SVU: Children Can Be Abusers, Too

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By Katiee McKinstry

In this episode of SVU, we tackle the idea that children can be criminals. As a society, we often assume that abusers are exclusively adults and in Uncivilized, Olivia and Elliot are no different. The detectives find a young boy who was assaulted in the park and passed away from a snapped neck. The evidence leads the unit to a convicted sex offender, and the detectives spend all of their time trying to send him back to jail. However, the evidence proves eventually that the abuser did not sodomize and kill the boy from the park, but two teenage boys did.



The two teenage boys found out about the sex offender online and were trying to “make him pay” for his crimes by assaulting a young boy. (Because that makes sense???) Then, they accidentally kill the boy after abusing him, showing little to no guilt. The most surprising thing to the detectives was that one of the boys, Jimmy, showed no remorse -- a typical sign of a serial abuser. Now, let’s unpack that. These boys not only abused a younger boy but KILLED him in the process. They don’t seem to care, and they claim they did it to punish an adult abuser. They learned from an adult how to abuse someone younger than them, and committed murder. Teenagers can kill and be abusers. Children can commit crimes! We often ignore that as a possibility, but it’s there. Did these teens learn this behavior, or is it something inherent within them? Were they destined to be abusers themselves? Let me know what you think!

Elliot and Olivia disregarded the fact that the perpetrators could be guilty because they were so determined to arrest a former adult abuser. America gives children an out a lot of the time, because they are minors. The brain isn’t fully developed until age 24 or 25. Can we still blame a child for the crime of an adult? The answer is yes. But do we punish them just as harshly? That I’m not so sure about. SVU often touches on children as criminals, because they highlight the innate behavior of children who abuse/murder. They are often sent to juvenile detention, which seems like the apt punishment to me. We automatically assume that all criminals are adults, and discount the overwhelming amount of child delinquents. We don’t want to think that children are inherently evil, or anyone for that matter. Not saying that all children are criminals should go to jail, because the majority of them are not! SVU just does a great job of highlighting storylines that we would not otherwise think about, which is what makes this episode interesting. I do love that SVU starts conversations around topics like this, because it’s something I wouldn’t otherwise think about.