SVU: The First Time Olivia Benson Was Targeted

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By Koli Marie

From the title, or if you’re like me and have seen every episode of SVU in existence, you’ll know that Stalked is the first time that Olivia Benson is targeted by a perpetrator. It happens a few times over the series run. Depending on what you count as “being targeted”, the current total is either six or nine. And it all started here. The perp in this case, Richard White, fixates on women that, in mind, have wronged him in some way. The first victim we encounter in this episode, Karen Fitzgerald was an acquaintance of Olivia’s.

It actually never occurred to me that she probably should have recused herself from the case then, before White ever set his sights on her. Because Fitzgerald was an acquaintance of Olivia’s, a defense attorney could argue that she had a conflict of interest. Had she done that, perhaps she never would have pissed White off, and he never would have gone after her.

Another victim of White’s stalking was his ex girlfriend, Louise Billings, who he raped after they broke up. Karen actually prosecuted White on the date rape charge that Louise brought against White. She’d been running into him quite a bit, two to three times a month, and she says her “shrink” called it a classic case of cognitive dissonance. This doesn’t make sense, I did a little research and cognitive dissonance doesn’t have anything to do with seeing your ex everywhere, and everything to do with inconsistencies between thoughts or beliefs and behavior. I think the writers were just trying to sound like they had a minor understanding of psychology here.

Another thing that strikes me as interesting is the title of the episode, Stalked. During the episode, Olivia mentions that the victims are being stalked, and Cragen says “Impossible. We don’t have a stalking statute in New York, ergo there’s no way to stalk anyone.” Now, obviously that’s changed since this first aired on November 22, 1999. Only 9 days later the first stalking statute became effective law in New York, according to correctinghistory.org. I think the timing is interesting because when it aired and when it was set, when it was written there was no legal way in New York to stalk someone. So they wrote an entire episode on a crime that wasn’t a crime I love it.

Up until this point, White’s focus was on other women. But that focus was always on women who he perceived to have wronged him in some way.  Once White sets his sights on Olivia, the entire squad begins to worry for her safety. Munch offers to drive her home (even though he says he didn’t bring the car with him that day) and then Stabler who is “in the neighborhood” (Olivia goes on to explain just how much neighborhood he would have had to cover just to get to her door with the unmarked police cruiser) goes to pick Olivia up for work (side bar, at this point Olivia is pouring herself a glass of orange juice out of a pitcher that looks like the ones I used to make Kool-Aid in as a kid. At that point I stopped the episode to yell at my computer “WHO PUTS ORANGE JUICE IN A PITCHER LIKE THAT!?”). Olivia gets tired of being coddled, as she does in every scenario she’s targeted in. When Cragen asks her to take some time off she tells him she needs to be out there to have Stabler’s back, quoting him back to him, “When I first came on board here you told me I don’t get to pick the vic. So what if I’m the next potential vic? The same rules should still apply. Let me do my job.”

For some reason, in a few of these scenarios Olivia finds herself in, the writers like having the perp call her. Sometimes in the middle of the night, as is the case in this particular episode. In the end, the meeting that comes from the phone call is what brings White down, and while he admits to what would likely be aggravated sexual assault and probably Murder 2, he doesn’t ever say he used the gun with the intent to kill her, making it so he can’t receive the death penalty. We can only assume he goes to prison, but not before he leaves Olivia with a final chilling word. “Until I’m dead, I’ll always be in your head.”