SVU: Diane Neal Responds to John Oliver’s Criticism of Show

“’SVU’ is trying. It always did, even though it wasn’t required to,” Neal said of the Law and Order spinoff’s portrayal of how law enforcement handles sex crimes.

Law & Order: Special Victims Unit alum Diane Neal joins debate on glorifying law enforcement.

The long-running Dick Wolf series begins its 24th season on NBC this fall, but former cast member Neal is now responding to criticism leveled by Last Week Tonight host John Oliver last week.

“Government and press reports have repeatedly shown that New York’s actual sex crimes unit is set up to drop victims of sexual assault, and its case closure rate is a far cry from Elliot Stabler’s fictional 97 percent,” according to Last Week Tonight with John Oliver ‘ the host said last Friday. “The NYPD’s official figures show that they only close about a third of sexual assault cases.”

Oliver added, “Rather than depicting a flawed system steeped in structural racism, the show presents exceptionally competent police officers operating within a largely fair framework that mostly condemns white people.”

Neal, who portrayed New York City Assistant District Attorney Casey Novak in a supporting role from 2001 to 2012, responded to Oliver’s comments on the 23rd anniversary of the premiere of “SVU” (episode one aired September 20, 1999).

“Real life is nuanced, and several things can be true at once,” Neal began Twitter thread. “@LastWeekTonight and @iamjohnoliver drew attention to what was the reality for many victims including ME, the gap between the way we BELIEVE #legislation should work and the fact that it often does is not the case.”

Neal continued: “That doesn’t contradict #SVU being a spectacular TV show, a necessary outlet for many sacrifices, and how hard the cast and crew work to change things for the better. (Seriously, just look at Mariska Hargitay and her decades of practical advocacy! Same goes for Stephanie March and others.)”

SVU lead star Hargitay, who plays Captain Olivia Benson on the series, founded the non-profit foundation Joyful Heart in 2004 with a mission to “transform society’s response to sexual assault, domestic violence and child abuse, to support the healing of survivors and… End this violence forever.” The Joyful Heart Foundation has been working to end the rape kit backlog for untested rape cases since 2010, working with federal, state and local governments, nonprofit organizations, law enforcement, attorneys and survivors to lead the response improve the criminal justice system on sexual violence. Joyful Heart has identified more than 225,000 untested rape kits in police force, crime labs or other storage facilities across the US, as several states have yet to count the untested rape kits in their possession.

“Nobody WANTS to be a victim,” Neal tweeted. “It’s being forced on them. And what people expect from all of their combined experiences – whether it’s real #lawenforcement agencies plastering “To Protect & Serve” on everything or empathetic crime shows – it’s that the law should help, not hurt. That needs to change. #SVU is trying. It always has, although it is not obligated to do so. And with articles like this one on @LastWeekTonight and so many people sharing their stories, the truth about the real problem is finally coming out: many crime victims are treated horribly.”

Neal concluded: “New #LawAndOrderSVU’s DavidGraziano said that season #SVU24 is about healing trauma. He’s right, we all need healing. There is no guide to victimization. So part of that healing is telling the truth so others have realistic expectations of the system while we work to improve it.”

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Lindsay Lowe

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