Olivia Benson

Detective Olivia Benson is a fictional character on the TV drama Law & Order: Special Victims Unit, portrayed by Mariska Hargitay.

Benson works as a detective in the Special Victims Unit, which investigates sex crimes. Her undercover alias is Rachel Martin. As played by Hargitay (who has received a Golden Globe and an Emmy award for her portrayal), she is tough, compassionate, and completely dedicated to her job, to the point that she has no personal life of which to speak.

This dedication, however, sometimes wreaks havoc on her emotional state: she empathizes with victims of sexual assault so much that, when an abuser evades justice or a victim suffers, she holds herself personally responsible. She has also occasionally let her compassion for victims of abuse cloud her professional judgement, an example being a case in which she fought her boss, Captain Don Cragen, to get leniency for a woman who killed her rapist. Also, when investigating a case, she sometimes lacks the ability to be impartial, as evidenced in the Season 6 episode "Doubt".

Benson's empathy for victims has roots in her personal life; she was a child of rape, and her mother, Serena Benson, was a physically and emotionally abusive alcoholic. In 2000, her mother died in a drunken fall down the subway stairs before they could make peace, a source of great emotional pain. She often worries that her biological father passed his violence and aggression onto her. To this day, she does not know who her father is nor does she know anything about him. In the Season 1 episode "Wanderlust", Benson reveals that when she was seventeen, she was in love with a much older man, a fact she attributes to growing up without a father; in a later episode, "Intoxicated" she also mentioned being engaged for a short time to a 21-year-old student of her mother's when she was sixteen.

She has a close friendship with her partner, Detective Elliot Stabler (played by Christopher Meloni). They are so close, in fact, that Stabler's wife often feels jealous of the time they spend together, as his job often keeps him away from home. They are so close that some fans think of them as brother and sister. There is much speculation about the possibility of a romantic relationship between Benson and Stabler. However popular the idea might be among the show's fans, both Hargitay and Christopher Meloni (who plays Stabler) have both said that a romantic link between the characters they play would be detrimental to the core qualities of the show. Benson and Stabler's relationship is not without friction, however, as they frequently take different stances on cases they investigate; Benson is quicker to take the victim's side than Stabler is, and they periodically have intense arguments about how best to close cases.

She had a brief affair with one of her SVU colleagues, Detective Brian Cassidy, but she broke it off when he got too close. Cassidy left the precinct shortly afterward. She also had a brief affair with a crime reporter who tried to make her act out a fantasy where she was the victim in a sexual assault case she was working on. When she pushed him away and told him she wanted him to leave while she was in the bathroom, he looked at a case file she had left on a table, and used the information in a story about the case. Benson was nearly suspended for the incident, but Cragen covered for her, avoiding her getting an unpaid suspension and a bad report in her record.

On two separate occasions ("Disrobed", season 1 and "Wrath", season 3), Benson was forced to kill a suspect. She was especially haunted by the second incident, in which a man she had helped send to Sing-Sing on what later turned out to be faulty evidence started killing abuse victims she had once worked with, saying he was "ending their pain"; she felt partly responsible for his crimes and was stricken with guilt over his death, even though she killed him in self-defense. She was especially upset by the fact that the suspect wanted her to shoot him, but the gun he was holding was not loaded.

In the episode Fault, Benson received a slash wound to the throat while pursuing a child rapist, but the cut later proved to be not serious. However, since she and Stabler had begun to falter in their police work (neither was willing to risk the other's life in order to catch the killer), Benson asked for a new partner. Benson briefly transferred into the computer crimes unit, but the first two cases she worked on involved SVU. In the episode "Web", Benson decided to return to SVU as Stabler's partner.

In the 2006 season premiere, Benson successfully infiltrated an eco-terrorist group, and took a leave of absence from SVU to work with the FBI. Several episodes later, SVU tried to get in touch with her so that she could testify in a rape trial. Near the end of the episode, "Infiltrated", her time with the FBI comes to an end and she returns to SVU to testify in the rape case.

Unless otherwise stated, the content of this page is licensed under GNU Free Documentation License.