaning the wrongfully imprisoned man doesn't get released.
    • The ending of "Sick", as if the Abusive Parents factor weren't bad enough. The granddaughter has permanent internal damage from the poisoning. The boy who claimed to have been molested by Billy Tripoli recants — but it's likely his parents forced him to in order to keep getting millions in hush money, and they sent the dangerously disturbed kid out of the country. With Billy declared innocent and acquitted, possibly thousands more kids are at risk unless a new victim steps forward, doesn't recant, and hopefully has lots of evidence and support against Billy's legal team, which will use the previous cases as precedent to accuse him/her of lying. Thanks, Grandma.
    • The end of "Smoked". Despite the three men responsible for her mother's death being incarcerated (the rapist, the man the rapist hired to intimidate his victim but went one step further and murdered her, and an ATF agent who gave the murder weapon and then tried to cover it up), her daughter goes into the precinct, and after finding out from Benson who they all are, shoots all three and also several other innocent people for no good reason. What's more is that the murderer survives and eggs her on, saying that he should have killed her as well. She then tries to shoot him again, but Stabler fatally wounds her and she dies moments later. At the end, at least four people are dead (the girl, the rapist and the ATF agent, and the recurring character Sister Peg), while the psychopath who murdered her mother right in front of her survives. Shoot the Shaggy Dog, full stop. Not to mention this leads to Elliot Stabler leaving the force.
    • The end of "Funny Valentine": While the ads hinted at the abusive boyfriend getting killed what really happened was the abuser killed his girlfriend's producer/father-figure (the "he" in the "he's dead!" in the ads). After she lied to the grand jury and left the country to join him in the Bahamas the only thing the detectives could do was wait for the abusive boyfriend's next move — unfortunately it was to kill her after she dared to ask who was texting him, the very question that marked the beginning of his abuse.
    • "Surrender Benson": Benson is rescued from psychopath William Lewis before he can rape and kill her, but she has been tortured, forced to watch a rape and two murders, and is completely traumatized.
    • "American Tragedy": like in the real-life George Zimmerman verdict, Jolene Castille is acquitted of murdering an unarmed teenager.
    • "October Surprise": ADA Barba's childhood best friend is revealed to have been sexting and soliciting a teenage girl, which tanks his campaign for mayor. Barba's friendship with him is ruined because he was the one to press charges, and the mayoral candidate also threatens to end his political future. A reverend heckles Barba about choosing to prosecute him, which suggests that the citizens of NYC are turning against him, and he's made some enemies pretty high up.
    • "Mean": The three popular girls responsible for the murder of another teenager are convicted, but the outcast overweight girl they had been trying to pin the murder on is bullied to the point where she commits a shooting at school immediately after the verdict is decided - because having the real murderers arrested didn't make a difference to the students that worshiped the popular girls and students continued to bully her that badly. In other words, the three popular blonde students were able to corrupt the student body that badly that it ended up inadvertently leading to another murder.
    • "Dissonant Voices": The music teacher the squad was insisting had molested several boys and girls... isn't. He was set up by two girls he recently dropped from his private lessons. His reputation is ruined and he'll never be able to teach again.
    • "Rapist Anonymous": The guy Amanda is dating, who is also her Gamblers Anonymous sponsor, reveals that he cheated on her on the witness stand, publicly humiliating her. She ends up relapsing and the episode ends with her playing Blackjack in a casino.
    • December Solstice. Barba's abuelita dies.
    • The ending of "Baby Killer": Cabot drops the murder charges against 7-year-old Elias, after it comes out he witnessed a murder and was trying to shoot the killers he saw out of fear for his own safety - the events that lead to him accidentally killing a little black girl at his school. As Elias is Latino, there are fears that racial tensions could reach a breaking point, as one man yells that the charges dropped means letting the killers of black children walk away scot-free. The girl's mother even encourages the violence to end, asking the parents to go home and take care of their kids, not seek revenge. Elias is finally prepared to go home to his loving parents and hopefully put this nightmare behind him. As everyone congratulates Alex and prepares to go out for drinks, Cragen gets a call - a young black boy shot and killed Elias, yelling "You can't kill a sister and just walk!" as he's dragged off to the squad car.
    • Season 2 LOVES these. The ending of "Noncompliance" follows "Baby Killer": A paranoid schizophrenic witnesses a rape and murder, and attacks the perp, severely wounding him. The witness is then given a choice: Take his medication to make a lucid statement and return home to supervised treatment, or refuse his medication, unable to deliver his testimony, and stay in prison, with the prisoners abusing him. He consents to the medication - but shortly after being medicated and providing the testimony that helps the squad nail the rapist/murderer, the witness commits suicide by strangling himself, unable to deal with the side effects of his medication and the loneliness of his lucid reality. Olivia quietly apologizes to the mother, who coldly tells them to go to hell as she brushes past them to identify the body.
    • "Catfishing Teacher": Due to being pressured by the detectives to testify against a pedophile coach that everyone else is too afraid or ashamed to, one of his victims completely snaps and records himself brutally torturing the coach to give a confession (which legally would have meant nothing since it was coerced). The coach is beaten and stabbed so badly that he dies, leaving the victim to be charged with first-degree murder. And the kicker? He has no regrets and just calmly accepts his fate.
    • "Pornstar's Requiem:" A woman stars in fake rape porns (as the more grotesque/niche porns pay more for her expensive college education) gets actually raped. In return, she tries to report it and fight back. She wins the immediate case, but the judge overturns the appeal, based on some backwards beliefs that she had no respect for herself or her body and that somehow "no did not clearly mean no." Furthermore, she is expelled from said college she starred in the porn to pay for. The college headmistress claims it's a violation of school code, but a scene between Benson and the other gentleman indicate there was more of a political power play involved. After watching Barba (rightfully) claim in disbelief that "the judge has essentially given men the right to rape a woman based on her sexual history", Evie is broken after the events. The last scene of the episode is of Evie taking a drug (methaqualone, used as a muscle relaxant), voice clearly breaking up and nearly in tears, disrobing and walking into the middle of 10-12 half naked guys getting ready for a porn shoot. To her, "at least when I say stop, they stop."
    • "Heartfelt Passages" and "The Longest Night Of Rain" both end with the death of a major recurring character (Mike Dodds and Ed Tucker respectively).
  • Dressing as the Enemy: Undercover gigs are a staple of this show. One episode in particular, "Demons", had Elliot pretending to be a convicted sex offender in order to get close to a rapist who had just been released from prison. Not only does this challenge Elliot with his own issues, but at one point said sex offender orders Elliot to rape a teenage girl while he watches. It's as intense as it sounds.
    • Two iterations of this collide in "Undercover Mother", when the operation that SVU decides to bust via a sting turns out to be linked to the long-term case that Declan Murphy, the team's former lieutenant, is working. Not only does each operation end up interfering with the other, but as part of his cover, Murphy pistol-whips someone he thinks is a john, but it's actually another SVU detective (Carisi) who transferred in after Murphy's departure.
  • Driven to Suicide: Often spurred by somebody crossing the Despair Event Horizon; most often a victim who's given up on seeing justice done or a former suspect who couldn't take the team's usual methods of interrogation.
    • A big one is the mentally ill witness in "Noncompliance" whom Olivia bullies, browbeats and pressures into temporarily modifying his medical routine so he can testify in an especially difficult case. She later finds the dude's lifeless body, as he has hung himself due to both her abusive behavior towards him and the side-effects of said med changes.
    • "Weak" ends with Hendrix telling Benson that Miranda Tate, a woman with schizophrenia who was the victim of a serial rapist, has committed suicide.
    • Another one is "Haystack" - a child goes missing and his mother hangs herself after an overzealous reporter accuses her of murdering her child during an interview. Stabler promptly chews the reporter out on live TV after the child is found alive. The beginning of this episode eerily mirrors the Melinda Duckett case with the reporter being a Expy of Nancy Grace.
    • In the episode "Bully", a corporate boss shoots herself after video footage of her abusing a timid business partner is leaked and her business is ruined. She castigates her late partner, the media, her employees and police at a press conference before killing herself, saying it was their fault. It's possibly a reference to the public suicide of former Pennsylvania treasurer R. Budd Dwyer, who shot himself during a press conference (his behavior was more contrite however). This inspired the song "Hey Man Nice Shot" by Filter.
    • Subverted in one episode where the team thinks that a teenaged girl hung herself after being a victim of cyberbullying due to her getting knocked up by another guy. At the end of the episode, they end up catching the person who killed her, her boyfriend who couldn't take the fact that she got pregnant in the first place.
    • Tucker in “The Longest Night of Rain” kills himself so that his wife won’t have to watch him slowly succumb to cancer.
  • Driven to Villainy: Seen in many guest stars, often thanks to the actions of the detectives.
    • One notable example is in "Spectacle" where a girl is taken captive and raped with one of her kidnappers threatening to kill her when confronted unless his demands are followed. Turns out it was all a ruse (the "victim" was in on it the whole time) to get the police to search for his younger brother, after being pushed aside so many times for other events, knowing that they would do so if the life of a young girl was at stake.
  • Drop the Hammer: "Hammered".

  • Early Installment Weirdness:
    • The first season was, surprisingly enough, probably the closest the franchise has gotten to having outright comedy. Obviously, given the show's subject matter, this resulted in a lot of Mood Whiplash moments (this is very evident in the Pilot). This is in stark contrast to the melodramatic and somber atmosphere that is associated with the show today.
    • The ending montage of the show's original opening credits features the cast walking towards the viewer while talking with each other similar to the opening of the parent series (and later Law & Order: Criminal Intent). The one that is used to this day where the cast are posing still while looking at the camera wasn't shown until the second episode of Season 2 coinciding with Stephanie March and Ice-T's Promotion to Opening Titles. Speaking of the original opening credits, Christopher Meloni was credited as "Chris Meloni" throughout Season 1.
    • Believe it or not, in the early episodes, it was Olivia Benson who was the fly-off-the-handle-violent-temper hothead partner and Elliot Stabler who was the stable, analytical, don't-let-it-get-to-you partner.
    • Olivia Benson actually had a normal relationship with her mother early on.
    • Aside from his introduction, Fin is casually wearing suits while on duty during his first season. And speaking of his introduction attire, they are bright colored instead of being dark and muted like the ones Fin has been wearing since.
    • Amanda Rollins fondly mentions in Season 14 that her sister gives her stuff, suggesting a friendly relationship than later episodes would imply. (Then again, she seems to have a rosy view of that relationship and Kim in general, at least until Kim finally pushes her too far, so it's unclear.)
  • Embarrassing Damp Sheets: Averted in "Bedtime"; a suspect explains why her blood was on the bed where a murder took place: she and the victim's husband were going to have sex there, but then her period came. (And she kept the sheets to prove it, since she was a Stalker with a Crush.)
  • Embarrassing Tattoo: In "Spectacle": A tattoo was supposed to mean "Try or Die" in Chinese, but what it actually meant was "Pie or Die."
  • Empty Cop Threat: A favorite trope of the entire franchise. Don't expect anyone to be called out on it no matter how much they use it to strong-arm people into talking.
  • Empty Shell: Missy in "Damaged" is a realistic variation on this trope. After being arrested, she tells detectives, "You can't kill me. I'm already dead."
  • End of an Age:
    • The appropriately named Season 5 episode "Loss" saw the departure of the show's first ADA Alexandra Cabot. She would eventually rejoin the cast briefly from Seasons 10-11, however.
    • The Season 9 finale "Cold" saw the departures of Casey Novak and Chester Lake. Novak, who was immediately introduced after the aforementioned Cabot's departure, was the longest serving A.D.A in the show to this very day.
    • Season 12 is what many believed to be the final "classic" SVU run. The Season Finale "Smoked" in particular featured the departures of original cast member Elliot Stabler along with Season 2 additions Melinda Warner and George Huang (though the latter already made his final appearance a few episodes prior, his actor is still credited), as well as the death of long-time (circa Season 3) Recurring Character Sister Peg. Also coinciding with this are the conclusions of both Law & Order: LA and Law & Order: Criminal Intent around the same time, making it the final time the show is part of the original Law & Order franchise since the parent series already concluded the previous year. The season also marked the last appearances to date of the show's resident judges Lena Petrovsky and Elizabeth Donnelly. Perhaps symbolic of the larger changes, it's also the last season to use the One-Word Title Idiosyncratic Episode Naming; beginning in Season 13, multi-word titles became the new norm.
    • Season 15 saw the retirement of original cast members John Munch and Donald Cragen, leaving Olivia Benson as the sole original cast member left. Not only that, but their departures took away the show's remaining connections to both the parent series and Homicide: Life on the Street in which Cragen and Munch were respectively transplanted from.
    • The Season 16 finale "Surrendering Noah" features the departure of Nick Amaro, Olivia's second partner in the series.
    • The Season 17 finale featured the first ever instance in the series of a member of the unit being killed in the line of duty, not to mention the permanent impact it has on other major characters (particularly Benson and Chief Dodds).
    • Season 19 saw the departure of Rafael Barba, the show's first male ADA and the second-longest serving one in the show after the aforementioned Novak.
    • The Season 20 finale. Not only did it featured the departure of the show's fifth ADA Peter Stone, it also leads to the show officially outliving its parent series.
    • Season 21 features the deaths of two prominent recurring characters; Olivia's half-brother Simon Marsden who was introduced in Season 8, and Ed Tucker who was a presence in the show since Season 3.
  • Enfant Terrible:
    • The episode "Born Psychopath" revolves around Henry, a manipulative 10-year old boy who has homicidal tendencies whenever he doesn't get what he wants, to the point where he locks his mother in the laundry room, ties his sister to a bed while nearly lighting his family's apartment on fire, ties a neighbor's kid to a chair in a closet, drowns his neighbor's dog, takes another child hostage inside a playroom, and shoots Amaro in the abdomen. Fortunately, Amaro was wearing a bulletproof vest.
    • The episode "Lost Traveler" revolves the real killer Courtney, who shows no emotion except with a mild annoyance that her friend Emma told the truth. When asked why she did it, she simply replied with an emotionless: "Why not?"
      • In the very similar Season 1 episode "Uncivilized", that killer, a teenage boy, says of his victim that the child "was a loser anyway" (while his friend, who does have a conscience, breaks down sobbing in the next room).
    • The two girls in "Dissonant Voices" who manipulated their brothers into accusing their music teacher of sexual misconduct because he dropped them from his private coaching.
  • Enhance Button: Used often. Notably deconstructed in "Authority" guest-starring Robin Williams. He acts as his own defense attorney and questions the techie on the software used to enhance a photograph that showed him leaving a library, which was the key piece of evidence against him. He coaxed the techie into admitting that the software can only make educated guesses based on various factors of the picture itself and can't actually recreate the scene shown the photograph in higher resolutions. Williams's character then presented the original photograph, where his face is too shadowed to be seen. It works and the jury lets him go.
  • Ephebophile: The writers think these guys are scum.
  • Even Evil Has Loved Ones: Benito Escobar in "Poisoned Motive". He is a major Smug Snake who doesn't even flinch at a Jack Bauer Interrogation Technique. When he finds out his girlfriend is assassinated, that facade falls apart and he's left a sobbing mess.
    • The Season 2 episode "Victims" revolves around a serial killer targeting paroled sex offenders. The detectives, Stabler in particular, have a hard time showing sympathy for the dead offenders' families and loved ones, who clearly still loved them in spite of their transgressions.
  • Every Car Is a Pinto: Occurs to hilarious effect in "Bullseye". A suspected pedophile takes off in his car outside of a courtroom and drives into the side of a truck at a relatively low speed. The crowd reacts with shock as the officers sprint towards the crash, and after several seconds have passed, the car explodes in a spectacular fireball complete with several-story high flames. From minor front end damage that barely even crumpled the bodywork.
  • Everyone Has Standards: In "Rockabye", a nurse is personally opposed to abortion and is okay with using a fake abortion clinic ruse to try to talk women out of getting abortions, but draws the line at the head doctor of her clinic extending the ruse to pretending to schedule the procedure and then using fake medical reasons to deliberately delay their appointments until it's too late for them to abort.
  • Everything Is Racist: In "P.C.", lesbian rights (no, not LGBT rights, solely lesbian rights at first) activist Babs Duffy constantly accuses peoples of lesphobia, usually over trivial slights. However, she turns out to be right that there really is a rapist targeting lesbians, who actually did commit a deliberate slight against her just so she'd be irked. Her militancy backfires against Duffy after she comes out as being bisexual, which outrages her followers.
  • Evil All Along:
    • ADA Paula Foster, albeit her reasons make her something of a Tragic Villain.
    • The psychiatrist in "Repression" appears to be a caring professional who is treating a young woman with a long history of sexual abuse by her own father. In the end, it turns out that the psychiatrist is a quack who inadvertently brainwashed the woman into believing she was molested by treating her with sodium amytal, a drug notorious for creating false memories in people who take it, thereby leading the victim to a narrative that matched what the therapist already believed to be true. Her careless and dangerous conduct results in the young woman's father getting killed and the whole family getting torn apart.
    • In the third season episode "Justice," a grieving mother of a teenage girl is revealed to be the one who murdered her own daughter in a fit of rage when the girl confessed to her that her stepfather (the mother's beloved second husband) raped and impregranted her when she was eleven.
    • In "Home Invasions," a female LGBT rights activist and her husband are gunned down in what looks like a hate crime, complete with the word "queers" spray-painted on the house's wall. The husband was molesting their teenage daughter, and his wife knew and didn't care that it was happening. The crime was committed by the family's former housekeeper and her brother, who were trying to save the daughter.
  • Evil Cannot Comprehend Good: In "Patrimonial Burden", when the Sinister Minister is confronted with the accusations of raping and impregnating the two teenage girls, he warns the girls' parents that, should the case go forward, the negative publicity will ruin their show. In so doing, he is completely oblivious to the notion that, not only are the parents sincere in their beliefs, but they genuinely love their children, and, while the fame and money is nice, their children's welfare is more important.
  • Evil Counterpart: Robin Williams' character in "Authority". As a freedom-loving, anti-authoritarian anarchist whose "noble" goals are actually a cover for more selfish personal motives, he forms a poetic contrast to the SVU crew, whose fascistic tendencies are born out of a genuine, if perhaps misguided, desire for the greater good of the people.
  • Evil Is Petty: The villains on "Intimidation Game" want to kill a game developer for making a game they don't like! Note that the game hadn't even been released yet: They hated the game developer, and her game, simply because she happened to be female. (The fact that she was not white may or may not have had something to do with it, too.)
    • In the episode “Swimming with the Sharks,” a young woman frames her boss for two rapes, embezzlement, destroys her hard earned career & private business, and nearly has her committed to an insane asylum. Her motive? She is “almost positive” the boss stole her gold pendant when they were childhood friends.
  • Evil Twin: The plot of the episode Double Strands. The detectives arrest a suspect for a series of rapes, even tying him via DNA evidence and a distinctive tattoo, but further investigation into the suspect's background leads them to a twin brother that he did not even know about, but knew about him.
  • Evil Cripple: Dorothy from "Care". She beat a five year old to death with her cane and dies peacefully and quietly of a heart attack that caused her no suffering. Elaine from "Totem" also counts.
    • In the season one episode "Limitations," the detectives capture a serial rapist who suddenly disappeared several years ago, only to discover that he has been crippled in a road accident and is now confined to a wheelchair, which the reason he stopped his crime spree.
  • Excuse Boomerang: Law & Order (and its various spin-offs) will often have something like this happen when an Amoral Rules Lawyer has some scheme backfire and get their words thrown in their faces. A particularly satisfying example happened in SVU Season 2's "Manhunt" , when a Serial Killer facing a bullet-proof capital punishment case for his crimes in the USA was arrested in Canada, whose constitution forbids extradition on capital charges. When a Canadian judge questioned his defense attorney about the risk of Canada becoming a haven for capital offenders if they set this precedent, he smarmily replied "I prefer not to speculate on a hypothetical situation which may or may not result from the high court's ruling". Alex Cabot's response is to amend the extradition charge to possession of stolen property, which is not a capital charge. When the defense attorney says that his client is obviously going to be charged with the capital crimes the second he's back on American soil (which Cabot doesn't even bother denying), the judge uses his exact words to justify extraditing the murderer on the charges actually brought, barely concealing how much he enjoys it.
  • Exotic Entree: "Wildlife" has a character with an animal smuggling ring, whose members eat several of the animals.
  • Explain, Explain... Oh, Crap!: In "Blinded", the detectives are able to find their culprit very early — a man who kidnapped and raped a young girl — but, he seems that he has an airtight alibi as the car used was a rental and he has no idea how it was used in the act as it was obviously checked in. As the detectives are talking to forensics, they mention that some of the muck found in the car came from a place the man had been... and it suddenly dawns on them they had been had. The perp got a good headstart on the run as the detectives realize the man had turned in the car, but must have came back and stole it when it was haphazardly left unguarded, unlocked and with the keys in the ignition.
    • In "Acceptable Loss", the team busts a sex trafficking ring that has a minor connection to a terrorist group trying to smuggle an operative into the country, but one of the victims' stories just isn't adding up: she had a private room in the house, something none of the other girls had, despite being the newest girl in the bunch, and according to the record books the unit finds, she'd never booked or recorded any dates, even though their surveillance had seen her with what appeared to be a client. As they talk through the conflicting information, it starts to dawn on them — that "victim" was actually the terrorist.
  • The Extremist Was Right: In the episode "Spectacle", the villain of the episode is a young man whose little brother was kidnapped eight years ago, never being found because law enforcement gave up without much of a fight. He was absolutely convinced that they could easily have found him even with the trail being eight years cold if it weren't for the fact that the world simply didn't care enough about his brother, so he resorts to, with both the accomplice and "victim" in on it because they're his friends, kidnapping a young, pretty college girl and having his accomplice physically abuse and rape her on camera, then demanding the FBI find his brother before he lets her go. They find his brother in less than half a day.
  • Eye Scream: In the episode "Quickie", a man who is knowingly spreading around HIV is put on trial. One of the women he has infected comes up to him at the end of part of the trial and sprays him in the face with hydrochloric acid-maiming him and blinding him in one eye. Yikes.

  • Face–Heel Turn: CSU Scrappy Stuckey isn't good at handling insults and criticism... unfortunately he's great at handling the Idiot Ball.
    • FBI Agent Dana Lewis: first appears as "Star," a white supremacist activist, and then proves herself to be a smart and compassionate federal agent, then a brave and determined rape victim... and then a murderer.
  • Failed a Spot Check: It's ridiculously amazing how many suspects ignore the detectives staking them out in a Crown Victoria Police Interceptor mere feet away from them.
    • Equally amazing is the number of times the detectives can stand next to each other, but need one to point out to the other the evidence or suspect that is in their line of sight.
  • Fake Faith Healer: The episode "Careless" has the rare sympathetic version. Not only does he believe in his own powers, but he also believes he's responsible for the death of a child—and he's wrong about that too.
  • Fake Identity Baggage:
    • In "Serendipity", a doctor murders a pregnant woman and inserts a tube with the blood sample of another man into his arm, so that his DNA sample doesn't match the DNA of her baby. It turns out that the man he took the blood sample from is a pedophile whom the NYPD is after. His choices are to keep quiet and be convicted of child molestation, or admit the deception and in doing so all but confess that he killed the pregnant woman (since he went to such lengths to hide the DNA match). He ultimately chooses the latter choice, only to be murdered by the real child molester who was afraid the doctor would reveal his identity.
    • In "Stranger", a badly abused young woman, whose real name is Kristen, was kidnapped and raped for years by her father. Upon escaping, she took the identity of Heather Hollander, who disappeared. The SVU investigation eventually reveals that Heather's older sister Nikki actually killed her, a fact her mother was aware of and covered up. Nikki tries to kill Kristen to keep her secret, and the Hollanders are completely destroyed anyway.
    • "Complicated" has a similar premise to the above. A 21-year-old woman poses as a girl named Emma Lawrence who went missing ten years ago. It turns out that the girl was actually killed by the father who covered it up and made it look like she had been abducted. The SVU team fear that this will put her in danger from the killer who may be paranoid of her exposing the secret.
  • Faking the Dead: Alex Cabot. Also, Cal Cutler in "Bedtime".
  • Fallen Hero: In "Lunacy" it turns out the Victim of the Week was raped and killed by Elliot's own personal idol.
    • Called on by Rollins in "Collateral Damages" when she and a rookie cop work a sting that proves a revered boxing champ is a pedophile.
    Rollins: Work this job long enough, all your heroes die.
  • False Prophet: In the episode "Charisma", the detectives deal with Abraham Ophion, a pedophilic priest who has convinced his followers that he is a prophet.
  • False Rape Accusation: On a rare occasion, the character accused of rape will turn out to be innocent after all. One example is "Dissonant Voices," where a preschool music teacher named Jackie Walker is accused of molesting his students, and he loses his rising stardom as a TV music coach on an American Idol-type show. However, it comes out that his main alleged victims were fed stories by their older sisters, former students of Walker who were jealous that he chose another girl to take onto the show instead of them. At the end of the episode, Walker chews out the SVU team for ruining his reputation and job over false accusations while his accusers only get probation.
    • A few episodes have a slightly more sympathetic variation where a person really was assaulted, but accuses the wrong person or otherwise misrepresents the details of the attack. These include a little girl who pointed the finger at a family friend because she was being pressured to name her molester but was too afraid to give up the actual perpetrator, a battered wife who made up a stranger rape because she didn't want to admit it was her husband who actually raped her, and a college student whose adviser convinced her to embellish her true story of rape into a gang rape as part of a publicity stunt (which results in everyone, including the real rapist, going free).
    • In "Reparations", a man breaks into a woman's apartment intending to rape her to teach her racist grandfather (who had raped the man's mother several decades earlier) a lesson, but changes his mind. Unfortunately, the aforementioned racist grandfather convinced her that no one would believe her unless she claimed a rape had taken place. The episode makes it clear that the grandfather is the real villain; the granddaughter genuinely believed that the only way the police would take her seriously was if she claimed there was a rape, and is horrified when she realizes it was just one more manifestation of her grandfather's bigotry.
  • Family Theme Naming: Happens occasionally when a perp's or victim's family is involved.
    • From "Alternate", Janis and her sister Cass are named after Janis Joplin and "Mama Cass" Elliot, both female inductees of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.
    • From "Home", Jacob, Adam, and Daniel are all Biblical names.
  • Fandom Rivalry: In-Universe. Mikka Von, the new ADA from Chicago in "Wet," talks about trading in her beloved Bears for the Giants, and Elliot says, "Jets."
  • Fanservice Model: Various chapters are dedicated to these kind of models and how they're victims covered by their unit. An example is a 2016 chapter in which a fashion photographer is accused of raping a model during a shoot, but his much more successful older designer brother tries to make the case go away.
  • Fascinating Eyebrow: Expect Olivia to do this Once per Episode.
  • Fate Worse than Death: Implied for the killer in "The Third Guy". He was a high-functioning mentally handicapped man who had committed murder. Due to his disability, he instead ends up committed to a mental hospital indefinitely. While Cragen is angry by his belief that he's a Karma Houdini who will get hot chocolate and Winnie the Pooh read to him every night, the reality of the situation sets in for him quickly: he is now stuck in a place with other, more glaringly mentally ill individuals which horrifies him.
  • Females Are More Innocent: Despite the fact that they have meet several bad women the detectives of this show seem to stubbornly believe this especially if the girl is of childbearing age (older women are sometimes considered capable of evil). The worst offender is probably Olivia who has at various times refused to believe that a woman was capable of murder, bent over backwards to prove a vicious female rapist and mutilator was justified in her actions, refused to arrest a girl for filing false charges and killed an even younger girl, and once even argued that rape is less heinous when it was one female against another, namely a teenage girl who'd raped and killed her sister but had been abused herself when she was younger (she was overruled on the last two).
  • Fetish: Olivia has been known on occasion to use a suspect's fetish as an interrogation technique. She also uses it as a means of staying alive when she was kidnapped by Lewis. It comes back to bite her in the ass when Lewis uses his previous knowledge and experiences with Benson's use of this technique to point out to the jury that Olivia could have very well been playing out some kind of sick, perverted fantasy with him.
  • Foil: Defense attorney Minonna Efron for ADA Rafael Barba. She looks like a frumpy English professor while he looks like he just stepped out of GQ, and speaks much more bluntly than his sophisticated, Ivy League-educated delivery, but she can nevertheless hand him his ass in court.
  • Food as Bribe: Benson and Stabler use this on a homeless girl in "Streetwise" to get her talking about the case they're investigating. Having not had a proper meal in a very long time, she eagerly chows down.
    • Rollins does something similar in "The Book of Esther".
  • A Fool for a Client: Many, many, many examples over the course of the series, almost none of them positive, since many cases have involved an offender cross-examining his or her victim on the witness stand. In "Daydream Believer," however, Barba takes full advantage of this trope, allowing the perp a generous amount of rope with which to hang himself.
    • Unfortunately averted in Season 14, Episode 18. The defendant of that episode, Purcell, is accused of raping sports reporter Avery Jordan, and later dismisses his counsel and opts to represent himself. Purcell proves to be significantly more competent than expected and he succeeds in convincing the jury to find him not guilty of rape, though they do find him guilty of stalking. To make matters worse, he also proves competent in representing himself when he sues for custody of the resulting child. He doesn't succeed, but he does get the judge to award him minimal visitation rights. His not being a fool for a client ends up making him a Karma Houdini, though Jordan gets the last laugh: she leaves town to somewhere beyond extradition and takes the baby with her.
    • Also averted in "Authority". The judge actually cites this saying when the defendant indicates his intention to represent himself, but he ends up getting himself acquitted. It helps that a lot of the case against him was circumstantial to begin with, making it easier for him to create doubt.
  • Foolish Sibling, Responsible Sibling:
    • Olivia and her half-brother, in as much he (and his girlfriend) foolishly ran away after getting in trouble with Child Protective Services rather than wait for the authorities as Olivia told him, which caused them to be charged with kidnapping.
    • Amanda Rollins is a straight-edge cop and protective of her sister Kim to a fault. Kim has substance abuse issues and a horrible boyfriend who she sets up to get shot by her sister for insurance money and when it's clear she's going to jail she disappears along with literally everything Amanda owns, from her furniture to her food.
    • "Friending Emily": Emily, the younger one, is strait-laced and obedient while older sister Taylor is a rebellious party girl. Unfortunately Emily's obedience is very attractive to a kidnapper/rapist.
    • Fin's son Ken and stepson Darius are an extreme version of this.
  • Foreshadowing: In "Bedtime", Jaclyn Smith greets Stabler and Benson at the front door of her apartment. Note that she does not seem to let them inside, and yells to 'Pietro' that she's stepping out for a moment. Gee, I wonder what she could be hiding?....Cal Cutler maybe?
  • For the Evulz: In Season 13, Episode 9, "Lost Traveler", a young Romani boy named Nico is kidnapped on his way home from school and is eventually found dead after having been tortured first. The prime suspects are the Rom Baro and a local man named Marc who is described as a "man-child". The culprit is neither one; it also isn't the bully from the beginning who mockingly told a fortune by spitting in Nico's hand. The culprit is a girl named Courtney, with her friend Emma as her accomplice. But while Emma tearfully confesses and is regretful that Nico ended up dead, Courtney is eerily calm as she first calls Emma a "stupid little bitch" and then finally confesses to the crime. When the detectives ask Courtney why she did it, she responds in the spirit of this trope, "Why not?"
  • Freudian Excuse: Practically every single criminal/victim/witness tries to pull one.
  • Functional Addict: ADA Sonya Paxton, an abrasive but deep down good-hearted woman, turned out to be a functioning alcoholic. She left when it was discovered she was drunk during trial(s), had to take a breathalizer test in front of the whole court, and finally disbarred.
    • She later returns, the incident having shaken her up enough for her to have gone to AA and actually seem to be putting in an honest effort to stop drinking. (There's a brief "fake-out" moment during the episode where it appears she might have relapsed, but it's just a typical psych-out).
  • Friendly Local Chinatown: Common plots in Chinatown involve The Triads and the Tongs and sex slavery.

    G - H 
  • The Gambling Addict: Rollins, apparently, as of "Home Invasions." She confesses this to Cragen, and is getting help.
  • Gamer Chick: Partially deconstructed in "Bullseye", although there turns out to be more to the story. The detectives learn a young girl had been forced to live in a cupboard under the stairs and almost starved to death due to her mother and stepfather being total game addicts, more concerned about their kid in a video game than the actual living child in the home. However, the mother's situation turns out to be about more than game addiction: she is suffering from Capgras delusion, which makes her think that her daughter has been replaced by an imposter, so she legitimately doesn't realize she's neglecting her child, instead thinking she's just ignoring the "imposter" (and the one time she's able to speak to her daughter without the delusion kicking in, she clearly does care a lot about her). The real villain is the stepfather, who is in his right mind and knows full well who the girl is, but is just completely unconcerned.
    • The focus of "Intimidation Game".
  • Gaslighting: This occurs in "Girl Dishonored" where a rape victim was gaslit by her entire campus. They failed to support her emotionally, insisted that she was to blame for the rape, and never confronted the boy responsible for the rape. It was so bad that her depression became progressively worse and she agreed to EST after her campus had her committed.
  • Gay Cruising: In "Blood Brothers," the detectives meet a gay man named Chase who found Tripp's card and used it while hooking up with guys at a club near Central Park.
  • Gender Bender Angst: One case was based on David Reimer, where like him an infant boy lost his penis in a botched circumcision and given a sex reassignment afterward then raised as a girl. The "sister" involuntarily given a sex reassignment identified as a boy. With his twin brother he got revenge by murdering the doctor who did it.
  • Genre Blindness: You'd think that the detectives would eventually figure out that the first suspect they nab and harangue in interrogate is almost never the actual culprit, especially if they're also telling them what their motives are and how they did it.
  • Glamorous Single Mother: "Responsible" features a deconstruction of one. Becca's mom Lillian is a beautiful woman (especially for her age), lives in a nice fancy house, and is the "cool mom" who not only lets her daughter's friends drink alcohol, but provides them with it. She's also sleeping with Jordan (who is underage), provided the booze for the party where the Victim of the Week died, and her allowing Becca to drink starting from when she was 12 has given her liver and brain damage.
  • Glasses Girl: For many fans, Alex Cabot became twice as appealing in glasses. Even glasses that would look hideous on most people.
  • Golf Clubbing: "Lead"
  • Go Mad from the Isolation: This was the heart of the episode "Solitary": a criminal Elliot arrested earlier in his career spent the majority of his incarceration in solitary confinement, which ate away at his sanity and, when Elliot went to apologize for suspecting him of murder, caused him to throw Elliot off a roof in fear of being locked back up in the hole. Later, during the trial, when the criminal described the hellish experience he had in solitaire, Elliot decided to see what it was like for himself. After spending just one weekend in the hole, he suffered from a lack of sleep and a loss of his sense of time, gaining him sympathy for the criminal. Later he insured that the criminal wouldn't be held in solitary again during his sentence.
  • Good Cop/Bad Cop: Has been subverted, averted and played straight at various points through the series. It also gets lampshaded on multiple occasions. Justified, because cops actually do use this technique in real life, though less blatantly.
  • Good Girls Avoid Abortion:
    • In "Persona" Linnie/Caroline admits to having an abortion in the 70s after getting pregnant due to being repeatedly raped by her then-husband (whom she killed to stop the abuse). Her original plan was to strike a deal with Donnelly to plead guilty in exchange for being allowed to get an abortion, but she was intimidated by Donnelly and (possibly because of this trope) couldn't bring herself to ask, so instead she escaped and got the abortion after assuming a new identity.
    • In "Dearly Beloved" Kitty became pregnant by her rapist, and thus wants to have an abortion initially as a result. Olivia has mixed feelings about it due to having been conceived by rape herself, as it brings up bad memories about her mother telling saying she shouldn't have kept her. In the end though Kitty decides to go through with the pregnancy. Olivia lets Amanda think that she had an abortion once in the past and regretted it too, but then says that didn't happen the next episode.
    • Another victim who was impregnated on orders of her father (not by: he was running something of a one-man Breeding Cult) tells Elliot after her father is convicted that she plans to abort. Elliot expresses no specific opinion, and roll credits.
    • In "Babes", an episode involving a pregnancy pact, Elliot admits that he's personally opposed to abortion, at least when the pregnancy is the result of consensual sex (he specifically cites the sex being consensual as a reason he thinks abortion would be the wrong choice in this case). However, he doesn't let this affect how he does his job.
  • Gory Discretion Shot: In “Svengali”, When investigators find a woman's chopped-off and buried breasts the camera pans up as the box is opened, so all we see is the disgusted reaction of the investigator.
    • Also, "Mercy" opened with two guys finding a drowned baby in a cooler.
    • Happens to Fin in "Denial" where he finds a child's remains in a garbage bag in a dumpster. The viewer only sees Fin recoil in shock and dry-heave before confirming the presence of the body over his radio.
    • And in "Born Psychopath" where a young psychopath has drowned his neighbor's dog.
  • Groin Attack: In the Season 11 episode "Hardwired", Elliot gets kicked in the groin by a grade school kid. Fortunately, he recovers and quips, "I know why they're called special victims."
  • Gray-and-Grey Morality: Utilized to the hilt in the episode "Doubt", which highlighted the main reasons as to why so many rape cases boil down to "He Said, She Said". The woman claimed her ex-boyfriend (and former professor) had raped her, while he claimed that it was consensual. Complicating this is the victim's claim that Stabler had sexually assaulted her while escorting her home (he caught her when she'd stumbled), and one of her other ex-boyfriends stating that she was into rough sex, up to and including choking. The episode ends with "We, the jury, find the defendant...", Fade to Black, leaving viewers to form their own opinions.
  • Guilt Complex: "Mask" introduces Captain Jackson, a psychiatrist who is looking for a way to cure sexual addiction. This came about from an unfortunate summer where he believes he may have raped his lesbian daughter, prompting the two to become estranged, but can't remember due to his own struggles with sex and alcohol addiction at the time. As it turned out, he actually had consensual sex with his daughter's best friend; the estrangement was because his daughter was in love with her friend and was extremely hurt that her father would take away her first love like that.
  • Had to Come to Prison to Be a Crook: This is the message of the episode "Making A Rapist". A man wrongly convicted of rape is released after serving sixteen years in prison. After making friends with the woman formerly believed to be his victim, he's accused of her daughter's rape and murder. It turns out he did do it: after years of rape and beatings by fellow prisoners, when the daughter laughed off his Love Confession, he (while drunk) flew into a rage.
  • Halfway Plot Switch: Done more each season.
    • For the last three or four seasons, it is rare to find an episode where what appears to be happening in the cold open is at all related to the rest of the episode.
  • Harmful to Minors: The unit has to deal with cases like this quite regularly.
    • In "Friending Emily" they meet an FBI agent whose only job is to monitor child porn. He may or may not be joking that his predecessor ate his gun at his desk.
  • Hello, Attorney!: All the ADAs qualify, but Alexandra Cabot in particular. Diane Neal (Casey Novak) is a bit more tomboyish but also extremely attractive, though, and then there's Raúl Esparza's Rafael Barba....
  • Headphones Equal Isolation: When Elliot and Olivia walked in on a suspect who was listening to his stereo via headphones, Elliot gets his attention by turning the volume up.
  • Held Gaze: Barba and Benson do a lot of long, lingering held gazes, even when they're professionally at odds. Perhaps not coincidentally, Mariska Hargitay and Raúl Esparza ship their characters in real life.
  • Heroic Dog:
    • "Liberties" had a victim's dog bite her abusive ex who was choking and threatening her.
    • "Pattern Seventeen" had a twelve year old girl narrowly escape being raped, because her dog bit the perp and wouldn't let go. The dog was making so much noise that the perp quickly realized it wasn't worth it.
  • Heteronormative Crusader: SVU often play with this trope, with detectives reminding themselves and each other that bruises aren't necessarily caused by abuse, they could also be caused by BDSM. In some episodes, the trope is played completely straight.
    • In "Closet", a homosexual suspect named Lincoln Haver gets his football career destroyed because he was surrounded by homophobes and Olivia accidentally outed him. However, it turns out Olivia's accidental reveal of the suspect's orientation wasn't the problem; the person who outed Haver was the real murderer, the manager of the football team, who had caught Haver kissing his boyfriend, and had outed him to make both Haver and Olivia look bad.
    • In "Tortured", a shoe fetishist kills a woman for her boots. Dr. Huang insists that fetishism is a harmless sexual variation, and a very tragic story is gradually revealed. It turns out that the murderer's mother hated her son for being sexually "abnormal". She tried to "cure" his fetishism by beating him in the head with frying pans and other hard objects, and eventually this abuse caused him permanent brain damage that made him unstable enough to kill a woman by mistake.
    • A nice aversion occurs in the episode "Strange Beauty," which centers around people into body modification and mutilation. The detectives are a little nonplussed by some aspects of the subculture, but they only get judgmental with people who are breaking actual laws.
    • Stabler was a borderline case of this in later seasons. See "Liberties."
  • Hidden Depths: The badass undercover FBI Agent played by Marcia Gay Harden is also a Happily Married mother of two and lives in the girliest apartment ever seen in the series.
  • Hidden Wire: Goes horrifyingly wrong in "Folly" when a male victim agrees to wear a wire to get a confession out of his madam/the perp. She's making dinner while they talk, and when she discovers the wire she flies into a rage. The detectives, listening in, suddenly hear him screaming in agony and barge in to discover she'd thrown a huge pot of boiling pasta water all over him. In what is perhaps a Continuity Nod, Amaro gets shot down hard by Cabot in his first episode when he suggests using a wire to catch a suspect.
  • Hoist by His Own Petard: In "P.C.", Babs Duffy's coming out as bisexual might not have been taken so badly by her group if she hadn't been so militant about her group centering only lesbians.
  • Holier Than Thou: See Strawman Has a Point. The detectives can be extremely judgmental and close-minded on sexuality, to the point that even perfectly normal fetishes are demonized, and any other branch of law enforcement that has their hands in their case just complicates matters and has no regard for justice. For example:
    • "Clock" features a girl who looked like a child even though she was seventeen, and her boyfriend was a convicted pedophile. The detectives were disgusted with this relationship, feeling it was unhealthy and that his only interest in her was due to her looking like a child — however, even if that is in fact the case, the fact remains that the girl is over the age of consent, so she has the right to decide that she wants to be in a relationship with him regardless of what his reasons for choosing her may be.
    • As for the Jurisdiction Friction, the detectives often jeopardize investigations being conducted by other departments to further their own, even when the other department's investigation is far more important. Many times their suspects are agents working for the FBI or some other higher branch of authority, and the detectives refuse to back off and often force the other agency to include them. This rarely, if ever, goes well.
      • At the same time, when another branch of New York police are assigned to help SVU with their current case, the squad's first instinct is to box them out and handle it themselves.
  • Hollywood Law: A common example throughout the series is Olivia's constant assertion that their job is to believe the victim. While police certainly should (and the SVU cops do) treat victims sympathetically and shouldn't jump to disbelieving them right away either, their job is to investigate and determine the truth, not to take victims at their word and only look for evidence that supports their claim. Several episodes show exactly why this is a bad idea, with "victims" making false accusations or at least not telling the whole truth.
    • In "Burned" a woman accuses her ex husband of raping her, which the ex husband denies. Elliot approaches the situation with an unbiased view and suggests it's possible the husband is telling the truth since the two are in the middle of a nasty divorce and custody battle, and the wife's story has a few holes and she has a history of false accusations. Olivia accuses him of putting his own issues on the wife (he was separated from his wife at the time) and acts like he's not doing his job for wanting to do a full investigation. Eventually, the man is arrested and charged with rape and goes so crazy that sets his ex-wife on fire, killing her. It then turns out he was innocent of the rape he was originally accused of.
    • In "Crush", the DA forces detective Benson to arrest a teenage girl on child porn charges (for "sexting" pictures of herself) in an effort to coerce her into testifying against an attacker. When she does so, the DA attempts to drop the charges, but the judge overrules her and sentences the girl to several years in prison. While the end of the episode reveals that the judge was corrupt, this has two problems. First, the arrest was an obvious case of malicious prosecution, which is a felony, and was one of the few cases (it's a notoriously difficult charge to prove in most jurisdictions) in which it would be an open and shut case. Second, even in juvenile court, the judge has no power to do any of that.
    • Malicious prosecution is commonplace throughout the series, with the DAs' office wanting pretty much every underage suspect charged as an adult, often to intimidate them into implicating someone else who was involved.
    • In "Popular", a nurse cites doctor-patient privilege in refusing to talk with Detective Stabler when she treats a middle school girl who claims her teacher raped her. Captain Cragen, Stabler's wife and even the victim herself give Stabler grief for bothering to do his damn job and investigate the rape; even Stabler treats the whole thing like he's breaking procedure because the privilege is so sacrosanct. Doctor-patient privilege does not cover evidence of a crime: when a medical professional comes across evidence of things such as child abuse, they are required by law to report it to the authorities. A clear-cut admission from their patient would leave them with no wiggle room whatsoever for neglecting their duty in this case. Doctor-patient privilege also only extends to nurses who work with/under actual doctors, school nurses can make no such claim, i.e. if a school nurse determines a kid faked an illness to avoid a test, they're expected to report it to the principal or the child's teacher or parents.
    • "Persona" has Judge Donnelly take a leave of absence from the bench to prosecute a woman who had fled on a murder change years beforehand when Donnelly (the prosecutor on the original case) let her go to the bathroom and she climbed out a window. Not only does this make no sense as she no longer works for the district attorneys office(she would have had to resign when she became a judge), no judge would allow her to act as prosecutor anyway since she clearly had a personal vendetta and was a material witness to the felony escape charge.
    • In "Manipulated", the detectives use a facial recognition program to compare a picture taken on the street to the DMV records for driver's licenses. The judge later throws this out, claiming that the technology was too inconclusive and all the subsequent evidence was tainted. A person has no privacy expectation in a picture taken on a public street or their driver's license photo, so comparing them to each other cannot possibly be a violation of the 4th Amendment. Without a violation, the tree isn't "poisoned" and the remaining evidence is acceptable. What's more, the unreliability of the technology bears upon its admissibility at trial, but they don't need the computer match at trial-once the computer found the picture, the detectives confirmed it by the eyeball test and the suspect's admission. Even further, they already knew of the suspect because he was the husband of the victim's boss and they had an easy argument for inevitable discovery (they would have recognized him from the photo given time).
    • In "Presumed Guilty", even after it was revealed that Fin's ex-brother-in-law had been stopping the attack against Fr. Shea, he is still labeled a vigilante, and the Obstructive Bureaucrat DA says he had no business assaulting someone while on parole, but should have just called 9-1-1. In Real Life, the law recognizes the difference between vigilantism, which is illegal, and defense of a third party, which is not. If you see a crime, such as a burglary or vandalism in progress, and you assault the criminal, or you assault a criminal after a crime has been committed, that is vigilantism. If, however, you see someone being assaulted, you are well within your rights to intervene, even if you literally have to fight off the assailants. (N.B. In some jurisdictions, you had better make sure the person you are helping is actually the victim.)note 
    • In "Her Negotiation", the judge declares a mistrial after it turns out the physical evidence may have been contaminated. This isn't grounds for a mistrial in real life. The defense can present it to the jury and encourage them to ignore that evidence, but the judge wouldn't declare a mistrial, especially if it was only possible, not certain, that the evidence was contaminated.
    • In "Venom", Darius Parker gets a judge to throw out damning evidence against him (including a full confession) because he had made a comment earlier in the interrogation to the effect that he had a lawyer representing him in an unrelated case. In reality, it's extremely unlikely that any judge would rule that the detectives could reasonably be expected to interpret an offhanded, apparently conversational mention of a lawyer as him invoking his right to counsel, especially since in retrospect it was pretty clearly an intentional setup by Darius. What's more, the judge effectively admits it's sketchy but that he's granting the suppression just to make an example because he feels the police department in general has been playing a bit fast and loose with right to counsel provisions; that alone should be enough to get the ruling overturned on appeal.
    • In the 2014 episode "Producer's Backend" Barba charges a director with sexual tourism under the theory that he traveled to Canada to have sex with a 16 year old actress (in Canada, 16 is the legal age of consent as long as the older party isn't in a position of authority) and states to Benson that they have to prove he went there specifically for the purpose of having sex with this girl by proving he never intended to make the movie he supposedly went to audition her for. While he's correct that the director can be charged, the law regarding "sexual tourism" was changed in 2003 so that any sex with a person under 18 while outside the US is a federal crime regardless if this was their intent on travelling there or not (quite possibly to avert this exact scenario of someone using a pretext to avoid the law), so all they would have to do is confirm that he did in fact have sex with a teenager and he would go down; there would be no need to parse out all the details of whether or not the movie was legit.
    • In "Psycho/Therapist", William Lewis, who is defending himself and called Olivia as his witness, asks to treat Benson as a hostile witness. In real life, this means asking a witness leading questions; in the SVUniverse, this apparently means being allowed to scream at a victim while quite literally foaming at the mouth. Made especially painful by the fact that Barba had been objecting almost constantly before this, but stayed silent the entire time Lewis was screaming at her, up until the end, when he feebly protests that Lewis has crossed the line, though this could have been strategy on Barba's part to show how aggressive and violent Lewis is since he'd been playing the meek victim all trial.
    • Much of the drama in the second half of "Poison" is based around Casey's crusade against a corrupt judge with a lengthy history of classist bias and unethical behavior. When Casey has the corrupt judge arrested for a crime he was likely guilty of, the arraignment judge immediately throws out the case and berates Casey in open court for even daring to try it. This is of course absurd - judges are allowed to be charged and tried for criminal acts just like anyone else (the show cites "judicial immunity" as the reason that the corrupt judge is immune from prosecution, but in real life, this protects judges from liability/lawsuits while performing their duties as a judge. It does not render judges effectively above the law).
    • Despite what this series suggests, voluntarily getting drunk does not automatically negate one's capacity to consent to sex; therefore, legally speaking, sex with a drunk woman is not automatically regarded as rape.note 
  • Homeschooled Kids: Very extreme example where two brothers are homeschooled because their obsessive, possessive and controlling mother wants them until her complete control. She winds up manipulating the older boy into killing his own brother to keep social services from taking him away. Other examples include a leader of a neo-Nazi group who homeschools his son to prevent him from being exposed to other points of view, and an adoptive mother who homeschools because of her compulsive need for control over her child.
  • Horrible Judge of Character: Many instances, but the most egregious one has to be everyone who thought that William Lewis was a good person that was wrongly accused, especially after he ends up screaming at Liv in front of judge, jury, and everyone witnessing the trial.
  • The Horseshoe Effect: Seen in "Info Wars", where an Ann Coulter Expy is sexually assaulted, and it is unclear whether the assailant is an Antifa protester or one of her own Psycho Supporters, who is a Klansman in all but name.
  • Hostage Situation: "Escape", "Florida", "Shattered", "Blast", "Father's Shadow", "Learning Curve", "Born Psychopath", "Townhouse Incident", "Heartfelt Passages".
  • Hypocrite: Sonya Paxton. In the episode "Hammered", she tries a man who claims to not have any knowledge of a murder he committed due to an alcoholic blackout, arguing that his blackout doesn't excuse him because, as she says, "alcoholism is not a disease". It later becomes clear that she's got a drinking problem herself, eventually arriving to court while drunk and getting her reputation ruined when she failed a breathalyzer test in court.
    • The cast of the show can often become hypocrites due to lazy or forgetful writers (with a dose of Protagonist-Centered Morality). The episode "Harm", capitalizing on the Iraq torture scandal was all about how using torture to interrogate subjects is wrong, and not only because it can result in death or long-term injury to those it happens to. This is all taking place in spite of the show making unapologetic use of the Jack Bauer Interrogation Technique, with even Stabler calling the torturers out for their heartless methods.
    • The cast also has trouble with Jurisdiction Friction; whenever some other case is transferred to them and the original handlers are resentful or reluctant to hand over information, the squad will bawl them out over how selfish they are. They're treated as glory-hogs who are acting at the expense of justice. When it's the SVU squad who's having their case taken away from them to a federal agent or higher branch of the police, it's treated as the worst thing in the world, and the team "heroically" go behind their superior's backs to solve things themselves. The writers invariably make the SVU squad right in this regard by having the feds be either uninterested in sex crimes and wanting to flip the rapist into testifying against some non-violent financial criminal, or by having them just be incompetent.
    • Stabler is disgusted by witnesses who refuse to tell the police what they know about criminals. The only positive thing he ever said about his father was "My father was no rat." Apparently not saying anything about crooked cops is commendable behavior.
    • In "Selfish" Olivia defended the anti-vaxer mom, even though her decision resulted in an infant’s death. But in "Granting Immunity" the anti-vaxer mom responsible for Olivia’s son getting sick was an irredeemable monster. (Then again, having her own child may well have changed Olivia's overall opinion on the subject.)
    • When Max Greevey wanted off a case because the victim’s sex life offended his religious sensibilities, Don Cragen told him to suck it up and do his damn job. When Stabler or Benson don’t like a victim, or the partner they’re asked to work with, or are having a bad day, by all means, be as childish as you want, it’s not as if cops have to act like professionals.

  • I Ate WHAT?!: Elliot's priceless reaction while undercover in "Wildlife" to being told he is about to put a bite of tiger meat into his mouth. He manages to play it off well enough that he doesn't raise any flags for the suspect.
    • Also an underscored point of the episode "Beef."
  • I Have This Friend: In "Persona," an older woman tells a young battered wife that she had a friend who was abused by her husband and never told anyone. It was her, of course, and she killed the guy in 1974 and got away with it for thirty-odd years, until the detectives put it together.
  • I Let Gwen Stacy Die: Benson blames herself for Mike Dodds getting killed in the line of duty. When a similar case to the one that led to Mike's death comes up four years later, she's exceedingly careful to the point of driving Tamin crazy because she doesn't want to take the chance of something like it happening again.
  • I Take Offense to That Last One!: Happens often to the detectives when interrogating a suspect. An example is in "Hate":
    Fin: "I've got some words for you—killer, psycho."
    Suspect: "Hey, I'm no psycho!"
    • Also occasionally happens outside of interrogation, like in the episode "Responsible":
    Reagan: "Shut up, you dirty old man!"
    Munch: "Who're you calling old?"
  • I Want You to Meet an Old Friend of Mine:
    • Mariska Hargitay became best friends with Maria Bello on the set of ER in the late '90s. Bello went on to appear as Olivia's suspected half-sister, Vivian Arliss, in season 12.
    • The same episode that introduced Bello's character featured Alex Kingston as defense attorney Miranda Pond. Kingston had worked with both Hargitay and Bello on the same season of ER.
  • I Was Quite a Looker: Ann Margret's washed up drunk character Rita Wills in "Bedtime".
  • I Will Wait for You: Played for great creepiness in "Conned", in which a psychiatrist developed feelings for and seduced a thirteen-year-old patient sent to her by his mother. A few years into this, she became pregnant by him, and prevented him from running away by guilting him with how his own father had walked out on him. Shortly thereafter, the now fifteen-year-old kid fell for someone his own age and had sex with her; when the psychiatrist found out, she went to the girl's parents and told them that the boy had raped her, then (fraudulently) diagnosed the boy with schizophrenia and convinced everyone that what he really needed was treatment — under her care, of course. It worked until a con artist wormed his way into the facility and orchestrated a mass escape. When the boy was found months later, after killing the con artist, the psychiatrist got him placed back into her care and immediately started drugging him. Once everything was uncovered, she accepted a plea for a twenty year sentence. As she was being dragged off, she kept yelling at the boy, who was sitting next to his mother and his child by the psychiatrist, that she would wait for him.
  • I'll Kill You!: Spoken word for word by Ann Margaret in "Bedtime".
  • I'm a Man; I Can't Help It: The detectives generally act as if this trope is a universal truth that's written in stone and handed down by God itself. More than one of their "early-in-the-episode red herring suspects" are only suspects because they said something along the lines of "Yes, believe it or not I actually turned down a chance to have sex when such a chance became available to me", and the detectives react with a "Pshh... right... sure you did, you lying bastard."
    • Conversely, some rape suspects will try to use this to justify their actions, usually by claiming the victim somehow "started it" and what were they supposed to do?
  • I Can't Believe a Guy Like You Would Notice Me: Gender inverted and deconstructed in "Choreographed" when a boring nine-to-five man was so convinced that his wife would cheat on him with one of her exciting and artistic coworkers that he injected a tracking chip into her while she was sleeping, which almost killed her because he didn't sterilize the injection site.
  • Incest Is Relative: At least three times; one resulted in two children (one being unreported). Brought Up to Eleven with season 12 where every other episode deals with incest in some sort of context.
  • Insane Troll Logic:
    • Used in a very twisted way by the Villain of the Week in "Pure" who kidnaps and rapes virgins, and then says he had to because his wife wasn't a virgin when they tried to consummate their marriage.
    • In "Manic", a boy has a drug-induced psychotic breakdown and kills two of his classmates after a considerable history of mental issues. This breakdown occurs because his school, due to said history, insists he won't be allowed to continue attending school until he's medicated and his mother, in flagrant disregard of the medical advice she was given by her doctor and against the dosage and safety instructions included with the medication she received, starts giving her pubescent son her pills in secret. Obviously, that means the CEO who approved sending mental health patients their medicine free of charge has blood on his hands.
    • In "Real Fake News," a website puts out word of a Congressman using a Chinese diner as a sex slave operation. Rollins and Finn go the site's owner who shows "proof" in the form of an e-mail the Congressman sent about how the place got a "fresh batch of Chinese broccoli" in and they have to try out. As they shrug, the man just laughs on how it's "obvious" that's code for an underage Chinese sex slave as "who eats dinner at 4 pm?"
    Owner: On pedophile boards, CB stands for Chinese Brides.
    Finn: It can also stand for Chinese broccoli.
    • To further his "proof" the man shows off photos of young women leaving and asking "Where are their mothers?" He then shows how the diner's logo is a dragon with a tail he claims is heart-shaped which matches a pedophile symbol. Rollins can only Face Palm in response to this lunacy.
  • The Insomniac:
    • The detectives will go without sleep for days at a time.
    • A witness in "Bombshell" suffers from Fatal Familial Insomnia, which makes him appear crazy (the victim's blood on his clothes doesn't help). Dr. Huang looks really guilty when the guy perks up and asks if he'll get better.
    • A drug-induced version in "Hothouse", where a teenage girl turns out to be abusing anti-narcolepsy medication because she had to pull regular all-nighters to keep up with the demands of her Boarding School of Horrors. According to her, it's not only common practice at the school but is actually covertly endorsed by the school staff.
  • Insurance Fraud: In "Deadly Ambition", Rollins's sister Kim sets up her abusive boyfriend to be killed so she can collect his life insurance... that she secretly put on him... and forged her sister's name to (she was gonna share!). When Kim learns that she won't get the money since her boyfriend was killed while committing a felony (Rollins thought Kim was being raped) she changes her story so it looks like Rollins shot him in cold blood. Fortunately for Rollins it becomes clear that the scheme has collapsed so Kim settles for skipping town with all of Rollins' possessions.
    • In "Torch" a man becomes a suspect when the house fire that killed his daughters is ruled arson, and the case is strengthened when it's revealed he lit a car on fire for the purpose of insurance fraud before; police and prosecutors theorize that he was trying to burn down the house for the insurance money but it spread faster than expected and he couldn't get the girls out in time, leaving him liable for both arson and manslaughter. However, new evidence casts doubt on the arson ruling, and the case is ultimately dismissed because it was likely a genuine accident.
  • Ironic Death: In "Smoked" Sister Peg dealt with mentally unstable homeless people, vicious pimps, and drug addicts on a daily basis, not to mention the various attempts on her life, and the person who (accidentally) kills her? A random teenage girl who was aiming at someone else. Then again, Sister Peg risking her life and heroically sacrificing herself is very appropriate.
  • Ironic Name:
    • Detective Elliot Stabler isn't stable.
    • "Amanda" means "having to be loved", "deserving to be loved" and "worthy of love". People on Detective Amanda Rollins' personal life tend to be either ungrateful, unappreciative or insincere towards her.
  • Iron Lady: Elizabeth Donnelly. Also, Alex Cabot (which causes a LOT of friction between the two).
  • Irony: Olivia frequently expresses her fears that the combination of an alcoholic mother and a rapist father will one day make her into a monster; Elliot reassures her that she's fine, and that it's not all about the genes.. but he's the son of a mentally unstable mother and a physically abusive father, and he's had at least one incident of losing his temper at one of his kids note , and his daughter has the same mental difficulties as his mother.
    • "Gone" sees the detectives struggling to solve the disappearance of a teenage girl; they have three suspects but no body and not enough other evidence to convict them. Casey manages to get one of the boys, Jason, to testify against the other two, and after he testifies in the grand jury he disappears as well; since the prosecution can't find him or conclusively prove that he was kidnapped, the case is dismissed with prejudice. Afterwards, with some more hunting, the detectives finally manage to find the getaway car that the boys were driving when they committed the original murder...and it was in the city impound lot the entire time, overlooked because someone inputted the wrong number when they were entering the car into the system. It does at least lead the detectives to Jason's body and allow them to charge the other two boys for that crime instead.
  • It's Personal: So frequent, it became the premise of the entire show. Again, see also Idiot Ball.
    • Not even the judges are are immune to this trope, as in "Persona" Judge Donnelly temporarily steps down in order to prosecute a woman (whose case she had previously worked) who escaped conviction for murdering her husband for years, all because she inadvertently made her a laughingstock in front of the boys.
    • The episode "Blinded" has a double dose of this trope: the episode features a child rapist named Saul Picard who was suffering from schizophrenia and badly injured Elliot while suffering a psychotic break, rendering him temporarily blind. Casey ends up botching the ensuing court case to get him declared incompetent to stand trial (even though he wanted to be extradited to Louisiana, where child rape is punishable by death) and sent to a psychiatric facility, due to her experience with a mentally ill fiance some years back that she thought she could help him and Picard. Olivia is quite pissed as a result and rats Picard out to the Feds (so they can extradite Picard to Louisiana) and rats Casey out to Jack McCoy because she, personally, wanted to see Picard convicted and executed as revenge for Elliot without getting her hands dirty. Casey and Olivia confront each other over how they've each been manipulating the handles of this case and make amends by the end of the episode but you can't help but wonder how neither of them got into serious trouble for bringing their personal vendettas to the case.
  • I've Never Seen Anything Like This Before: The situation in "Greed" is apparently this for the entire justice system.
    Cabot: I checked the case law. There has never been a situation like this.

  • Jack Bauer Interrogation Technique: At times, Elliot, Fin or Olivia beat up suspects and culprits alike, or emotionally blackmailing both witnesses and victims, driving at least one of them to suicide. It's all in the name of justice!
    Dr. Huang: What are you gonna do next, bash in people's skulls to make them talk?
  • Jerkass: Elliot Stabler, at times. He beats up innocent men, verbally abuses others, ruins one innocent man's life after accusing him of pedophilia on a flawed report, and commits at least several counts of police misconduct. It actually got bad enough at one point that he was temporarily assigned another partner that was just like him in order to see how frustrating it was for the rest of the team to work with him.
    • Ed Tucker, from the Internal Affairs Bureau. He has it out for the detectives from SVU, especially Elliot. He gets better.
  • Jumping Off the Slippery Slope: In "Pornstar's Requiem", a young woman who stars in rape-fantasy porn to pay for college is really raped, and her attackers are charged. After the rapists are convicted, the judge overturns the verdict, stating that the evidence is ambiguous. Debatable, but then the judge goes on to accuse the victim of staging the entire thing as a publicity stunt, making it clear that he was hostile to her from the beginning. Rafael Barba, the prosecutor, is livid, telling the judge that he's "setting the clock back on rape law fifty years" (in the most overt display of anger ever seen from Barba up until that point) and declaring without hesitation that he's going to appeal the ruling.
  • Jurisdiction Friction: SVU has clashed with other jursidictions as diverse as: other departments of the NYPD, the FBI, counter-terrorism agencies, the US military, and the nation of Canada.
  • Just a Flesh Wound:
    • Without fail, every bullet taken by one of the main characters will "narrowly miss" a lung or major artery, and they can be expected to make a "full recovery", though occasionally the injury will carry over into the next few episodes. Double subverted when everyone thinks Alex Cabot died from a bullet to the shoulder, but it turns out she survived and is going into Witness Protection.
    • See also M.E. Warner's A Day in the Limelight episode, "Blast", where she shoots a perp in the leg, intending to cause nonfatal damage. In reality, a bullet to the leg has a very substantial chance of causing a life-threatening injury thanks to the numerous arteries running through the leg. Her training as a medical examiner is no excuse; knowing where the arteries are located neither grants a person impeccable marksmanship (she is said to have some firearms training, but that's a long way from being a perfect shot), nor does it change the fact that a fragmenting round's shrapnel is inherently unpredictable. (However, since the perp in question was about to commit suicide by cop, it does make sense that Warner would decide that taking a chance on a hopefully non-lethal shot that might go wrong and kill him still presented a better chance for his survival than a volley of bullets that would turn him into swiss cheese.)
    • When Munch was Shot in the Ass, his partner several seasons later claims that he still sits on a doughnut.
    • Subverted and made a running gag with Stabler and Dana Lewis, in which every time she shows up, he ends up with an obviously non-threatening injury. (Only the last of these is actually her fault; the other injuries were directly case-related.)
    • Subverted with Amaro in "Surrendering Noah"; part of his reason for retiring is that there's some question about whether he'll be able to come back to a hundred percent after being shot in the knee.
  • Just One Little Mistake: Susan Delzio in "Bedtime". It turns out that the man everybody thought was dead was actually alive, hidden away by Susan.

  • Karma Houdini: Typically if an episode has a Downer Ending it will be some variety of this.
  • Karma Houdini Warranty:
    • Rarely, but a notable example is Kenneth Cleary from seasons 1 and 2. In his debut episode, he gets away with multiple rapes because one of his victims couldn't ID him in a lineup. In Cleary's second appearance, he again skates on multiple rapes because his wife bungles her testimony (in what appears to be a misguided attempt to help). In the final scene of the episode, Cleary has been shot dead, with both Harper and the wife claiming the wife shot him in self-defense and then "panicked" and inadvertantly destroyed the evidence that would prove this story. The cops are not entirely convinced.
    • The SVU unit's warranty expires in "Screwed." While they are protagonists that aggressively investigate sex crimes, most of them have done things throughout the show's run that are unethical at best, outright criminal at worst (Olivia sending money to her suspected rapist brother, Elliot getting his daughter off scot-free for a DUI, and Fin's suspicious activities while undercover are the most significant). These incidents allow Darius Parker, who killed a woman and her baby, to discredit their testimonies and escape any punishment whatsoever for a crime he definitely committed. All of the SVU (save Munch) get punished after the trial's conclusion for their behavior.
  • Kayfabe Music: The show used this twice. Two big scary musicians, suspected of horrible crimes.
    • One is a black "gangster" rapper suspected of rape/murder on a white woman. However, he is actually quite naive and has no experience of real crime, his gangster persona being nothing more than a kayfabe persona. The woman was one of his friends, and he ends up getting killed by a real gangster (who just happens to be white) as he's trying to help the detectives catch the real villain.
    • The other is a "vampire" who is afraid of getting HIV from real blood.
  • Kicked Upstairs: Detective John Munch, after over a decade between Homicide and this series, is finally promoted to Sergeant, due to his taking the exam (which he claims was because of a bar bet). In practice, though, this is mostly just an excuse for keeping him away from the action and offscreen.
  • The Killer Becomes the Killed: "Chameleon" begins with the team going after a sexually motivated spree killer, who ends up being killed by a serial killing prostitute.
  • The Killer Was Left-Handed:
    • A major plot point in "Criminal"; a defining characteristic of the perp was that he was left-handed.
    • In another episode, the perp had two sets of DNA. This is Truth in Television — it's called Chimera Syndrome. (In this case, it was from a bone marrow transplant that caused his body to produce blood with a different DNA profile, but such things have been known to happen naturally.)
    • In the episode "Beef", Olivia was able to deduce that the foreman that they had a ton of evidence against including his DNA and a confession was innocent because he was left handed and the victim's wounds indicated a right-handed killer.
    • Subverted in the first episode, when a character tries to hide her left-handedness by using her right hand.

  • The Lab Rat: The Crime Scene Unit two less as of 2009
  • Lantern Jaw of Justice: Stabler's Epic Chin of Justice.
    • Olivia and Alex aren't lacking in the chin department either.
  • Last-Name Basis : Zigzagged a bit. Munch is almost never called by his first name John (this goes as far as Elliot referring to him as "Uncle Munchie" to his kids on one occasion). Season 1's Jefferies and Cassidy were rarely, if ever, called Monique or Brian (though the latter got to first-name basis with series lead Olivia Benson as her boyfriend in later years). Huang's first name George is likewise seldom heard. Barba is rarely referred to by his first name (Rafael) unless he is being introduced or is in the company of family or close friends. Carisi is never called by his first name (Dominic) and is generally only called Sonny by his family, although Olivia does call him "Uncle Sonny" to Noah at one point, a name that Amanda's daughters are also shown to use for him. Cragen's first name Don is also rare, though that's probably because no one in the show is realistically his social equal. But for most characters, they get the last-name treatment in official business while being addressed as normal people in social situations. The one inverse is Fin — in really official situations, his last name Tutoula does get used, but for the most part, he's "Detective Fin."
    • The "official business" aspect of this is humorously reinforced in a season 1 conversation with the visiting Lennie Briscoe and his kid nephew Ken, who worked for SVU that year.
      Lennie: Cool it with the 'Uncle Lennie' stuff around the station.
      Ken: What shall I call you?
      Lennie: Briscoe.
      Ken: What will you call me?
      Lennie: Briscoe.
      Ken: [looks perplexed]
  • Last of His Kind: The only remaining first-run series in a franchise that once roamed the NBC schedule like buffalo. Within the cast itself, Olivia becomes the only remaining original cast member after Cragen leaves in Season 15.
  • Left Hanging: The season eleven episode "Savior" did this. A young prostitute goes into premature labor and her baby is put on life support. The mother then runs away, giving power of attorney to Olivia, effectively giving Olivia the choice of whether the baby lives or dies. The episode ends with the baby needing immediate brain surgery and the doctors hammering Olivia for a decision that she never gives. This turns into a case of What Happened to the Mouse?, as neither the baby nor the mother are ever seen or heard from again.
  • Less Embarrassing Term: Inverted in "Dolls" when they caught a suspect by exploiting his love of doll collecting. Fin tried to build rapport with the guy by admitting that as a child he had played with dolls, too, such as G.I. Joe. The guy corrected him that those were not dolls, they were action figures.
  • Like Father, Like Son: In "Dissonant Voices" when Brooke’s parents separated she watched her mother make numerous false reports about her father so when Jackie Walker dropped her and her friend from his private coaching they manipulated their brothers into saying he molested them.
  • Like Goes with Like: The episode "Snitch" has an African man married to a couple of African women and a white one. In the end of the episode it's just him and his black wife.
  • Limited Wardrobe: Usually averted, like most live TV shows, but weirdly played straight with Fin's son, Ken, who has worn the same grey T-shirt/tan jacket combination in all of the five episodes he appeared in for at least one scene.
  • Littlest Cancer Patient: "Sick" plays with this: the child is sick, but not from the leukemia she thinks she has — her grandmother is just making her ill to bilk charities.
  • Living Lie Detector: Martin Short as a serial killer, who uses his skills to pretend to be a psychic and play games with his victims' families.
    • Incidentally, the system he supposedly uses is real. It was developed by the guy who inspired Lie to Me.
  • Loads and Loads of Characters: SVU has the largest cast among the L&O shows, with nine credited in the opening titles from Season 8 to 9 in addition to a number of recurring characters. Because of this, the traditional walk towards the camera had to be abandoned in favor of the cast standing still at the end of the credits.
  • Longer-Than-Life Sentence: "Hardwired" ends with the leader of a pedophile rights group leader who convinced a man to rape his stepson to ten years for accessory, plus two years for every image of child pornography he had in his possession, totaling around 3000 years.
  • Long-Runners: Debuted in 1999 and still going strong in 2020, defeating Gunsmoke with its 21st season. SVU is currently the last scripted, non-animated, prime-time U.S. series to have debuted during the twentieth century.
  • Love Makes You Crazy and Evil and Stupid: An example of all three being the swinger who fell in love with a con-artist (which caused his wife to stab him into a coma), paid her bail after she was arrested, and when the detectives revealed that the only person she really loved was her brother (yes, like that), killed her brother so she would have to be with him. One can only imagine what his teenage daughter thinks of all this.
    • 'Nother one: FBI Agent Dana Lewis murdered her ex-boyfriend's fiancee in a fit of rage after she learned the other woman was pregnant (when she told him she was pregnant he made her get an abortion and a few months later dumped her and told her he was getting married) and pinned the crime on a serial rapist/murderer she was hunting. 20-something years later the rapist/murderer is caught and, wouldn't you know, isn't really keen on confessing to the one crime he didn't commit, especially since he hates redheads, he used his NBA connection to lure women (the victim didn't care for sports), and he hunted in bars (when he learned his "last victim" was pregnant he wondered why a pregnant woman, especially a kindergarten teacher, would be anywhere near a bar).

  • Made of Explodium: The car that Edwin Adelson drives in "Bullseye".
    • The exploding car gambit happens to Tim Donovan in "Loss" as well. Justified in that case, since his car was deliberately rigged with an explosive.
  • Mama Bear: There are quite a few. Whether they're helpful or obstructive depends on the plot and whatever issue their child is going through.
    • Sophie Gerard in "Shattered". Do not tell her that her son is dead and not coming back.
    • There's also Eva Santiago, who almost ended up killing the man that molested her son.
    • The mother in "Locum" is a more problematic version, as she's so concerned with protecting her daughter that she barely lets her out of her sight.
    • Olivia herself after she becomes the foster mother to, and later adopts, a child whose mother under Liv's care was raped and murdered at the end of Season 15.
    • "Undercover Mother" featured a mother who had been working undercover on her own as a madam for three years straight in hopes of finding her trafficked daughter. She succeeds, and it is beautiful.
  • Man Bites Man: Deliberately provoked in one episode, after the standard legal methods of obtaining the suspect's DNA had failed.
  • Manipulative Bastard / Manipulative Bitch: Many.
  • Manufacturing Victims: The show has played this card a few times.
    • There's a few episodes that deal with "repressed memory" therapists and the problems they cause, since "repressed memories" are usually false.
    • The cast does it too, though. There are numerous incidents where a "victim" doesn't think she was victimized, and she is portrayed as being in denial. Which is possible, although in some cases it seems more like they legitimately weren't traumatized by whatever "should" have traumatized them.
      • On one occasion, the victim couldn't remember the rape since she'd been drugged (the squad only knows because the rapist recorded it) and makes the argument to Liv that she is trying to make her feel victimized while Liv maintains that the woman has to deal with the trauma, even if she can't remember.
  • Magical Queer: Fin's son, Ken, seems to be becoming a fairly realistic version of this trope; as he is a Twofer Token Minority, he could double as a Magical Negro as well, although most of his plotlines have more to do with being gay than black. In every episode he's appeared in, he's volunteering with some new group or helping a friend in danger. Naturally, his help never really works, but he's still a decent, helpful gay guy whose boyfriend has never been seen on camera. He finally appears as Ken's fiancee and is promptly beaten into a coma, although a later episode reveals that he survived and he and Ken married.
  • Mauve Shirt: This show is even better than the original at maintaining a large recurring cast. In addition to the billed cast (of whom both Dr. Huang and Dr. Warner were promoted to the opening titles; before that, they too were examples of this trope), we have the CSU techie(s), the TARU techie, about a half-dozen judges, about a half-dozen defense attorneys, Stabler's family, Fin's ex-wife and son, the recurring IAB guy... the list is endless. In some episodes, the only non-recurring characters to appear in more than one scene are the victim and the perp. And yes, at least two of these Mauve Shirts have been conspicuously killed off: the lead CSU techie, O'Halloran, is stabbed to death in the Season 10 finale, while the IAB guy, Tucker, commits suicide in season 21 after learning he has terminal cancer. Plenty of others have had their share of close calls, too.
  • Meaningful Name:
    • "Olivia" is usually associated with harmony, befitting a law enforcer. Not only that, but Benson is usually the one who goes for calmer and peaceful methods when doing her job.
    • "Donald" means "great chief of a mighty world". Captain Donald Cragen is of course Da Chief of the titular hardworking unit.
    • Fin's son goes by the name Ken Randall, but his actual name (or at least his birth name, as it's unclear if he just goes by a different name or if he actually had a legal name change) is Kwasi Tutuola. Kwasi is meant to sound like the stem quasi, which means "having some resemblance." In his first appearance — the only one where his real name is mentioned — he has a rather strained relationship with Fin.
    • Speaking of which, "Odafin" means "lawmaker" or "establisher of laws."
    • "Alexandra" means defender of men. Enter A.D.A Alexandra Cabot.
    • "Casey" means brave. A.D.A Casey Novak is fond of making risky decisions, to the point that during the season 9 finale, she gets suspended after doing what she thinks is right and wasn't able to practice until season 12.
    • Amaro, in Latin, means bitter (for taste) or sour (for behavior). Given Nick's amount of, well, bitterness towards his past and all...
  • Medication Tampering: In "Conned", the team discovers that a doctor intentionally faked a teenager's schizophrenia diagnosis, including using medication to induce symptoms, because she was having an illicit sexual relationship with him.
  • Memory Wipe Exploitation: Played for Drama in one episode of where a famous football player, Lincoln Haver, is accused of killing his common-law husband is manipulated into confessing to the murder. It's later discovered Lincoln was diagnosed with Chronic Traumatic Encephlitynote  and actually doesn't remember the night in question; as a result, Lincoln is initially convicted of murder before being released after his agent Gary slips and makes a comment that indicates he knew more about the situation than he was telling.
  • Mighty Whitey: Stabler in the Chinatown-centric episode "Debt," especially since the actual Asian-American member of the main cast (Huang) gets shoved aside. However, they do discuss the possibility of using Huang, but they realize that having a Chinese man they've never met suddenly appear and start asking questions would make it pretty clear that something's up; Stabler supposedly being a local girl's white boyfriend lets him be there to protect her while she (a familiar face) asks the questions, and because he's not Chinese, it's not suspicious that he's not a known member of the community. (Huang does play a critical role in a sting later on.)
  • Mind Rape: (Of the "mundane kind", of course): Merrit Rook puts Elliot and Olivia through this once. It fails, by the way.
    • More than one interrogation session feels a lot like this. A good example is Olivia and Dr. Hendrix in "Contagious" browbeating and pressuring a stressed and terrified little girl into revealing who raped her, to the point where she falsely accuses her coach to get them to stop. Another is when Olivia pressures a mentally-ill witness into temporarily modifying his medical routine so he can testify in a specially difficult case... she later finds the dude's lifeless body, as he has hung himself due to both her abusive behavior towards him and the side-effects of said med changes.. Truth in Television, as police interrogations really can seem like Mind Rape in Real Life and very often do lead to false accusations and/or confessions.
    • The perp in "Spellbound" used hypnosis to incapacitate his victim before raping her.
  • Minor Injury Overreaction: "Informed" begins with a woman in the ER loudly complaining about a rash on her arm, right as someone with severe injuries is being driven by in a stretcher. Then a girl wearing a hoodie comes up to the doctor and removes her hood, revealing blood and bruises on her freshly shaved head, and says, "Please tell me I get to go before her."
  • Mistaken for Gay:
    • One episode had a witness give Olivia his home phone number and suggest that she give his bisexual wife a call.
    • This actually becomes an SVU Running Gag, as people continually mistake Olivia for gay. The section of the fandom who think she's in love with Hello, Attorney! Alexandra Cabot lap this up.
    • Then there's this delightful exchange in "P.C." after a woman tried to kiss Olivia:
      Benson: El, do you ever get a gay vibe from me?
      Stabler: [beat] Would it matter if I did?
      Benson:...You're not answering the question.
    • Fin and Lake were mistaken for a couple while trying to get eyewitness statements without revealing that they were cops. Lake decided to roll with it by putting his hand on Fin's thigh. The look on Fin's face...
  • Missing White Woman Syndrome: "Spectacle" centers around a kidnapped white teenage girl. The culprit is a teenager named Greg who is skilled with computers and threatens that he will kill her if his demands are not met. He periodically sends them videos of her undergoing torture and being raped but it turns out the whole thing was staged and everyone was in on it. They were using this societal tendency to get the attention of the FBI so that they could ask their help in finding Greg's little brother who was kidnapped a few years ago.The girl was never in trouble or harmed and neither was anyone else.
  • Mood Whiplash: the commercial break cliffhangers have a tendency to lead into upbeat, family-friendly commercials.
  • Moral Dissonance: The ending to "Wrong is Right" tells us that fantasizing about killing suspects is bad. Unless they're a monster, then it's okay.
  • Moral Luck: The detectives often arrest, accuse, and harass people they don't like based on flimsy evidence or a "gut feeling". Many times these suspects turn out to be guilty, other times they turn out to be Red Herrings but later turn out to be guilty of unrelated crimes that the detectives had no way of knowing about at the time of arrest. This helps the detectives seem more competent and less deserving of reprimand than they actually are.
  • Morally Ambiguous Doctorate: "Harm" deals with a doctor who works with private military contractors to oversee their use of "enhanced interrogation methods" (a fancy way of saying "torture").
  • Mother of a Thousand Young: A "reproductive abuser" who fathered 46 children, twenty in New York alone and compared himself to Monteczuma and other harem keepers his 47th child was killed when his mother committed murder-suicide after he refused to become more involved than a check once a month. He met his end after the psychologist who identified him as an abuser decided to become a vigilante woman (again - she'd previously beaten a child rapist to death with a bat); she "just" wanted to cut off his penis but accidentally blew him up because the knife was filled with compressed air.
    • The preacher in "Sin" and his wife have ten children.
    • The Duggar-Expy family in "Patrimonial Burden" also has ten children, although the youngest is actually their grandchild; they raised him as their own to cover up their teenage daughter's unwed pregnancy.
  • Mrs. Robinson: In "Responsible", Becca's mom is sleeping with her daughter's 17-year-old male classmate. She tries to justify it by bringing up that her ex-husband was cheating on her with his secretary, and says, "I figured out, if he could have a younger woman, I could have a younger man." Olivia doesn't buy it.
  • Must Have Caffeine: Almost everyone has moments of this, but the crowner is Barba.
    Muñoz: I thought we could grab a cup of coffee.
    Barba: I'm already on my fourth cup. (Note that this scene takes place early in the morning, and throughout the day he is seen drinking at least two more cups.)
    • And in another episode:
    Rollins: (After Barba talks fast enough that the detectives can't get a word in edgewise) You ever think about going off caffeine?
    Barba: That would be a no. So, why are we here?
  • Murder the Hypotenuse: Olivia tells Dale that if he murders Elliot, he can be her new partner and lover. It's all a diversion so that she and Elliot can take him out and have him arrested.
  • Mutual Envy: In October Surprise, Muñoz and Barba have this. Muñoz envies Barba for getting out of their barrio and getting an Ivy League scholarship, while Barba envies him because his mom said Muñoz would be mayor of New York one day, but never said that about him, and because Muñoz ended up married to the girl Barba loved (and possibly still loves).
  • My Beloved Smother:
    • In "Home", Marilyn Nesbit homeschools her two sons and controls every aspect of their lives, including what they eat, who they talk to, and what they do in their spare time. She believes that processed food causes cancer and doesn't give her younger son enough to eat, to the point that he resorts to eating out of the garbage. When SVU investigates, Marilyn has her older son kill her youngest son so he won't be taken away by child protective services.
    • The mother in "Locum" barely lets her adopted daughter out of her sight for fear that something bad will happen to her, a paranoia largely driven by the fact that the parents' biological daughter disappeared a decade earlier and the case was never solved. Especially given that the girl is a former foster child used to taking care of herself, it doesn't go over well.
    • Possibly the most extreme one ever in "Tragedy". A woman's adult daughter started a relationship with a man who had a pregnant ex-girlfriend. The mother hired a hitman to kidnap and murder the ex-girlfriend and her newborn baby, so her own daughter could marry the boyfriend and have a happy life together. Her daughter is not pleased when she finds out.
    Melinda: Why did you do this?
    Melinda's mother: Why? I had no other choice. You love Daniel. You deserve a wonderful life together. That baby would have ruined everything.
    Melinda: I told you that didn't matter to me.
    Melinda's mother: Oh, you've always been so trusting. But I know men. Daniel would have taken your money and gone back to that woman and her baby. I did this for you. I wanted you to be happy. That's all I ever wanted!
  • My Card: Olivia was actually once framed by a guy who killed somebody and left Olivia's card on the body... as well as her (fabricated) DNA on the knife.
  • My God, What Have I Done?:
    • In "Anchor": Randall Carver, a defense attorney, succeeds in getting his client, who was charged with murdering the children of immigrants, found "not guilty". The defendant whispered to him his intent to continue murdering, disturbing him greatly and leading Carver to kill him.
    • Strongly implied in "Turmoil". A girl is bribed to sell out her friend, a rape victim, on the witness stand, and lie that she claimed she was never raped. It's only after the prosecutor drops the charges against the perp due to shaky evidence and the victim attempts (and fails) to kill herself, does the girl step forward, willing to admit in court that her friend did not recant as she herself had originally stated.
  • My Greatest Failure: Captain Jackson, a therapist specializing in sex addicts, pursued his career after a dark period in his life when he, himself, was addicted to sex and alcohol. During this time, his daughter became estranged from him, causing him to believe he had raped her (but he couldn't remember it because alcohol muddled his memory). Turns out he never hurt his daughter, but rather had consensual sex with her friend. The estrangement was because his daughter's friend was her first love.
  • Mythology Gag: In Season 15's Gambler's Fallacy, Rollins has to steal a gun from the evidence locker, and masquerades as Criminal Intent's Detective Megan Wheeler. Brought up again when questioning the on-duty cop, when they mention Wheeler's retirement in 2010.

  • Naïve Newcomer: The pilot, while not a formal Welcome Episode, depicts Benson as a very recent transfer to SVU.
    • The episode "Wannabe" has a rookie officer make mistakes while apprehending a rapist that get the case thrown out. The "officer" turns out to be a teenager with a stolen uniform.
    • Though he's eventually established to have predated Benson at SVU, Brian Cassidy in Season 1 clearly hasn't been around very long himself; he's seen asking Munch for advice on how to deal with the mental impact of working on those kinds of crimes, and ultimately quits because he can't deal. Although it's ultimately revealed it's more complicated than it initially seemed.
  • Naughty Birdwatching: The cold open for season 6's "Hooked" involves some scouts stargazing on a roof, and a couple of them use the opportunity for "peeping at other heavenly bodies". Naturally, they quickly spot a corpse too.
    • In Season 12's "Mask", two boys are spying on their neighbors with binoculars when they see a man raping a woman and beating up her girlfriend. To their credit, they immediately report it as soon as they realize what's happening.
  • Nepotism: In Season 17, Deputy Chief Dodds gets his son assigned to SVU as Benson's second-in-command, leading to (probably not unjustified) accusations of this. However, the younger Dodds proves himself worthy of the position in his own right, and eventually gains the trust and respect of the unit.
  • Neverending Terror: A particularly twisted example in "Behave" with a serial rapist who takes sick pleasure in stalking and tracking his victims after their first assault and then raping them again and again at random points in their lives. One woman is so broken by the experience that her career, marriage, family and entire life got to pieces as she becomes afraid of ANY human interaction, or even leaving her house...forcing her to live in painful solitude. The criminal gets pleasure from knowing he's the only thing these women think about, every moment of their lives. The team finally catches him, but not until after he kidnaps the character described above and holds her for over 12 hours.
  • Never Going Back to Prison: In "Solitary", A Red Herring from one case is terrified of going back to prison and being put in solitary because of his previous experiences with solitary confinement. He throws Stabler off a roof when he thinks Stabler is going to arrest him, and even so Stabler is so moved by how obviously traumatized the guy is that the rest of the episode follows Stabler's attempts to keep the guy from going into solitary in prison.
  • Never My Fault: Oh poor little Annette Cole. If you had not been such a bitch to your employees in the wine business...this could have all been avoided. But you just had to kill yourself...didn't you?
    • In "Denial", the Villain of the Week's mother finally confronts her with how she smothered her infant son to death decades earlier. Her response is that it's her mother's fault because her mother refused to watch the baby for the night.
    • While the cops always feel sad when an innocent person’s life is ruined they see it as a consequence of pursuing a case, yet they are the ones who usually make such a public spectacle of it often doing a Perp Walk or hounding the accused in front of people even when they have little to no evidence.
  • New Media Are Evil:
    • The internet, more often than not, will either kill you or make you a sex trafficking victim.
    • Video games will just straight up kill you, more often than not. One episode deals with a killing that was inspired by a Grand Theft Auto-a-like called Nten City, complete with a defense attorney arguing that the game convinced the killer to kill that resembles Jack Thompson. Another had a kidnapping occur because a pedophile was turned on by the avatar of a player in a Second Life expy. On one of the rare occasions games didn't kill someone, a mentally-ill mother neglected her daughter and let a pedophile abuse her because she was too obsessed with a fantasy video game.
  • New York Is Only Manhattan: Averted here, while this show focuses on Manhattan, the other boroughs are routinely mentioned and/or visited.
  • Nice Job Breaking It, Hero: In the cases Olivia personally involves herself in, she sometimes unintentionally makes things worse for the victims (See Strawman Ball).
    • "Wrath" has an innocent man Olivia had arrested and provided the key testimony against (she had been acting in good faith and following procedure) go around killing her other "victims" (the family members of victims she was unable to help and the like), obsessed with making her believe it was all her fault. The other detectives tell her to just ignore the guy and that he was completely off base by blaming her, but she can't see it as being that simple, and eventually chooses to accept that her actions indirectly contributed to these deaths, but that that doesn't mean she's responsible for them.
    • "Alien" from season 7 has the grandparents of a girl being raised by lesbian parents claim that the non-birth mother is molesting her because they were convinced by a religious conservative so they could get custody. After Olivia and Elliot show her how the huckster lied to them, they go apologize. But the other mother is so offended by the implication and accusation that she tells them they will never see their granddaughter again.
    • The episode, "Rescue," is also pretty bad in this case to the point that the constant exclamations that Olivia makes everything worse manage to ring true to the viewer. Stabler calls out Benson for not wanting to find Calvin's mother, a rape victim in the case, for fear of losing custody of Calvin. Benson finds Vivian, the mother, high on drugs and arrests her anyway after Cragen told Benson and Stabler to not get involved. They also get a confession before Cragen calls them both out for their disobeying him. Vivian admits to trying to protect her best friend, Sarah, after Sarah comes in and confesses she is really the killer. Sarah and Vivian indeed make bail, only for Sarah to get shot in the head in the garage. Finally the ex-boyfriend of Vivian gets arrested for the murder and Vivian court orders Benson to give up legal guardianship to her ex-husband's grandparents in Vermont while she goes into rehab, the whole time Benson trying to defy the court order and proclaim that Vivian's an unfit mother and basically shouldn't get her son back. So a quick recap: Vivian is high on drugs. She sees her best friend get murdered, her ex-boyfriend get arrested for the murder, Olivia accuse her of being an unfit mother after she put Calvin in Olivia's care because Vivian knew she couldn't raise Calvin, and finally is going to rehab while poor Calvin gets shuttled off to Vermont, an innocent victim whom Olivia has now lost custody of. Nice job, Olivia.
    • In the episode "Anchor", ADA Cabot was questioning, in court, the Bill O'Reilly Expy the defendant claimed had brainwashed him into killing illegal aliens. After obtaining the witness' testimony that he would never incite violence, Cabot then proceeds to bait him for absolutely no reason at all. The witness then proceeds to demand that his followers stop Cabot, inciting a riot in the courtroom, proving the defendant's case, and costing Cabot what would otherwise have been a slam dunk conviction. She is never called on this.
      • That wasn't an accidental case of this, though - she pretty obviously thought there were bigger fish to fry. In her mind, it was akin to letting a low-level thug off the hook in order to bring down the Don.
      • From the same episode, this is what the defendant's own defense lawyer comes to think of himself. Because once his client gets off due to ADA Cabot, he reveals to him that he enjoys killing colored migrant children, and he intends to go right back to doing it. So his defense lawyer shoots him.
    • And the time that Cragen found a child that had been missing for years in a case that had always grated him. Turns out said kid was in a perfectly loving foster family only to be taken away from them once his biological father is discovered.
      • Although the ending does show the father talking with the boy's foster parents, with the implication that he just gained a set of step-parents.
      • This was one of those cases that didn't have an easy answer. There was a murder to pursue and a legitimately missing child whose family still loved and missed him terribly, and all of the prospective guardians (the boy's father, his grandparents, and the adoptive parents) were completely innocent in the case. No matter what, somebody was going to get hurt.
    • In a case of this not being the fault of our heroes, Professor Dillon from season 16's "Devastating Story": when a girl comes to her with a legitimate case of being raped and ignored by the principal of Hudson University, she coaxes the victim into not only taking her story to public forums, but also exaggerating it by claiming that she was deliberately gang-raped, hoping to use it to drum up media attention on the subject of campus rape. Instead, her efforts result in the dismissal of the case when the fabricated elements of the story are inevitably discovered and the whole story is pulled apart, which means that not only does the victim's actual rapist get off scot-free, she's caused enormous damage to her cause by associating it with this fake rape story scandal. It's even lampshaded by Olivia Benson, who sadly notes that Dillon's ploy has basically set the fight against rape culture back by 30 years.
  • No Bisexuals:
    • Averted in "Sacrifice", when the man who had been shot outside of a gay bar in the beginning of the episode was later revealed to have a wife and daughter. The detectives assured him plenty of people "hit for both teams". Though ultimately subverted in that he wasn't bisexual, he was actually straight and being paid to do gay porn in order to pay for his daughter's medical treatment.
    • In one episode, a serial rapist of women is found to be living with another man as a gay couple. The cops all decide that he must just be using the rapes as a power-trip, not for the sex. At least they averted Depraved Bisexual... (this time).
    • "Lowdown" is far, far more painful than this one and is all about a group of black men who have sex with each other on the side behind their wives' back. Despite that premise, not once is the idea of bisexuality brought up, even in passing, and any mention of the possibility of sex with men leads to the cast (particularly Elliot) to downright state that only gays are capable of it. This episode was based on the real life phenomenon of being "on the down low" in the African-American community, and people on the down-low likewise rarely admit to being anything but 100% straight.
    • 11x13, "P.C.", finally averted the trope. It wasn't handled too well. More specifically, a very militant lesbian activist (she only cares about lesbian rights) came out as bi to save her boyfriend from being crucified as the perp of the week. When she announces it, most of the lesbians at the meeting act like she betrayed them. While there are both gay and straight people who, unfortunately, believe wholeheartedly in this trope, they're generally not so...melodramatic.
  • Noble Demon: "Confession" features a man who is mockingly referred to as a "good pedophile": he runs a website featuring tame pictures of young children for other pedophiles to enjoy without actually going out and harming one, strictly enforcing its "look but don't touch" rule, reasoning that it keeps real children safe. He's also rather nonchalant about his predilections. He is arrested at the end of the episode for murdering a website subscriber after he admitted to violating the "Look but don't touch" rule.
  • No Celebrities Were Harmed: Occasionally there are characters based on real-life celebrities such as the Michael Jackson and Jack McClellan stand-ins in "Sick" and "Confession" respectively.
  • No Ending: The episode featuring Billy Campbell as an art professor accused of raping his student. We never find out whether he was found guilty or not.
  • No Periods, Period:
    • Averted in one episode. A serial rapist kept track of his numerous victims' menstrual cycles because his entire intention was to impregnate them.
    • Another episode had a Stalker with a Crush (sorta) acquit herself when her blood was found at a crime scene: She and the victim's husband were about to have sex, but her period came. And she kept the sheets.
    • Referenced in another episode where a teenage gymnast apparently thinks this should be the case, viewing the onset of her period as a sign she's not training hard enough. Sadly, the existance of this mindset in the gymnastics community was Truth in Television for the time (and although it's thankfully become much rarer, there are still a few coachesnote  who buy into this).
  • No Warrant? No Problem!: In one episode in particular, Benson and Stabler go to the suspect's apartment to question him and hear him having consensual sex with his girlfriend. They break down the door, and Stabler smirkingly claims that they had exigent circumstances because they heard a woman moaning.
  • Noodle Incident: In "Manipulated," Fin tells Olivia, "Please don't get him [Munch] started on Dick Cheney again!", with Olivia clearly trying to avoid laughing.
  • Not Proven: From time to time.
  • Not His Blood: In one episode, the SVU breaks up a sex slavery ring in New York City, ending with a raid on one of the brothels and a Shoot the Hostage Taker resolution, causing the hostage to be hit with the criminal's blood. The hostage, a teenage girl, is escorted out of the house where her aunt is waiting for her. Stabler assures the aunt that the blood isn't the girl's.
    • In the Cold Open of "Zebras", a man falls into a bush while roller-skating with his daughter and comes out with blood on his head. His daughter examimes him and can't find an injury, so they look in the bushes and realize he fell on the blood-covered body of the Victim of the Week.
  • "Not If They Enjoyed It" Rationalization: A bunch of rapists try to use this as a defense (specifically the arousal/orgasm variation). One gang member that participated in the gang rape of a new member's girlfriend uses this to try and bring doubt on her testimony, and his own bitch of a girlfriend uses the same sort of "logic". However, it is definitely not portrayed as okay.
    • In "Parole Violations", Carisi's sister has a hard time believing that her fiance could have penetrated a woman unless he was into it, but Olivia explains the biological basis behind it, comparing it to tearing up while cutting onions.
  • Not Me This Time:
    • BX9 is a notorious gang of thugs who have landed themselves in SVU's crosshairs multiple times for gang-rape, assault, murder, hate crimes, and more. In "Manhattan Transfer", they are suspected of running a sex trafficking ring, but it turns out they are being framed by someone else.
    • In "Web", when a young boy has been molested, suspicion is immediately cast on his father, who is on parole for having molested his older son, but has weekly supervised visits with his younger son. It wasn't him—it was the older son.
    • In "Night", the detectives immediately suspect that Gabriel Duval, the main suspect in a series of rapes, is responsible for beating Casey nearly to death in her office. While evidence eventually does prove Duval was the rapist, he really didn't have anything to do with Casey's beating; it turns out her attacker was the brother of one of the victims, who was mad at Casey for getting his sister involved because now everyone would know she was raped and wasn't a virgin.
  • Not What It Looks Like: Or what is sounds like in the episode "Sugar", where the only clue the detectives have to the identity of a witness is an online alias.
    Stabler: *over a store's PA* "Will the 'Master Baiter', please report to register 1? 'Master Baiter', register 1?"
    A homely looking nerd starts walking towards the register.
    Benson: *over the PA* "Not a masturbator, the ' Master Baiter '!"

    O - P 
  • Obfuscating Disability: "Manipulated" had a woman who had long since made a full recovery from an accident keeping her wheelchair and making herself sick for the sympathy and to control her husband, who she was framing for a couple murders - it's revealed when he shoves her wheelchair into a pool. Just to double up on the trope, she may have been faking the Munchausen's Syndrome as a defense.
  • Odd Friendship: Olivia and a defense attorney (she's pointed several clients including her half-brother his way). Their friendship is especially odd since they first met when he decimates a rape case and gets the defendant acquitted even though the audience saw him do it. It's also rather inconvenient since they both do everything they can for justice, and in the attorney's case that includes threatening to reveal Olivia's romantic relationship with the ADA.
    • Olivia and Tucker probably qualifies too, given how antagonistic they were in the early seasons.
  • Off on a Technicality: Going this route is a bad idea, since the show adores some Vigilante Justice. (It generally means you've traded jail time for being shot in the head shortly after leaving the police station.)
  • Oh, Crap!: In "Transgender Bridge", the reaction of the bullies when the transgender kid they were bullying fell off the bridge as a result of their altercation.
  • One-Word Title: Extremely well-loved by this series for episode titles. The fifth episode of Season 4 is entitled "Disappearing Acts". This is the last multi-word episode title the series would have until the Season 13 premiere. And it didn't even start there — "Disappearing Acts" itself followed a two-season streak of one-word titles. (However, once they started using them again, multi-word titles quickly became the norm, with only a handful of episodes in the later seasons playing this trope straight.)
  • Once for Yes, Twice for No: Subverted in an episode with a brain-dead patient; they set things up to look like this in order to engineer a Bluffing the Murderer moment.
    • Played straight at a number of points in an episode with MS patients.
  • Older Than They Look:
    • Invoked in "Pretend," which involves a 16-year-old high school student who turns out to be a 28-year-old woman who's been posing as a teen for ten years in order to scam the foster-care system.
    • An episode involves a 17 year old girl with the body of a 10 year old going out with an older man. The officers try to bust the man, but the girl was legal and consenting.
    • A Season 10 episode features a cop who is undercover as a student in the same college as Elliot's (second) daughter.
    • The victim in "Pixies" was 19 but passing for 16, and the detectives and the ME originally estimated her age as even younger. Truth in Television to an extent since the victim was a gymnast, and at the time, being small and prepubescent was considered the ideal body in women's gymnastics, to the point where girls would take extreme measures to retain that body type as long as possible. (Thankfully, that's largely changed since then.)
  • Old Man Marrying a Child: The episode "Charisma" involved this. The marriage is not legally binding, but it's treated as a real marriage by the cultists.
  • Old Shame:invoked Elizabeth Donnelly. As seen in "Persona," her run-in with the Idiot Ball that resulted in a murderer escaping from jail coined the phrase "doing a Donnelly" for several years after.
  • Once Done, Never Forgotten:
    • A social worker in "Careless" is called to trial for placing a child in an abusive home, which eventually led to his death. The bad publicity and death threats she receives drive her to suicide, with her last words lampshading that she has saved hundreds of children but will only be remembered for this one.
    • Elliot Stabler once admitted that he has fantasies of murdering child molesters, which is often brought up by people who question his credibility as a cop.
  • Online Alias: The season 11 episode "Sugar" has a woman who goes by "The Master Baiter" online (she obscures her face and distorts her voice when she films her videos).
    • "October Surprise," based on Anthony Weiner's adventures as Carlos Danger, gives us Enrique Trouble.
    • "Avatar" features two women who use "Tawny Coppercuffs" and "Vixy Platinum" as their usernames on the Second Life Expy "Another Youniverse."
  • Only Sane Man: Criminal profiler and FBI Special Agent Dr. George Huang often fills this role pointing out things like sexuality is complicated and a person can be attracted to both men and women in "Lowdown" while every one else believes that there are No Bisexuals. Or pointing out in "Clock" that sleeping with some one of legal age that is Older Than They Look is not a crime. Unfortunately they usually do not listen to his (professional and usually well-informed) opinion.
    • John Munch is occasionally this, when he actually has lines.
    • Rafael Barba inherited this role from Huang after he left.
  • Ooh, Me Accent's Slipping: Irish actor Stephen Rea, known for playing Inspector Finch in V for Vendetta, guest stars in the episode "Solitary", and once in a while you'll hear a touch of UK in his speech. Listen to the way he says "years" when he's testifying about being in solitary confinement.
    • Possibly justified: his character states that his family moved into his current apartment "fresh off the boat" when he was ten years old, implying that he is an immigrant.
  • Open Mouth, Insert Foot: In S 10 Ep 20, "Crush", an interviewee mentions a boxing class.
    "But no one's supposed to know about that."
  • Opposites Attract: Fin is a somewhat staunch Republican. Munch is a left-leaning Conspiracy Theorist. Both are as thick as thieves.
  • Or Are You Just Happy to See Me?: The RDK copycat in "Scavenger" gives Elliot a variant:
    RDK: Why detective, is that your phone vibrating or do you just find me terribly exciting?
  • Order vs. Chaos: "Obscene" featured a stringent Moral Guardian campaigning against scantily-clad girls in movies and television vs. a bombastic radio talk show host and die-hard advocate of free speech rights.
  • Out-of-Character Alert: In "Townhouse Incident," while being held hostage, Olivia texts a nonsense response to her sitter that includes a reference to William Lewis (who had held her hostage and attempted to rape her in a prior episode). The sitter doesn't know the name "William Lewis", but the message makes no sense to her (particularly because Olivia called her son by the wrong name), so she realizes that it means something is amiss and takes it over to the SVU office.
Carisi: Guys, we got a problem here. Liv just texted this to her babysitter.
Tutuola: "Stuck at precinct all day. Pick up William at daycare. He has a playdate with Lewis today."
Barba: William Lewis? That's not good.
  • Out of Focus: Munch. By the time he retired, he was barely appearing enough for it to be noticeable or meaningful.
  • Overprotective Dad: Elliot. Some of it, especially in early seasons, tends to be as a result of his work; because of what he does, he's hyper-aware of all the possible threats to his children, and goes overboard trying to protect them from those threats.
  • Papa Wolf: Between Elliot and Fin... A special mention has to be given to "Venom", when they go head-to-head. Fin gets angry when Elliot interrogates his son, and responds by bringing up Kathleen's drunk driving. The two of them need to be pulled off of each other.
    • Elliot was also rather protective of Olivia, as a couple of times he bit Munch's head off for thoughtlessly bringing up Olivia's past.
    • Heartbreakingly subverted in season 5 episode "Abomination" where a father claims to have killed his son's male lover because he was unaware his son was gay and thought he was being sexually assaulted by another man. In the end, it is revealed that the young man's father knew he was gay all along and only killed his lover out of spite because his son's homosexuality would destroy his career as a homosexual conversion therapist.
    • Played straight in another episode with similar themes. An evangelical reverend is willing to be implicated for murder and painted as gay (with the latter being as bad as the former in the eyes of their religion) because he believes that his son, the victim's real lover, was responsible, and the father, who had recently lost a son in Iraq, couldn't bear to lose another child. He only gives up the charade when he realizes his son didn't do it either. And just to put the icing on the cake, the reverend also tells his son that he accepts him being gay.
  • Parental Betrayal: In the season three episode "Justice," the wife of a prominent judge kills her teen daughter in a fit of rage after the girl confessed to her that her beloved husband raped and impregnated her when she was eleven. When Benson and Stabler come to arrest her, they are horrified when the woman shrugs off the rape by claiming that it was her daughter who seduced her husband and then self-righteously exclaim that her dying daughter looked at her as if she (the mother) was the one who betrayed her.
  • Parental Savings Splurge: "Vulberable" sees the detectives investigate the case of an elderly woman who was tortured and forced to sign cheques. They interrogate her son, who immediately points the finger at her grandson (his own son), who he describes as a deadbeat who dropped out of uni. When they interrogate the grandson, he explains that the only reason he dropped out was because his dad frittered away his college funds on bad business ideas, and he considers his grandma the only relative who cared about him.
  • Pater Familicide: "Annihilated".
  • Patched Together from the Headlines: Many.
  • Pedophile Priest: There was an episode about this, of course ("Silence"). The priest himself was a far more sympathetic character than you might expect note . In the episode's final scene, he redeems himself by agreeing to testify against the real villain, the bishop, even though it means he'll lose everything.
    • Double subverted in "Presumed Guilty". A guy was arrested for beating up a priest, who he thought had molested his teenage sister, after seeing said priest hugging a little girl. Turned out the priest didn't molest anyone and the girl in question was his daughter, a fact that he and her mother kept secret due to his vows. However his attacker's sister was indeed molested by a priest, just a different one (she never told her brother the name of her attacker, so he tried to deduce who it was but got it wrong).
    • Taken Up to Eleven in "Manhattan Transfer"/"Unholiest Alliance" in which the priests are actively involved in the sex trafficking of underage girls.
  • Perp Walk: You can almost guess what comes next based on how many minutes into the show a suspect is being led away in cuffs.
  • Phony Psychic: Martin Short's guest appearance.
  • Pillow Silencer: The episode "Ghost" has the criminal of the week named Ghost attempt to kill a six year old boy by shooting him through a pillow.
  • Platonic Life-Partners: Benson & Stabler
  • Poe's Law: "Raw" has Stabler and Munch trace a murder weapon to a gun shop that turns out to also be the base for a white supremacist group. Of the three workers/members seen during their visit, the most obviously racist of the group turns out to actually be an undercover FBI agent.
  • Police Are Useless: Used in "Lost Traveller" as the families involved in the episode do not trust the detectives (or the NYPD) at all. It gets to the point where the victim's mother turns into a Vigilante Man because she feels the detectives haven't served justice yet.note 
  • Police Lineup: Several times per season. But by no means once an episode like you'd expect.
  • Politically Incorrect Villain: Given the nature of the crimes SVU investigates, they encounter many, many perps who fall under this category. For example by subscribing to a gendered Double Standard, regarding some victims as people "no one will miss," or choosing their victims based on homophobic, racist, ethnic, or other forms of bigotry. It's also not uncommon for lesser villains to reveal themselves as jerkasses by making casually sexist or racist comments to the detectives.
  • Positive Discrimination: It's a pretty safe bet the criminal is a man. Granted, that isn't a departure from reality, but if there is a female suspect, it will turn out that a man actually did it, or pushed her to do it.
    • Of course, there are plenty of times where a female 'victim' turns out to be the perp, or at least in collaboration. This show loves its melodramatic plot twists.
  • Power Walk: A series staple, and this one is no exception.
  • Pregnancy Does Not Work That Way: In an in-universe case, one episode has a defendant in a rape case mount a defense based on the idea that women can't get pregnant from rape, and therefore, since his victim is pregnant, it proves that it was consensual sex. The main characters know it's complete nonsense (especially given that one of the protagonists is actually a Child by Rape), but the defendant spins the story well enough to deadlock the jury.
  • Pregnant Hostage: In "Tragedy", Detectives Benson and Stabler try to find a kidnapped woman with a high-risk pregnancy.
  • Prison: Every once in a while, one of the detectives must go to a prison and interview a convict in order to catch a perp.
  • Prison Changes People: A bit character on one episode was a death row inmate who converted to Islam while in prison and wished to atone.
  • Prison Rape: The detectives' favorite threat comes back to bite the SVU in the ass at least twice: The first time was when a pair of serial rapists was attacking men in Central Park while Olivia was distracted by her new-found half-brother Simon they got them to confess by threatening to reveal what happened to them in prison in a presidential investigation; the second was when a perp was raped in prison after Olivia threatened him with it, and deduced that Olivia had sent the man to rape him. Didn't stop Cabot from using the threat a week later.
    • Nearly happens to Olivia in "Undercover", at the hands of a rapist prison guard. Fin shows up to help in the nick of time.
    • Also happens in "Fallacy", an episode featuring a pre-op transgender woman, after she loses a fight to be housed in a women's prison and then retracts the deal she previously made with the ADA only to be convicted and sent back to the men's prison anyway.
    • Another notable one was the guy at the hotel party in "Taken". As usual, when there's one guy who's just gotta be the perp, he turns out not to be. To add the final Butt Monkey touch, he ends up prison-raped to death in Rikers before he can be released.
  • Promotion to Opening Titles: Michelle Hurd (Monique Jeffries) halfway through Season 1; Stephanie March (Alex Cabot) and Ice-T (Fin Tutuola) the episode after their introduction in Season 2; B.D. Wong (George Huang) in Season 4 after being a Recurring Character since Season 2; Tamara Tunie (Melnda Warner) in Season 7 after being a Recurring Character since Season 2; Adam Beach (Chester Lake) in Season 9 after a two-episode guest appearance the previous season; Stephanie March gets promoted back in Season 11 after returning as a Recurring Character the previous season; Raúl Esparza (Rafael Barba) in Season 15 after being a Recurring Character the previous Season; Peter Scanavino (Sonny Carisi) in the episode following his introduction during Season 16; Philip Winchester (Peter Stone) in the episode following his introduction in Season 19.
  • Promotion to Parent: Sort of: In "Savior" A newly-ex-prostitute gives Olivia power of attorney over her very premature, very ill infant daughter while she (the ex-prostitute) gets her life to a point where she can be a good mother (at least, that's what she said). Earlier, Olivia tells Elliot that she would rather stop caring for the infant because there's no chance she'll have a normal, healthy life (Elliot disagrees and accuses her of coming to that decision because she's not a parent); the episode has a No Ending when the baby needs emergency surgery, and Liv is forced to decide whether to allow an operation which could leave the kid brain-damaged or let her die, and since the baby hasn't been mentioned since...
    • Word of God says (on Twitter) that the baby died. Uh...good to know.
    • Happens again to Olivia, who is now legal guardian to her not-half-sister's teenage son Calvin Arliss after she killed her mother's rapist/biological father and fled. The boy was happily living with Olivia (who was dragging her feet trying to find his bio-dad) until not-sister, now high as a kite and living with her enabling drug-addict girlfriend, returned for custody. (here's where things get a bit fuzzy) Not-sister was arrested but then her girlfriend revealed that she killed the rapist, and then the kid's bio-dad, who was desperately looking for his son and had had a room ready for years, killed his ex-wife's girlfriend because he blamed her for getting his wife addicted to drugs. So not-sister's in prison, bio-dad's in prison, and the boy is with bio-dad's parents.
    • She finally gets one for good beginning in the Season 15 finale, when she's given custody of a child she had rescued during an earlier investigation. It briefly looks to be in jeopardy, with the child's biological father attempting to assert a claim, but he is killed in a courtroom shootout and with both parents now dead, Olivia is approved to adopt the child.
  • Protagonist-Centered Morality: The show could very well be the poster child for this trope. Anything the detectives do, regardless of how morally or ethically questionable it is, is always depicted as being in the right while anyone who opposes or even calls them out on it is always in the wrong. Especially if the one calling them out is Internal Affairs or a defense attorney.
  • Psycho Lesbian: In "P.C." When a lesbian is murdered, the unit believes that a rapist who targets lesbians may be responsible. It turns out that her girlfriend had serious anger issues and a history of abusing her partners. Somewhat of a subversion (?) the girlfriend had indeed been abusive, but she was in therapy, and the culprit was a male rapist targeting lesbians.
  • Psychopathic Man Child: Stuckey... or something.
  • Put Down Your Gun and Step Away: Almost Once per Episode.
  • Punny Name:
    • Casey Novak, the main Assistant District Attorney from Seasons 5-9 (plus a few episodes from 12-13).
    • "Babes" featured a Catholic schoolgirl named Fidelia who cheated on her boyfriend.
  • Put on a Bus:
    • Alex Cabot. She got better... or rather her would-be killers got worse. She voluntarily went back on the bus after a witness told her about the horrific rapes in Africa and joined an NGO to prosecute the rapists for crimes against humanity. She came back after the summer.
    • Casey is suspended from practice after Season 9, but appears sporadically in Season 13.
    • Starting on Season 13, Elliot Stabler. He took early retirement but from Olivia and Cragen's reactions you'd have thought he Ate His Gun like his father. It took him a full decade to make a reappearance.
    • Dr. Huang as well. No explanation was given for almost a year, until The Bus Came Back in "Father Dearest", and he mentioned that he had been reassigned to... Oklahoma.
    • As of season 15, Munch and Cragen have both retired though that doesn't stop them from coming back on occasion.
    • As of the end of Season 16, Amaro has moved to California to raise his family.

    Q - R 
  • Quip to Black: Usually Stabler or Munch, sometimes Olivia.
  • Rape as Backstory: The reason Olivia tends to take rape cases rather personally is because she herself was born of rape.
    • She herself has also been a victim of attempted rape twice. The first time, she was saved by Fin; the second time, she saved herself.
    • New detective Rollins was raped by her old captain. He coerced her into sex in exchange for dropping charges against Rollins' sister; she changed her mind at the last minute and tried to back out, at which point he physically forced her.
  • Rape Is a Special Kind of Evil: The monologue at the beginning of each episodes states that sexually based offences are considered especially heinous.
  • Real Life Writes the Plot:
    • Because of the Real Life NYPD retirement policy, Dann Florek's character was written out of the main cast in Season 15.
    • Kelli Giddish got pregnant, so Amanda Rollins got pregnant.
  • Really Gets Around: Ray Merino from Season 17's "Melancholy Pursuit" is this in spades. A familial DNA hit on a murder leads to a an adopted man, who points the detectives to his birth mother, who sends them to the biological father, Ray. Ray turns out to be dead, but one of his two sons points the detectives to another woman who had twins (one boy, one girl) through him. This son is dead, but his mother then sends the team to yet another family, this one with three sons. To recap: Seven sons and a daughter with four woman...that we know off.
    Fin: No wonder that man died of a heart attack.
  • "The Reason You Suck" Speech: Fin gives one to Elliot near the end of "Cold."
    • Olivia launched a classic one to the leader of the teen pregnancy pact in "Babes." Flaunting pregnancy (as a teenager) is one thing, but bringing up Liv's biological clock is just asking for it.
  • Reasonable Authority Figure: You know the guy who replaced Olivia when Lewis escaped was reasonable because when Olivia told him the truth about beating Lewis with a pipe when he was already handcuffed (and not about to attack her like she told the court), his response was "you should have killed him when you had the chance".
    • Cragen was usually this as well.
  • Recovered Addict: Captain Cragen is all about this trope. He finds himself bringing it up several times per season. Usually when somebody on his squad offers him a drink.
  • Red Herring: Generally the first suspect that gets brought in, though occasionally subverted.
    • Usually you can tell when it looks like they've got their man and there's 40 minutes of show left.
    • Double red herring in Ep 06 "Redemption"
  • Red Oni, Blue Oni: This is a Law and Order show after all. Pairings are:
    • Stabler (Red) and Benson (Blue)
    • Stabler (Red) and Tutuola (Blue)
    • Tutuola (Red) and Munch (Blue)
    • Tutuola (Blue) and Lake (Red)
    • Benson (Blue) and Amaro (Red)
    • Amaro (Blue) and Rollins (Red)
    • Tutuola (Blue) and Rollins (Red)
    • Benson (Blue) and Carisi (Red)
  • Redshirt Army: The competence of the ordinary police officers inversely correlates with how dramatic the scene they are in is. Hostage situations, the Monster of the Week making an escape attempt, a gunman attacks the courthouse, will all see any rank-and-file policemen quickly neutralized to heighten the drama.
  • Refuge in Audacity: In "Flight", the billionaire child molester who accused a twelve-year-old girl of rape surely qualifies. He's shocked that the detectives don't appear to take his case seriously.
    • In "Father's Shadow," a man caught humping an unconscious woman tells the police: "I'm sorry! I thought she was dead!"
    • Alexandra Cabot's defense for presenting illegally obtained evidence in "Guilt"? A mix of this and Loop Hole Abuse. She admits to lying to the victim's mother and violating her civil liberties, as well as manipulating detectives in front of the judge. But argues that the evidence should be allowed anyway since she did not violate the suspect's privacy or civil rights. It actually works too. Although she did end up with a thirty day suspension and it took quite a while for Judge Petrovsky to let her live it down.
    • Casey Novak once subpoenaed Donald Rumsfeld, who was at that time the United States Secretary of Defense, in "Goliath". Arthur Branch was not amused.
    • Rafael Barba's Establishing Character Moment in "Twenty-Five Acts" was goading a defendant into strangling Barba with a belt, from the witness stand, right in front of the judge and jury.
  • Relationship Reveal: "Unholiest Alliance" reveals that Olivia and Capt. Ed Tucker have been seeing each other romantically for some time when she kisses his fingers.
  • Relationship Upgrade: Between Detectives Amaro and Rollins, after he's seen walking around her apartment in a state of undress in Season 15.
  • Remember the New Guy?: Several episodes feature perps and victims who are well-acquainted with the detectives from previous cases, except they're introduced in the same episode(s).
  • Replacement Goldfish: In the episode "Locum", a couple is revealed to have adopted a orphan girl simply because she looked almost identical to the biological daughter who was abducted and possibly killed ten years before. To make the newly adopted kid look as much like their lost child the parents (but mostly the mother) forced the 8-12 year old to wear the girl's clothes (she was originally a tomboy), straighten and dye her hair, and even get a nose job and a RFID chip implanted in her so her parents can find her if she gets lost. The kicker? The biological daughter is found by the police alive and at the end of the episode, is returned to her parents as the replacement daughter watches on.
  • The Resenter: "Theatre Tricks" (which might be an homage to Perfect Blue and by extension Black Swan) had a very resentful plain, chubby wannabe actress who was so jealous of her naive, pretty friend that she set her up to be raped by a judge and pinned it on her director because the pretty girl stole the plain one's part just by showing up, while the plain girl had to prostitute herself in order to be considered and wanted her friend to "suffer for once in her life". The detectives found it ironic that, out of all the exploitative men in the pretty girl's life (she had a stalker plus a sleazy director), the one who actually hurt her was a woman who acted like her friend.
    • Similarly, FBI Agent Dana Lewis killed her boyfriend's fiancee: a pretty schoolteacher who wasn't Married to the Job and when she revealed she was pregnant her boyfriend asked her to marry him instead of forcing her to get an abortion and then dumping her months later (what he had done to Dana when she got pregnant). The last thing Dana remembers before she realized she was cleaning the scene of the murder was "this girl's never suffered in her life".
    • James Van Der Beek's character goes the extra mile to get revenge on the (admittedly insufferable) med school classmate who ruined his life by stealing his identity and using "genetic attraction" to seduce his rival's three teenage sperm donor daughters (getting one pregnant) and the guy's "legitimate" daughter. When he's arrested he tells the wife (also his ex-girlfriend) that her daughter is dead — she isn't, but she's now convinced her "lover" is her real father.
  • Retcon: A season 13 episode heavily implied that Jack McCoy was no longer the District Attorney, but his appearance in season 19 establishes that he is still the DA.
  • Revenge Before Reason: Sometimes fall into this, despite all possible reasons why their actions wouldn't be a good idea. Especially if its an It's Personal moment.
    • A major example of this is in "Blinded" where Olivia deliberately informs the feds of a perp's location, knowing that he would be sent back to Louisiana to be executed. All to get revenge for him headbutting Elliot into a car window, which caused him to go blind (He got better). And after Casey calls her out on it, she informs the DA that she threw the case (Which she did, but that's another issue).
    • The shock jock in "Obscene" who was given a full confession by a rapist but it wasn't caught on tape because the FCC stopped his show from airing. The shock jock refused to testify about the confession in order to spite the FCC. It apparently didn't occur to him that the FCC wasn't prosecuting the rapist, no one at the FCC would ever know or have any reason to care that he wasn't testifying. In fact, the rapist was the son of a woman who was leading the charge to censor his show so his refusal to testify would feel like a favor to the people he wanted to spite.
    • Twisted up in "Reparations" where Terrence Howard's DA from Law & Order: LA appears to defend his cousin, who raped a woman who turned out to be the granddaughter of the leader of three men who raped his mother when he was a child and made him watch (and called her a whore to escape justice on top of it). Except he didn't — he couldn't bring himself to do it and she only claimed that he did do it because grandpa told her that no one would believe she was "just" assaulted and that "black men always rape". The DA's cousin still gets a measure of revenge though, because at the end, his mother's rapist A) is forced to watch his granddaughter go to jail for perjury because of the false accusations he manipulated her into making and B) must now face that the grandchild who once loved and adored him even in spite of his racism now utterly despises him for even just temporarily turning her into the same kind of evil person that he is.
  • Revisiting the Roots: The series was forced by Christopher Meloni's departure to go back to a more rounded set of characters instead of being the Stabler & Benson Show. But as of Season 15, they seem to have stopped and are instead just making it The Benson Show.
  • Revolving Door Casting: Are you an ADA? Is your name Cabot, Novak, Barba, or Carisi? No? Well, nice knowing ya!
  • Rich Bitch: Holy hell, the grandmother (played by May Parker!) in the Mushroom Samba episode "Wet", who sees her granddaughter as weak for becoming a drug addict and needing silly things like therapy and emotional support. Later, she visits her granddaughter after a suicide attempt just to take back her necklace and disown her. The granddaughter did kill someone (who grandma saw as more of a granddaughter than her own) but even the detectives can see how grandma drove her to it.
    • The grandmother in "Privilege" is even worse. She taught her own grandson how to rape women and use their wealth and privilege to get away with murder. She then tries to set up her own son in order to help her grandson evade justice.
  • Ripped from the Headlines: The franchise has its own page.
  • Roaring Rampage of Revenge: "Poisoned Motive" had one. The perp was the daughter of Fin's former partner. Angry at the wrongs that cost her her mother's life, her father's job, their home and her potential part of the Army and Police, she sought to murder those connected to those who wronged them.
  • Romanticized Abuse: The show sometimes goes for having their cake and eating it too, denouncing the horrors of sexual abuse while displaying it in almost pornographic detail.
    • One episode, named "Slaves", revels in the details on how a young Romanian woman has been imprisoned, brainwashed and used as sex toy by an American couple. Lots of neatly presented details about the horrors she endured makes for a strange mix of Fetish Fuel and Nausea Fuel. Surprisingly, the detectives let the wife off the hook in exchange for selling out her husband, in spite of the fact that she murdered the girl's aunt without even informing her husband about it afterwards, though one could argue that there was some heavy implication that the wife was also the subject of abuse and brainwashing.
    • Another episode, named "Spectacle", runs on the principle that no one can resist watching a good rape. The episode starts with a video broadcast of a woman getting raped by a masked man popping up on the intranet of a university campus. It turns out that the guy who had the woman kidnapped and raped was filming it to get attention. His baby brother was kidnapped, and the police gave up searching after a certain point. After this cold case is solved, the unsurprising reveal is made that they was simply playing make-believe rape as a little Activist Fundamentalist Antics plot to get the police's attention.
      • To be fair it was said they tried closing the window but couldn't. And everyone couldn't tell if it was real or not.
  • Room Full of Crazy: The detectives have stumbled into many of these over the course of the series, often of the Stalker Shrine variety. However, the show also pulled a subversion in the episode "Manhattan Vigil," when a suspect's Room Full Of Crazy turned out to be exactly right about the crime they were investigating.
  • Rouge Angles of Satin: In "Choice", the perpetrator tagged a mirror with "Suck it bich". This causes Cragen to instruct his detectives to check with the Gang Unit for groups who misspell things. The lab techs also note the misspelling on a note stuck to crime photos posted in their lab.
  • Rule of Three: Apparently just being Ripped from the Headlines isn't enough, it has to involve three stories: "American Tragedy" combined Treyvon Martin's shooting, Paula Deen's Deep South racism, and the controversial practice of "stop-and-frisk" which disproportionately targets African-American men.
  • Running Gag: As Benson puts it, "why does everyone think I'm a lesbian?"
    • Also the fact that Elliot gets terribly wounded every time he runs into a certain FBI Agent, Dana Lewis. In the episode "Penetration", he actually gets shot by her because a bullet she fired at her rapist ricocheted off of a metal beam. The resigned look on his face after getting shot is absolutely hilarious.
  • Russian Roulette: Happens in "Russian Love Poem". The player gets two clicks before the bang. Also, in "Beast's Obsession", Lewis forces Benson to play Russian Roulette and they get to the last bullet as rescue team is seconds away. Lewis "wins" by getting the last bullet and shoots himself (splattering gore all over Benson) to ensure that she'll never forget him.

  • Salt and Pepper: Munch and Fin, Munch and Jefferies, Fin and Rollins.
  • Saved by the Platform Below: "Solitary" sees the team trying to track down and ex-con who was desperate to avoid going back to prison and thus shoved Stabler off of a roof. Luckily for Stabler, there was a platform just below, so he suffered only minor injuries.
    • Averted in "Fight"; a murder suspect jumps off a rooftop while being chased by Fin and lands in a garbage truck, only to be crushed to death by its compactor.
  • Saying Too Much: This is how the true culprit is finally caught in Season 16, Episode 13, "Decaying Morality". The detectives have the victim, Jenna, confront her dentist uncle in a restaurant, but at first he's too smart to give himself away. At the last minute, Jenna lies that she's "late" and probably pregnant. The culprit doesn't say that that's not possible because he never had sex with Jenna; instead he says that that's not possible because he had a vasectomy and thus couldn't have gotten her pregnant—which means he just indirectly admitted that he raped her.
  • The Scapegoat: This is a common occurrence do to the Never My Fault mentality of the SVU detectives. Whenever the detectives mess up a case they often shift the blame to someone else. While this is usually the actual culprit, it is just as likely to be someone they don’t like.
  • The Schizophrenia Conspiracy: A relatively common plot point. A notable occurrence in "Zebras" involved a dangerous schizophrenic involved with a circle of anti-establishment conspiracy theorists including one of Munch's ex-wives.
  • Screw the Rules, I'm Doing What's Right!: The detectives regularly ignore protocol and procedure to make sure criminals don't get away.
    • In "Confidential" Stabler arrests a defense attorney after she admits that she could have stopped another man from being found guilty of her client's crimes. While attorney client privilege protects her she still let an innocent man rot in jail for twenty years. Stabler does eventually decide he went too far.
      • The lawyer's decision to give her client up, even though he's dead, also qualifies. According to the rules of privilege, she should have kept his secret forever no matter what the consequences, but she decided she couldn't have that on her conscience.
    • Alex Cabot breaks several laws in "Guilt" to secure the evidence to convict a pedophile. Including deceiving the victim's mother and the detectives to gain evidence illegally.
  • Screw the Rules, I Have Money!: Many wealthy and powerful perps find that this doesn't play in the L&O universe.
  • Secretly-Gay Activity: In the episode "Lowdown", the squad investigates the death of a gay lawyer, and stumble across a black poker club that's actually a front for closeted gay black men.
  • Secret Relationship: Detectives Amaro and Rollins.
  • Self-Surgery: In "Shattered", Dr. Warner is shot by a grief-deranged mother, and has to talk Olivia through the procedure to insert a chest tube so her lung won't collapse.
  • Serial Killer Baiting: In the episode "Demons," Stabler goes undercover to try and catch a paroled serial rapist who targets teenage girls. At one point during the operation, the cops send one of their junior officers out dressed like a teenager to try and bait the rapist. While he stops and gets close to her, he decides not to take the bait.
  • Serial Killings, Specific Target: One episode features a man who killed his wife and then killed another woman for this exact reason. However, it doesn't fool the detectives, as they note that the second killing was cold and detached, whereas the original victim died brutally, showing that the murderer had a lot of genuine rage towards the first one, but didn't care at all about the second.
  • Series Continuity Error: At the beginning of Season 9, Olivia gets her hair cut. However, in the 3rd episode of the season "Impulsive", Olivia's hair has suddenly grown significantly longer. In the next episode, it returns to its previous style.
  • Sesquipedalian Loquaciousness: Of the medical/psychiatric/legal terminology variety.
  • Sex in a Shared Room: Several variants, all of which are pretty horrible (given that this is a police show about sex crimes):
    • "Dominance" alone has several rape examples, as this seems to be a huge fetish for Charlie. His crimes involve forcing kidnap victims to rape each other, but outside of that totally nonconsensual example, he is in a bizarre three-way relationship with his girlfriend and his younger brother. He persuaded her to take his virginity while Charlie was in the room, and then coerced them into participating in threesomes that may or may not have devolved into Charlie raping his younger brother in front of her.
    • Olivia invokes this when she's trying to seduce Stuckey in "Zebras", telling him after they kiss that she wants Stabler to watch them have sex (it's just an excuse so she and Stabler can get the upper hand.)

  • Sex Is Evil, and I Am Horny: One episode featured a man raping other men, even though the thought of sex with males disgusted him, while another had a guy raping promiscuous women, whom he was utterly disgusted by; he believed he was "purifying" them by raping them.
  • Share Phrase: Being a crime drama, it's only natural.
    • "I was raped."
    • "[Suspect], you're under arrest for [offense]. You have the right to remain silent. Anything you say can and will be used against you."
    • "Docket ending [number], people of the State of New York v. [suspect]."
    • "I would never hurt [victim]! I loved her!"
    • "I want my lawyer."
    • "Bail is set at [huge number]."
    • "Counselor, control your client."
    • "Court officer, remove this man/woman from my courtroom!"
    • "Somebody call a bus!"
    • "10-13! 10-13! Shots fired!"
    • "Remand, your honor."
    • "This is SVU Portable..."
    • "Objection!" "Withdrawn. Nothing further."
    • "Do you have any children, detective?"
  • Share the Male Pain: Olivia is the most likely to do this, believe it or not.
  • She Who Fights Monsters: Said by the FBI agent (who committed as Vigilante Execution) in "Signature" before blowing her own brains out.
  • Shell-Shock Silence: A pretty eerie example in the appropriately titled Season 10 episode "PTSD": while trying to break up a fistfight, Liv, still working through her near-rape experience from the previous season, is knocked in the head when shoved off. The sounds become muffled as Liv comes dangerously close to reflexively blowing a suspect's head off...
  • Ship Tease: With the show running as long as it has, there are plenty of ships for the writers to poke and/or play with. Some major examples:
    • Elliot and Olivia don't mind going undercover as a couple now and then, and Elliot's wife Kathy tells Olivia she's felt threatened by how much time Elliot spends on the job with Benson. Elliot himself says on several occasions that Benson and the job are the only things he has whenever he doesn't have his family, and he doesn't want to lose that. Olivia notably breaks down when Cragen tells her Elliot isn't coming back. And when Elliot becomes a recurring character (and widower) again in Season 22, he and Liv reestablish a very heavy chemistry again.
    • Fin and M.E. Warner may have been flirting in a Christmas episode in Season 14.
    • Lake has a moment with Casey Novak, but nothing ever comes of it, and it's never mentioned again. Of course, he's not around long enough to expect much.
    • Barba and Olivia share enough lingering held gazes and quiet, intimate moments together (not to mention concern for each other) that half the fandom thinks they have feelings for each other, despite their regular bickering. These fans are quite possibly right; Raúl Esparza (Barba) and Mariska Hargitay (Olivia) ship the characters in real life. Perhaps best exemplified by this exchange from "December Solstice":
    Barba: Where do you think you'll be when you're eighty-five?
    Olivia: [smiling] Squabbling with you?
    Barba: [softly] Wouldn't that be nice.
    • Rollins and Amaro are briefly implied to have slept together offscreen. It's touched on briefly once or twice and never brought up again.
    • For the past few seasons, the show has gotten a lot of mileage out of teasing Carisi and Rollins, though it was fairly inconsistent and it cropped up only a few times per season, if that. Until season 22, when it appears the writers have stopped playing coy and are now leaning into the shipping in a way that's pretty overt for the show. It finally does culminate in their Relationship Upgrade at the end of the season.
  • Shipper on Deck:
    • USA Network itself supports Elliot/Olivia, if the fact that they dedicated an entire marathon to the ship is any indication.
    • Mariska Hargitay and Raúl Esparza ship their characters, Olivia Benson and Rafael Barba.
    • In "Can't Be Held Accountable," Amanda's therapist wonders aloud why she and Carisi aren't together, as apparently Amanda has told her he's "smart, kind, funny, you enjoy his company, [and] he's good with your kids" in sessions.
  • Shoot the Hostage Taker: In the episode "Debt" the police raid a brothel run by a Chinese gang. In one of the rooms a gang member takes one of the prostitute hostage and uses her as as a Human Shield. The prostitute is saved when Detective Elliot Stabler dives through the door of the room and shoots the gang member in the head.
  • Shot in the Ass: Happens to Munch when a bunch of Neo-Nazis shoot up a courtroom.
  • Should Have Thought of That Before X: In one disturbing example, a man is framed for raping a teenage girl, and is subsequently abused in prison. He pleads with the officers for protection but they just tell him, "You should have thought about the pecking order before you raped that girl." He ends up getting killed.
  • Shout-Out:
    • Elliot and Olivia are named after two of Dick Wolf's children.
    • In "Wanderlust," Stabler and Benson meet a single mother and her daughter and must discover the nature of their relationships with their tenant, an older writer. Their surname is Hayes, which rhymes with Haze, the surname of Dolores and her mother in Lolita.
    • In "Pure", Huang basically outlines the premise of Lie to Me, including namedropping Lightman's real-life counterpart, Paul Ekman.
    • Possibly in "Imprisoned Lives" to the novel "Room", which also has a young boy with an odd way of talking because his mother (though in the episode he doesn't know which of the women is his mother) was kidnapped as a child and after being born both were hidden in a tiny room.
    • The episode "Debt" has shout outs for Mulan, of all things. The Victim of the Week was searching for her daughter, Ping. There are no fewer than three Asian-American actors in the episode who also starred in the Disney film.
    • Season 12's "Totem" features Jeremy Irons' character as a doctor (returning from a previous episode) who claims that a woman may have been responsible for the latest rape and murder of a girl. In discussing what kind of women seduce younger people, Olivia brings up "Mrs. Robinson-types."
    • One of Amaro's earlier episodes had him looking into a possible link between the crime of the week and a case that went cold years ago, and even remarks to the person digging through the archives that handling cold cases must be pretty difficult. Danny Pino was one of the leads on the show Cold Case before it was canceled in 2010.
    • Season 16's "Intimidation Game," shares its name with the working title of Batman Begins. At the end, a hostage has a gun duct-taped to her hands, similar to The Dark Knight.
    • Season 10's "Ballerina" features a suspect, played by Carol Burnett, who dresses and acts very similarly to Norma Desmond.
    • Season 10's "Trials" includes several instances of Munch mentioning his previous co-ownership of the Waterfront Bar in Baltimore (on Homicide: Life on the Street).
  • Shut Up, Hannibal!: Olivia's kidnapper/torturer/wanna-be rapist (she notes he's only attacked older women and young girls, needling him that he's afraid of a "real woman") tells her to shut up with her pathetic story about how her old partner would know what to do with him. She eventually beats him into a coma with an iron bedpost.
  • Sins of Our Fathers: In "Reparations", a man rapes a young woman as an act of revenge against her grandfather, who was a Klansman involved in the brutal rape of his mother decades earlier. Although it's ultimately revealed that he didn't actually rape her; he intended to, but when he actually saw her, it hit him that the granddaughter was an innocent third party in the situation and couldn't go through with it.
  • Skewed Priorities: In "Alien", a young girl is being viciously bullied at the Catholic school she attends for being the daughter of a lesbian couple, to the point of needing therapy twice a week. When the detectives ask the girl's adoptive mother why she hasn't been transferred to another school if the bullying is so bad, the mother's response is that they want their daughter to have a Catholic education because it's important to their family. Her daughter's life is a complete hell...but it's okay, because she's getting a Catholic education! The prosecutor eventually calls her out on this, pointing out that because she forced her daughter to stay at the school, where her main bully continued to torment her, he pushed her far enough that she eventually stabbed him in the back with a pair of scissors, severing his spinal cord and paralyzing him for the rest of his life.
  • Slap-Slap-Kiss: A one-sided one from Rollins to Carisi. She ends up falling in love with him, a feeling which he's all too willing to reciprocate.
  • Slut-Shaming: Shows up repeatedly as the defense tries to smear the victim.
  • Small Reference Pools: You can expect a prostitute/Sex Slave from some other country to usually say, "In our country, the police help nobody!"
  • Smart People Know Latin: Dr. Huang effortlessly steps in to correct a mistranslated Latin word in the episode "Silence". Bonus points because Elliot, who studied Latin as a kid as part of his religion, didn't quite get it. (Elliot translated it as "I have sinned." The correct translation was "You have sinned.")
    • Hilariously subverted in "Spiraling Down" when Amaro rattles off a translation of a long Latin sentence for Benson and Cabot's benefit, and a totally unimpressed Cabot replies that she already knew what it meant.
  • Smash Cut: The show loves doing this. Often uses the following pattern:
    Detective: Can you tell me where [X] is?
    Witness: [looks thoughtful]
    [Immediate cut to the SVU squad busting down a door and yelling "POLICE!!!"]]
  • Smug Snake: Most of the recurring defense attorneys, which come in various shades of Jerkass and most of whom are as just as slimy, smooth and arrogant as all other Hollywood lawyers. On at least one occasion though, one such attorney (albeit reluctantly) helped the detectives bring in his AWOL client when he failed to show up at court.
    • The detectives themselves qualify.
  • Snarking Thanks: "Criminal" has Captain Cragen meet a professor who it turns out he previously arrested for a serious crime when he was still a detective, and immediately suspects him of murdering the victim (who was in a relationship with him). Long story short, he ends up arresting him and destroying his career before realizing he's innocent. He apologizes and assures him he'll capture the real killer, earning a very bitter "My hero".
  • Social Darwinist: The main villain of "Confrontation", whose motives for raping and impregnating so many women is because there are too many people with disabilities and he is trying to make children with better genes.
  • Soft Glass: Averted in the aptly-named "Blinded" where Elliot gets headbutted through a police car window with enough force to shatter it. The blow knocks him out, gives him a concussion, and temporary brain damage that puts him in a short coma, and making him temporary blind when he woke up.
  • Something Only They Would Say: In "Babes", a woman is charged in connection to a young teen's suicide. While going through the trial, the DA asks the woman to read off her final internet chat with the girl. However, when the prosecutor makes a statement translating "fath" as meaning "father", the woman's daughter, who was a friend of the victim and thus has additional context, realizes that's entirely wrong and bursts out that it's actually "first and true husband", a term used by their Catholic school's chastity club. Since no one to that point had put the boyfriend at the scene, the detectives realize they have a missing piece.
  • Spousal Privilege:
    • One episode revolves around the concept that two abusers had married their victims precisely to abuse spousal privilege, something they openly mock the detectives with. Their overconfidence eventually backfires when investigations dig up a prior marriage license they hadn't gotten annulled, making their current marriages null and void...
    • In Criminal Hatred, two men were married in Provincetown. The detectives get one to confess what the other did, only to learn that they are married and they can't use what he told them. Trying to argue that the spousal privilege doesn't apply because they were married out of state before New York recognized same-sex marriages doesn't work.
  • Squick: invoked Invoking this is a major chunk of the premises on the show.
  • Standard Cop Backstory: Olivia Benson is a child of rape and was abused by her alcoholic mother, likely in part because of this fact.
    • Elliot Stabler, Nick Amaro, and Rafael Barba all had abusive fathers; Stabler also had a mentally ill mother who, while she never intentionally hurt him like his father did, occasionally did things that caused him harm in her manic phases (like going out for a reckless joyride with him in the car and crashing). Stabler and Amaro also both have military backgrounds.
    • Munch's father committed suicide when he was a teenager, and he's had a string of failed marriages.
    • Amanda Rollins has an irresponsible (and eventually outright backstabbing) younger sister for whom she feels responsible, a father who ran up gambling debts and eventually abandoned the family, and a mother who subsequently dated abusive men (and was herself emotionally abusive to her two daughters). She was also sexually assaulted by an authority figure at her precinct in Atlanta, hence her transfer to Manhattan SVU.
    • Mike Dodds averts the most traumatic pieces of this, but he does have the military background as well as having a drug-addicted younger brother who he frequently has to bail out of trouble. His parents are also divorced and he doesn't appear to have much contact with his mother.
  • Status Quo Is God: A great deal of the main characters are Static Characters. Despite the many episodes that have carried anvilicious aesops about such, after twelve seasons Elliot is still abusing the Jack Bauer Interrogation Technique and bending rules without serious long-term consequences, Olivia is still getting too close to victims, and the precinct as a whole is still completely gung-ho towards convicting the first suspect that appears on their radar and trying to railroad them into a conviction despite shaky evidence. In particular to the last point, you could make a lengthy list of all the episodes where the first suspect they collar is a Red Herring and is completely innocent despite the evidence of their guilt, but they have not picked up on this nor have they learned from it.
    • Season 13: Complete, unexpected turnabout. The Unstabler is gone, the Jack Bauer Interrogation Techniques are gone, the questionable legal antics are gone, the It's Personal / Idiot Ball episodes are gone . . . it's like a miracle!
      • Sadly, seems to have gone back to normal as of Season 15.
  • Stealth Pun: The Not-Michael Jackson episode has a scene where the medical examiner tries to take a pubic hair sample & finds the guy had laser hair removal done. Smooth Criminal, indeed...
  • Stepford Smiler: Mandy, the victim in "No Good Reason," shifts into this after her rape, when her entire school is cyberbullying her, calling her a liar and a skank. After a few weeks of being (completely understandably) sullen and angry, she suddenly changes her hair, starts wearing bright clothes, cleans her room, and puts up a vlog, smilingly explaining that she's decided to quit focusing on the past and wants to start with a clean slate. Her completely unconvincing cheery demeanor and forced positive attitude makes it all too clear, especially to Olivia, that this is not a good thing.
  • Stock Legal Phrases: Not as common as you might expect, given the heavy focus on the detectives. The most common is, of course, "you don't have to answer that."
  • Straight Gay:
    • Dr. George Huang is so very Straight Gay that his sexuality was debated for nine years until the episode "Hardwired" made specific reference to it. In a fifth season episode, "Abomination", Huang says something about how gay people grow up hearing the same insults and stereotypes about gays "as the rest of us do", suggesting that either he was closeted or it was a Throw It In case inspired by actor BD Wong's real-life sexuality.
    • In "Lowdown" all of the gay characters act the same as straight guys. This is not surprising, since they're are really deep in the closet.
  • Straw Feminist: Olivia sometimes gets lines like this. At one point she stated she didn't think a woman could perform cold-blooded murder, and her general behavior around male victims likely gets her just on the edge of this trope.
    • Monique Jefferies only seemed to exist to get her hackles up anytime Munch said something.
  • Strawman Ball: Elliot not believing that men could be raped by women, Olivia being scared of mentally ill people and/or being baffled as to why a gay football player would have it hard.
  • Strictly Formula: And how. By the 20-minute mark it's possible to determine what the entire rest of a given episode's plot looks like, up to and including who else dies, why, and when, to the minute.
  • Surprise Car Crash: Happens to Olivia and Elliot's wife, Kathy, in "Paternity". Olivia gets out relatively unscathed but Kathy, heavily pregnant, is trapped in the wreck, and to make matters worse, the stress of the accident sends her into labor while she's still pinned and unable to move. They both make it, but it's a close call.
  • Suspect Existence Failure: One notable example involved the demise of a rapist whom everyone was convinced had killed his victim. His death started them thinking that her killer had an entirely different motive.
  • Swiss Cheese Security: If the courthouse steps are the most dangerous place in Manhattan, the second most dangerous must be the SVU squad room, for all the countless times the detectives have a suspect and a victim (or victim's loved one) at the precinct and take absolutely no precautions to avoid them coming into contact. Occasionally it's done purposely to provoke a confession but far more often it's simply the Idiot Ball in play.
  • Sympathetic Murderer: Once a season, if that.

    T - U 
  • Take Me Instead:
    • S8:E2 ("Outsider") ends with Chester Lake trying to coax a rapist/murderer to release a hostage by playing to his desire for attention, reasoning to him that taking a cop hostage will make him famous. This gives Fin a chance to shoot him and disable him long enough to be taken into custody.
    • S14:E7 ("Vanity's Bonfire") ends with a woman whose terminal brain tumor left her reliant on a cane to walk and too weak to handle a pitcher of water confessing to beating the head of her husband's physically healthy mistress in with a 20 pound hunk of crystal, while also swearing under oath that her 15 year old daughter came straight home from school that afternoon and never left the townhouse.
    • S14:E22 ("Poisoned Motive") sees this attempted when Fin speaks with his old Narcotics partner concerning multiple sniper attacks connected with them only to be presented with the weapon and a convincing Motive Rant centering on abandonment and betrayal. However it is rapidly made evident that motivation and marksmanship skill would not have let a man with a half-crippled leg escape the scene of the first shootingnote  as swiftly as the shooter did, but his twenty five year old daughter who was living with him, washed out of the U.S. Army and NYPD Academy due to emotional problems, and was still at large was a different matter entirely.
      • In the same episode, during the final showdown with the daughter, Fin tells her to shoot him rather than the civilian mother and child she had taken hostage. Fortunately, they manage to disarm her without anyone getting hurt.
  • Take That!:
    • In-Universe example - Merritt Rook, after winning his case, appears on a morning talk show with a pet sheep named "Elliot."
    • "Assaulting Reality" is one to The Bachelor and Reality Shows in general.
    • "Granting Immunity" is one to anti-vaxxers as the main culprit who is one and was responsible for a huge measles infection acts like a Jerkass to everyone and especially Benson since her son was due to get a measles vaccine but got infected while waiting to do so. In the end, she was charged with child endangerment and sentenced to three months in prison and probation.
  • Team Dad: Cragen's basic role. Lampshaded by Fin once: "Dad's mad!"
  • Team Title: And a straighter example compared to the mothership.
  • Teens Are Monsters: Many teenage rapists, drug dealers, Rich Bitches, and then there's Elliot's kids:
    • His middle daughter, Kathleen, goes out of control, which turns out to be the bipolar disorder she inherited from her paternal grandmother (which, it should be pointed out, is not how that works).
    • His eldest son wants to escape his dad's tyrannical rule by, uh, joining the military as a minor (the recruiter's creepy "we'll get him eventually" manner didn't help). When he's suspected in his ex-druggie friend's disappearance, he makes some stinging remarks about his sister and grandmother ("Well, I'm not the first Stabler to go crazy") and Benson and Stabler's UST ("So how many partners have you slept with, Olivia?").
    • To be fair to Elliot's kids, given who their father is, it's not entirely unexpected that they'd end up a little... neurotic.
    • As far as perps go, especially notable is the killer in "Lost Traveler." When asked why she murdered a small child, her only reply is a completely calm, "Why not?"
    • The ringleader of a group of three teenage girls who brutally murdered their friend over a boy in "Mean". Holy shit.
  • Teeth-Clenched Teamwork:
    • Stabler and Blaine in "Fat". Also Stabler and Fin (depending on the episode), Stabler and Huang, Jeffries and Munch, Fin and Munch (at times, though it's usually more playful than hostile), Stabler or Fin when either is paired up with a detective from another unit, Novak and Stabler (depending on the episode). Notice whose name keeps popping up?
    • Amaro initially seems to be picking up where Stabler left off, particularly with Rollins and Barba, although in both of those cases a major blowout fight almost seems to improve his professional relationship with both (and in Rollins' case, gets a full Relationship Upgrade when they become romantically involved). He and Brian Cassidy still pretty much loathe each other, though.
    • Subverted with Benson and Munch, as she generally gets along with him, but pulls some amusing eye-rolls and other annoyed expressions when he starts going off on a rant.
  • Tempting Fate: DA Nora Lewin's final appearance in the Law & Order franchise was in the episode "Chameleon", where she shot down Cabot's attempt to seek the death penalty against the (female) perp for Straw Feminist reasons. When Donnelly called her out on this, she said "You don't like it, you can always run against me next term." Donnelly didn't, but Arthur Branch did - and won. (In fact, Fred Dalton Thompson had already replaced Dianne Wiest on the Mothership by the time this episode first aired.)
  • Thanatos Gambit: Lewis, Benson's tormentor, has Benson handcuffed to a table and they're on the last bullet in a game of Russian Roulette. Instead of killing her, killing his young hostage, or killing them both, he kills himself in a way that makes her look like she killed him, which would cause her further problems with Internal Affairs Bureau (if she says he killed himself no one believes her; if she can't prove it and it goes to trial she could be found guilty of perjury and lose her job and her pension). He doesn't consider that IAB wants to end this thing and Benson has a lot of supportive friends, including the temporary chief.
  • There Are No Therapists: Averted. There are plenty of them that come and go in addition to Huang (who is a profiler, but is always willing to offer advice to the detectives when the situation calls for it), but they don't seem to make that much difference to the protagonists despite Cragen's offers to the detectives for extra time to sort out their problems whenever something particularly traumatic happens.
    • Depends on who is going through therapy. Munch and Stabler (to a lesser extent, Cragen) are very resistant and only concede in dire circumstances, but Tutuola and Benson have attended therapy willingly - and are shown to handle their issues a lot better after their sessions than Stabler at the very least.
    Fin Tutuola: Just keep at it; the flashbacks will go away. They did for me.
    • Averted with Rollins when she not only refuses to take Benson's advice about going to therapy but then insults Benson for going to therapy. Gamblers Anonymous seems to have substituted for psychotherapy for Rollins.
      • Season 21 reveals that Rollins is seeing a therapist.
    • Averted with Olivia from Season 15 onwards, as she has a therapist she begins seeing regularly after her ordeal with William Lewis, and is continuing to see him as of Season 21.
  • There Should Be a Law: To the point where the show isn't even about a sex crime half the time. Olivia has a particular problem with this, as she often fails to realize some laws don't exist (she thinks drunk sex is rape, she also thinks giving a woman a fake name then having sex with her is rape, unless of course the man doing it is her partner).
  • They Look Just Like Everyone Else!: One of the recurring themes of the show, in fact, is just how easily pedophiles, rapists and other predators can pass as ordinary people.
  • Those Wacky Nazis: In the episode "Raw" they have to deal with a neo-Nazi terrorist group that shot up a school. All the members are shown to be extremely racist and constantly spout racist rhetoric (for example one of them tells Munch, disgustedly, that Jews are the result of the union between Eve and Satan and his father's friend (who was really an undercover FBI agent) yells in the courtroom that the judge has been brainwashed by the Jew-controlled Zionist media).
  • Those Who Fight Monsters: Quoted in the episode "Signature" by an FBI agent who murdered a serial killer as a personal act of revenge for her mentor who killed himself over the case. Said FBI agent also unwittingly caused the serial killer's last victim to die when they found her too late, which helps drive her to suicide.
  • Title Drop: In most episodes, to varying degrees of awkwardness, similar to Lost.
  • To Be Lawful or Good: "Dare" focuses on this dilemma. After the Victim of the Week dies due to an accident, the doctor illegally harvests her heart and arranges for it to be sent to a boy in Buffalo who has been on the waitlist for three years.
    • First, Benson must choose between allowing the helicopter with the heart to leave for Buffalo, violating the girl's parents' right to choose whether to donate or not and their on-the-spot decision not to do so in order to save the boy's life, or taking back the heart and potentially condemning the innocent boy to die. She chooses to take back the heart. Notably, Benson feels extremely conflicted about it, and both she and the girl's father eventually conclude they should have let it go. At the end of the episode, it's revealed the boy indeed died without the girl's heart.
    • Second, the doctor is arrested for forgery, and this question is put to the jury. They choose to convict.
  • Too Dumb to Live: In "Personal Fouls", a manager of the basketball star Prince Miller had told detectives he was wearing custom-made prototype shoes. He wore those shoes when he killed a man who would effectively expose the fact that Prince had been sexually abused by his coach years ago.
    • The head juror of the William Lewis case who sympathizes so much with him that she goes so far as to break out of prison by slipping meds into the muffins that she baked for him. And then, after managing to evade charges for that incident, she does something similar again two seasons later.
  • Too Hot for TV: Downplayed In-Universe. At the start of "Assaulting Reality" (see Take That! above), the producers show sex footage from The Dream Suite. In reality, this would lead to the producers and the network getting penalized by the Federal Communications Commission for showing an actual sex act, which could fall under "Indecent Content" or even "Obscene Content."
  • Took a Level in Badass: Melinda Warner in "Shattered"; she resisted passing out and guided Olivia through keeping pressure on her wound and even draining her lung, which was filling with blood after she was shot by an emotionally unstable mother whose son had just been killed.
  • Torture Cellar: "Signature" had a pretty horrific one.
  • Totally 18: The show sometimes treats the fact that a certain character is over 18 as an annoying technicality that makes it harder to arrest people for having sex with them.
    • In "Clock", the sex is consensual and the woman loves her boyfriend. It's just that she happens to have a medical condition that makes her look like a lolicon. The detectives consider her chronological, mental and emotional maturity to be a technicality.
    • In another episode, a girl is raped at gunpoint. She looks very young, and throughout the episode, she is is consistently portrayed as a teenager who is not yet fully adult - neither intellectually nor emotionally. This is not held against her, instead it simply underscores how vulnerable she is. However, she happens to be 19, so the prosecution must prove that she didn't consent. And of course, the defense has Blatant Lies about the gun as one of their top priorities.
  • Totally Radical: This happens a lot when the detectives use social media to dig up background on suspects, particularly when the suspect in question is a teen or young adult.
  • Trapped by Gambling Debts: Random asshole of the week tries to pull this on Rollins. She shows an impressive presence of mind, promptly confessing the problem to fellow officers and seeking help.
  • Traumatic Haircut: In "Alien", a little girl is being bullied by a homophobic boy for having two mothers. He tries to forcibly kiss her and then cuts off her ponytail with scissors; she grabs the scissors and stabs him in the back, resulting in a spinal injury that leaves him paralyzed from the waist down.
  • Trailers Always Lie:
    • Previews made it seem like Tutuola was going Vigilante Man on the gay-bashers who beat his son's fiancee into a coma; actually, the gay-bashers were found fairly quickly and the real story was about a copy-cat.
    • Again, when it appeared that not-Rihanna's abusive boyfriend not-Chris Brown was found dead it was actually her producer/father figure (not-Jay-Z?) who was killed by not-Chris, and despite all the set-ups for a vigilante execution not-Rihanna wound up getting killed by not-Chris.
    • The promo for Psycho/Therapist said this would be "the final chapter of the #SaveBenson saga." Then the last scene of the episode showed William Lewis possibly breaking out of prison. Just in time for May Sweeps, too!
  • Transplant:
  • Troubling Unchildlike Behavior: Happens fairly frequently. The most common version involves young children acting out sexually, situations where the behavior itself is largely harmless but it's cause for concern because it indicates that the child may be suffering abuse (i.e. a kid suggesting getting naked with a friend or acting sexual around adults because they were sexually abused and it screwed up their compass for appropriate behavior), but there are a few examples where a child commits horrific acts for no reason, just because they feel like it, as well as at least one case where the kid completely failed to recognize that he was hurting anyone. A couple of episodes ("Damaged", "Quarry", "Web") contain elements of both, where the perpetrator was abused, but then goes well beyond the usual acting out as they knowingly, intentionally inflict similar abuse on a younger/more vulnerable child.
  • True Companions: A notable subversion. Sometimes it's as if this lot are a family (there are certainly a few intensely close friendships among them, and woe betide anyone who hurts Casey Novak), but actually, they turn on each other pretty quickly. Fin and Elliot are consistently awful to each other, Munch took the sergeant's exam behind all their backs (though this was apparently because he lost a bar bet with friends and the writers were looking for reasons to lessen Belzer's screen time), and there is pretty sketchy support when any of them try a Clear My Name Bunny-Ears Lawyer gambit. It shows up when you compare it to something like NCIS: when Tony is framed for murder, they all assume he's being framed and do everything they can to keep him in the loop. When Liv is framed for murder, they all act suspicious and do everything they can to stonewall her. The immediate partners will usually go to bat for each other (Elliot does for Olivia when she's framed), but there's less unity in the team as a whole.
    • They've gotten better in more recent seasons. In general everybody is supportive of everyone else when there are issues. (Case in point, everyone goes to bat for Rollins when she's thrown under the bus by her own sister and charged with murder, for Fin when his brother-in-law is unjustly jailed right before Christmas, and for Amaro when his newly discovered son is in danger.)
    • The three-partner that closes Season 13 and opens Season 14 involves Cragen being framed for murder and the rest of the team fighting to clear his name.
    • As of Season 16 and beyond, the trope is finally played straight: The squad is regularly shown to take care of one another, with such examples as Amaro helping to watch Benson's son and Fin inviting Rollins to eat Christmas dinner with his family.
  • Truth in Television/This Loser Is You: The characters display or outright express offensive, untrue, or ignorant beliefs about rape and sex in general. (See Double Standard for one of many examples.) They often reflect offensive, untrue, or ignorant beliefs about rape and sex in general held by people in real life. One of the most notable examples was in Legitimate Rape, where a congressman Expy of Todd Akin said that it was impossible for a woman to become pregnant from rape. This resulted in her rapist being acquitted because of one holdout juror, suing for custody of the victim's son, and thus forcing her to flee the country.
    • Season 9 sees ADA Casey Novak being disbarred after violating correct protocols in attempt to secure a conviction for an accused rapist who was likely to walk. As in real life, prosecutors cannot break the rules to get unfair convictions for defendants they believe are guilty.
    • Another scarily accurate case happens in "Crush" when dealing with a teenage rape victim, who had been going through and continues to go through a serious Trauma Conga Line. It gets to the point where the DA orders Benson to arrest the girl for her own protection, which Benson reluctantly does; when they try to drop the charges later, the judge overrules them and the girl winds up getting sent to a privately owned juvenile detention facility. It turns out that the judge who sent her there was a crooked judge, who gets paid to send as many kids there as possible because they get more money that way. This has happened at least once. Thankfully, they manage to get the abuser, and the judge is exposed and arrested.
  • Twincest:
    • Rose McGowan's con-artist character truly loves her twin brother (it helps that they don't look alike at all).
    • The twins from "Identity" are forced to simulate sex acts by their therapist in order to train Lindsay to have the "correct" sex role attitudes. See Wrong Genetic Sex below to explain the scare quotes.
  • Two Girls to a Team: Benson and Jeffries in Season One; Benson and Rollins since Season 13.
  • Ultimate Job Security: Over the show's 11 seasons, the SVU detectives have gotten at least a couple dozen innocent people killed, either through insane violation of common sense (putting a (wrongly) accused sex offender in the same cell as a biker gang, allowing a blatantly unstable victim to interact with an accused suspect without first searching her for a weapon) or railroading a (incorrect) suspect combined with suggestively leading a traumatized victim or family member to the mindset where they're ready to commit a vigilante execution. They've suffered no consequences for any of these incidents, and even Internal Affairs never brings it up even when they're butting heads with the team. You'd think that after so many deaths somebody would file a civil suit, or at least the media would pick up on the pattern and jump all over it.
  • Undercover Cop Reveal: This is how Declan Murphy is introduced and ends up joining the show.
    • Before that, Dana Lewis reveals herself by taking out a courtroom shooter before identifying herself as a federal agent to the responding officers.
    • Occasionally done as an Internal Reveal when one of the main cast members goes undercover.
  • The Unfair Sex: Comes up fairly often, especially in the case of female perps. The episode "Totem" has one of the worst examples: the detectives, or at least Olivia, initially doubt that a woman can commit sodomy and murder. While they come around relatively quickly, it all starts rolling downhill once they find a suspect. The killer is sent to a mental facility without any mention of her going to prison because she was traumatized from being sexually abused herself and was therefore mentally unfit to stand trial. Male perps who use that defense usually earn nothing but disdain from the squad and everyone around them. Further, the woman who sexually abused her is stated to be going to jail, but unlike male abusive parents, doesn't spend any time in interrogation, put on trial, or offer a flimsy excuse for the squad to be disgusted by or scoff at.
    • In "American Disgrace" Barba mentions how they don’t like to go after women who make false rape claims because it would make it harder for actual rape victims to come out. Keep in mind that it is repeatedly shown that rape allegations completely ruin the victim’s lives, even when they are proven to be false. Not only did these women make a false claim, they went out of their way to frame this man, they lied to the police, lied in court, and even went so far as to secretly tape him when he started getting desperate. Yet they got off with a slap on the wrist which is a common occurrence.
  • Ungrateful Bastard: Kim Rollins never shows any gratitude toward her older sister Amanda for getting her out of trouble.
  • Up to Eleven: "Traumatic Wound" begins with a mob gangraping a teenage girl at a music concert.
  • Urine Trouble: Dead serious example. In later scene in the episode "Bullseye," Olivia proposes that a recent child rape victim and her mother take karate, implying that self-defense instructor/leader of neighborhood anti-pedophile watch group/cleared suspect from the last episode Eric Weber will teach them. Upon meeting him however, the victim appears to zone out; Olivia later finds that she (the victim) peed herself out of horror that she just came face-to-face with her rapist.
  • Used to Be a Sweet Kid: According to his mother, Teddy from "Web" used to be a happy, normal boy before he was molested by his father, after which he became sullen and withdrawn, spending all his time in his room playing computer games and refusing to eat dinner at the table with the rest of the family. And then it's revealed that he was not only molesting his kid brother, but making pornographic videos of him to sell to pedophiles online.
  • Unwitting Instigator of Doom:
    • In "Influence", famous rock star Derek Lordnote  expresses anti-psychiatry and anti-medication views in a TV interview, saying that pills destroy people's brains. One of his fans, a high school girl with bipolar disorder, watches him and decides to stop taking her medication, resulting in her going through a week-long manic phase where she has sex with two boys, falsely accuses them of rape, gets them and herself expelled from school, then tries to kill herself in a car accident, injuring 6 people and killing a 14-year-old girl.
    • In "Responsible", a high schooler named Becca gives a popular girl at her school the keys to a neighbor's house so she can throw a party. A girl dies at that party by drinking way too much and choking to death on her own vomit; nobody at the party helps her or even calls 911 because they're afraid of getting in trouble.

    V - W 
  • Vigilante Execution: More than once. For a while, it bordered on Once per Episode territory.
  • Vigilante Man: Throughout the series these pop up, usually as part of "concerned citizen" groups, and invariably they cause problems. At best, vigilantes enflame the situation and get innocent people Convicted by Public Opinion, while at worst, more than once it's turned out the vigilante group leader is using his position to deflect from the fact that he's a rapist/child molester himself.
  • Villainous Breakdown:
    • A spectacular one at the end of "Snitch", when Chukwei, a witness to a murder by an otherwise suave and dangerously savvy Dennis King, finally musters the courage to testify.
      Dennis King: "You're dead! You're family's dead! EVERYTHING YOU LOVE IS DEAD! YOU'RE DEAD!"
    • When Abraham/Eugene is trying to convince Melanie to shoot Benson at the end of "Charisma", he loses it.
      Eugene: All these men have come to kill me!
      Benson: Shut your mouth, Eugene.
  • Villainous Lineage:
    • A major plot point in "Hate": the defense for a man who killed Arabs out of hate argues that he carried out the murders due to the fact that he was biologically and genetically driven to hate and kill Arabs as a result of his father, who fought in Desert Storm. Ultimately averted: the father didn't hate Arabs and actually remarried to an Arab woman. His mother taught him to hate Arabs out of spite.
    • Also brought up in "Inheritance", where the defense argued that a man of mixed African-American and Asian descent raped women in Chinatown due to a genetic defect he inherited from his biological father, who was also a rapist. Olivia also ponders if she could've also inherited something from her father: both she and the rapist she collared were products of rape whose fathers were violent rapists.
  • Vitriolic Best Buds:
    • Munch and Fin, to the point of Ho Yay.
      Munch: I'm your Jew?
    • Amaro and Rollins, eventually bleeding over into Belligerent Sexual Tension.
    • Barba and Benson squabble a lot, but are repeatedly shown to be very close friends (one of the very few ways to make Barba overtly angry is to threaten, hurt, or generally breathe unpleasantly in Olivia's direction, and Olivia stands by Barba during the Humiliation Conga that is "October Surprise", just to name two examples).
      Barba: Where do you think you'll be when you're eighty-five?
      Benson: [grins] Squabbling with you?
      Barba: [sincere smile] Wouldn't that be nice.
  • Vomiting Cop: Olivia throws up in a dumpster in the first episode after talking to a victim of ethnic cleansing. A season two episode had Elliot sick as a dog due to the AIDS medication he was on at the time.
    • One of the cops called to the scene in the season 6 episode "Charisma" sees the interior of a house full of murdered children and immediately rushes out to collapse and retch.
    • Rollins does this in the Season 17 premiere, Foreshadowing that she's pregnant.
  • Was Too Hard on Him: In "Babes," Benson starts to feel that she may have been too harsh with a teen girl who deliberately got pregnant and convinced her three friends to do so, after spelling out to her why having a baby at 16 would ruin her future and her chances of finishing high school, as well as explaining the health risks to babies of teen moms. Munch comments that the girl could probably have used a reality check.
  • Weather Dissonance: The season 4 episode "Soulless" is supposed to take place in early May—so what's up with all the snow?
    • Another episode that takes place mid October had visible cherry blossoms.
  • "Well Done, Son!" Guy: The perp in "Outsider" had this as his Freudian Excuse.
  • Well-Intentioned Extremist: Elliot and Olivia, as well as quite a few of the perps.
    • Erik Weber, a member of COAP (Citizens Organized Against Predators), a New York-based organization dedicated to protecting children from sexual predators. The group is prone to zealotry, with a tendency to railroad anyone labeled as a sex offender, justified or otherwise (such as a mentally-disabled man whose only crime was public urination). Subverted in Weber's case, however: he's a pedophile himself, and joined COAP out of self-loathing and to keep the police off his tail.
    • The anti-abortion doctor in "Rockabye" who tries to force pregnant women to keep their babies. He publicly advertises his clinic as an abortion clinic to lure in pregnant women, then delays their appointments for weeks until it's too late for them to have an abortion under New York state law. His clinic was the last resort for a teenage girl who had tried every other method of abortion available, and when he refused to give her the procedure, she resorted to having her boyfriend beat her with a lamp until she miscarried. As he's being arrested at the end of the episode, he yells, "I'm saving innocent lives!"
    • Casey Novak and Chester Lake both veer into this territory in "Cold" in their attempts to keep a rapist/murderer from pulling a Karma Houdini: Novak lies to a judge, and when that doesn't work, Lake flat-out shoots the guy down and doesn't even bother trying to hide what he did.
  • Wham Episode:
    • Season 5's "Loss". Alex is seemingly shot to death by orders of a powerful drug lord whom she came after, but is actually Faking the Dead to be in Witness Protection. In the end, she only tells Elliot and Olivia about her status.
    • Season 9's "Undercover". Olivia and Fin go undercover in a women's prison to find out who's been dealing drugs while raping an inmate and her daughter. Olivia finds out just who the guy is when he tries to rape her, too, coming dangerously close before Fin saved her. Even then, the experience leaves its mark on her for a long time afterward.
    • The Season 9 finale "Cold". Lake goes rogue in pursuit of a rapist he couldn't catch and ultimately executes him, being imprisoned in the process. Casey also violates due process for the suspect's trial beforehand, leading to her suspension (she's reinstated near the end of Season 12).
    • The Season 12 finale "Smoked": Stabler is forced to shoot the victim's daughter dead after she goes on a Roaring Rampage of Revenge and shoots the people responsible for her mother's rape and murder, accidentally kills Sister Peg and hesitates in surrendering when her mother's killer taunts her. Though an extremely dramatic and harsh ending for the season by itself, the announcement that Christopher Meloni was leaving the show meant that it was the last time (at least until Season 22) the show's central Action Duo are seen together.
    • The Season 13 premiere "Scorched Earth" became this because of the subplot and the episode's ending which connected to the ending of the previous example. Essentially, it's revealed in the subplot that Stabler was deeply traumatized from the shooting and being forced to do what he did that he sought counseling, a leave of absence and Cragen reveals to Benson that in the end, he decided to resign.
    • The Season 13 finale "Rhodium Nights": SVU ran on a major sex trafficking ring, which leads to Cragen being framed for the murder of one of the escorts. Amaro's marriage also begins falling apart when his wife suggests a divorce. Also Brian Cassidy returns for the first time since Season 1.
    • Season 17's "Manhattan Transfer", in which Olivia is apparently fired during an investigation of a teen sex-trafficking ring linked to a Catholic school. This one doesn't stick, though.
    • The Season 17 finale, "Heartfelt Passages", ends with Mike Dodds dying of his injuries, marking the first and to date only time SVU has ever had a member of the unit Killed Off for Real.
  • Wham Line: End of "Trophy".
    • End of "Internal Affairs". "Munch put his papers in. The Mehcad Carter case hit him pretty hard."
    • Before that, "Scorched Earth": "Elliot put his papers in."
  • What the Hell, Hero?: Often pulled on Stabler — and sometimes, on Olivia — when going too far.
    • Amaro got this from his wife in "Street Revenge" when she found out he had beaten up her army buddy after basically stalking her for days after he started to suspecting her of cheating. It seems that they're just friends.
  • What the Hell Is That Accent?: Lieutenant Murphy's Irish accent while undercover is....unconvincing at best.
  • What You Are in the Dark: "Pandora" has Stabler chasing a pedophile to the Czech Republic and back, and uncovering a huge child prostitution ring in the process. At the end of the episode, he finally goes to arrest the particular pedophile that they've been looking for. Upstairs, with his gun drawn, he finds the man asleep, alone, in a room with no witnesses and too far away for anyone to intervene in time. You can see the battle raging on Stabler's face. He wakes the perp up and arrests him instead.
  • Whole Plot Reference: "Branded" is a version of The Millennium Trilogy, with a vigilante hacker Lisbeth Salander Expy, who was gang-raped at a summer camp a la Dexter Season 5 and, like Lisbeth, carved "rapist" into her perpetrators' chests.
  • Whoopi Epiphany Speech: Guest star Whoopi Goldberg tries to deliver a rousing one in "Institutional Fail". Subverted by the fact that she has knowingly neglected actually caring for children in favor of paperwork and self advancement. Despite the message being an important one, the speech rings hollow with both the characters and the audience as a result.
  • Who's Laughing Now?: Stuckey the lab rat. Holy shit...
  • Who Writes This Crap?!: "Damn, who thinks this stuff up?"
  • Woobie, Destroyer of Worlds: "Signature", "Authority", "Shattered", "Smoked", "Making A Rapist", etc.
    • Many characters over the years could qualify. "Poisoned Motive", for example, gives us Gloria Montero, whose father's taking a bullet for Fin set off a Disaster Dominoes in their family, and who decides to deal with this by going on a killing spree.
  • Worth It:
    • In "Spectacle", the criminal states that it's worth being arrested and punished for faking a kidnapping and rape because he accomplished what he set out to do: to get the police to revisit his kidnapped brother's cold case.
    • Huang at the end of "Users". He effectively kidnapped a teen heroin addict to give him an illegal drug, Ibogaine, to cure his addiction. When the boy's guardian/quack shrink threatens to report him, Huang says he already reported himself, received a thirty day suspension of his license, and it was worth it.
  • Worthy Opponent: One of the only defense attorneys who is consistently portrayed in a positive manner is constitutional lawyer Barry Moredock, who clearly despises many of his clients but represents them anyway for the sake of the constitution. He even becomes a judge later in the show's run.
    • Bayard Ellis is a defense attorney, but he's also a close friend to Olivia.
    • Rita Calhoun, a former prosecutor, is presented as this. Her first episode makes it seem like she's the same scumbag defender the others are, but later episodes show her sometimes helping the detectives and having a friendly relationship with them.
    • Minonna Efron also notably averts the "scumbag defense lawyer" cliché.
  • Would Hit a Girl: Given how many episodes involve rape, the name of this trope hardly says it.
  • Would Hurt a Child: The series runs on the trope.
  • Wounded Gazelle Gambit: Used more than once, like in the case of "Burned" where a woman has consensual sex with an investigator from her lawyer's firm and then accuses her ex-husband of raping her... purely out of bitchy spite and to ruin his life. The guy can't prove that he wasn't a marital rapist, loses it and sets her on fire. In her very death bed, she keeps lying to Olivia about how she was "raped". Olivia only finds out the truth casually, as she speaks to the investigator, and is appalled by how it got Worse.
    • "Chameleons" has a prostitute perp (based on serial killer Aileen Wuornos) who tries making herself out to be some kind of Woobie, Destroyer of Worlds, and it appears to be working with the court, since her victims included guys like a known wife beater and a fellow serial killer. In the end, it's discovered she had lied about her horribly abusive past, and the baby son she claimed to love so much isn't hers; she stole him from the real mother, a random woman she strangled to death.
    • In "Conscience", a boy claims he was abused at a survival camp his mother sent him to, showing burn scars on his arm as evidence. He was actually the psychopathic one; according to the other boys at the camp, he tried to drown another kid, left a dead gopher in someone's bed, and would regularly burn himself with a cigarette. His school records also show that he was kicked out of two schools for arson and violent behavior.
    • In "Design", a pregnant woman is about to commit suicide and claims her baby is the product of a rape. It is...only she was the rapist, having drugged a wealthy scientist to collect his semen, impregnate herself, and frame him for the crime. She previously drugged 34 other famous or rich men and collected their semen, trying to do the same thing to them, and proceeds to scam the potential adoptive parents of her baby out of $50,000 each. The whole thing was a massive con.
  • Wrong Genetic Sex: "Identity" starts with a rapist getting killed by his victim and the DNA evidence leads the detectives to a teenage boy who just happens to have an ironclad alibi. It turns out his twin "sister" is actually his twin brother; it seems he lost his penis when they were circumcised as babies and the doctors who botched the operation covered their tracks by completing the job and talking his parents into raising him as a girl. Sadly, this is based on a real case. Just like the character in the episode, the real man vehemently reverted to a male gender identity as soon as he got the chance. Sadly, both the real man and his twin brother ended up killing themselves (in separate incidents) instead of killing the doctor like his fictional counterpart in SVU did.

  • You Have Outlived Your Usefulness: A particularly sickening example in "Design". April uses her pregnancy to scam prospective adoptive parents out of $50,000 each and frame the father of her baby for rape. As soon as the baby is born, she withholds its location to get herself a deal and escape jail, knowing the detectives will give up the chance to imprison her if it means saving the baby's life. When that's all said and done, she and her mother flee to Florida, abandoning her newborn daughter without a second thought.
    • April struck again in "Flaw", an original series crossover that serves as a sequel to "Design", when she shot her mother's boyfriend for his share of a scam they pulled, and betrays her mother in the courtroom to try and cover her own ass. Thankfully the detectives manage to throw her in jail this time.
  • Your Princess Is in Another Castle!: If someone is abducted, they're very rarely in the first place the detectives search. If they are, then it's usually a set up for a Halfway Plot Switch.
  • You're Insane!: Elliot to a particularly disgusting pedophile perp who's trying to defend his rape of young girls (and dressing a woman as a young girl to rape her) as "natural". When he calls the "love" he has "natural" as that which [Elliot] feels for his wife, Ell is visibly trying not to leap up and beat the scumbag to death.

Executive Producer

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Alternative Title(s): Law And Order SVU


Carsi Won't Let Diana Off Easy

Garrison wants to cut a deal, but Darisi refuses to let Diana off the hook too easily for her abusive behavior.

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