Lieutenant Olivia Benson is a fictional character and the protagonist of the NBC police procedural drama Law & Order: Special Victims Unit. She is portrayed by Mariska Hargitay.
Biography and family Edit
Olivia Benson was born on Wednesday, December 13, 1967 in New York City, the product of the rape of Serena Benson (Elizabeth Ashley). Serena was an English professor and an abusive alcoholic who emotionally abused Olivia (to this day, Olivia believes her mother’s alcoholism and abuse were products of her rape). In 2000, Olivia’s mom died falling down a flight of subway stairs outside the entrance to a bar. In 2007, using a DNA kinship analysis test, Olivia learned she had a half-brother, Simon Marsden (Michael Weston), and that the name of her mother’s rapist was Joseph Hollister.
In 2010, Benson's life is further complicated when she is named the legal guardian of a young boy named Calvin Arliss (Charlie Tahan). Calvin’s mother, Vivian (Maria Bello) abandons Calvin and flees when Benson's investigation uncovers that Vivian (also a child of rape) may have killed her mother’s rapist. Vivian names Benson as Calvin’s legal guardian. Calvin lives with her for a while, causing her both delight and stress when Calvin gets into fights at school. Later that year, she finds Vivian and her lover Sara have relapsed into drug use. Sara confesses to murdering Vivian’s father and is then shot dead. At the end of the episode, Vivian revokes Benson’s parental rights and sends Calvin to live with his grandparents. Both Calvin and Benson are devastated by the separation. In 2011, she is seen with Calvin and his grandparents during or right before Halloween.
In 2012, her brother Simon reveals that she has a niece and a step-nephew named Olivia and Ty and that he is planning to marry a woman named Tracy. When the children are taken by the City because of Simon’s criminal background, Benson calls defense attorney Beyard Ellis (Andre Braugher), with whom she has become good friends, to help Simon and Tracy get the children back. When a judge denies the Marsdens their children back, Simon kidnaps them. Ellis makes a deal to have Simon serve a 60-day sentence, knocking his charge down from kidnapping to a misdemeanor, custodial interference. One of the conditions of the reduced charges is that he must give up his custody petition and agree to visit his daughter only in a supervised setting for the next three years. Simon is reluctant, but Benson tells him it’s better than his daughter visiting him in jail.
In 2014, Benson becomes the court-appointed custodial guardian of Noah Porter, an orphaned baby. The appointment is for a trial period of one year, with the option to apply for legal adoption at the end of that period. Upon the end of the trial period, she officially adopts Noah, whom she renames Noah Porter-Benson.
Romantic history Edit
Despite her stellar police record, Olivia is unlucky in love. She lost her virginity to one of her mother’s students as a teenager and was briefly engaged to him, but eventually broke it off. In 2000, she had a one-night stand with fellow SVU Detective Brian Cassidy. In 2008, she had a four-month relationship with Kurt Moss, a reporter with the New York Ledger. In 2012, she had a relationship with EADA David Haden, but broke up due to a conflict of interest. She also had short-lived relationships with US Marshal Andy Erickson, reporter Nick Ganzner, ADA Jeffrey York, and FBI Agent Dean Porter. In 2012, she rekindled her romance with Brian Cassidy, who was an undercover officer who in 2013 regained his Detective’s shield. The two broke up in 2014.
Olivia joined the NYPD in 1992, and was trained by Sgt. Karen Smythe at the 55th Precinct in the Bronx. After completing her probationary period, Sgt. Smythe recommended that Olivia be transferred to the Sex Crimes Unit (later renamed the Special Victims Unit). In 1998, she received her detective’s badge, and was assigned to the 16th Precinct as a Detective 3rd Grade and partnered with SVU veteran detective, Elliot Stabler. She was promoted to Detective 2nd Grade in 2001, and Detective 1st Grade in 2011. In 2006, Olivia was temporarily reassigned to the Computer Crimes Unit; later that year, she did a stint undercover for the FBI’s Domestic Terrorism Unit at the request of her friend, Special Agent Dana Lewis.
As Elliot’s partner, Olivia provided “the empathetic, passionate voice for the victims”, while he embodied “the rage against the perpetrators”. They worked together for over 12 years, until Elliot retired in 2011 after he kills an 18-year-old girl who shot up the SVU squad room. After Elliot’s retirement, she is partnered with Det. Nick Amaro.
In 2013, after the retirement of Sgt. John Munch (and the impending mandatory retirement of Capt. Don Cragen), Olivia took the NYPD Sergeant’s test and passed in the top 1 percentile (coming in 48th out of 8,000 officers). She was officially promoted to Sergeant and named Acting Squad Commander of the Special Victims Unit in 2014.
In 2015, One Police Plaza, represented by Lt. Ed Tucker of the Internal Affairs Bureau, requests that Olivia take the Lieutenant’s exam in order to officially take over as SVU Squad Commander; otherwise, the brass would appoint somebody else to the position. In October, Benson was officially promoted to Lieutenant.
As a lieutenant with the New York City Police Department, Olivia drives a Ford Crown Victoria Police Interceptor on duty and carries a Glock 19 in 9×19mm as her personal sidearm.
List of assignments Edit
- Patrol Officer, 55th Precinct
- Junior Detective, NYPD 16th Precinct (Special Victims Unit) (1998–May 18, 2011)
- Senior Detective, NYPD 16th Precinct (Special Victims Unit) (September 21, 2011–November 20, 2013)
- Supervisor–Detective Squad, NYPD 16th Precinct (Special Victims Unit) (January 29, 2014–October 7, 2015)
- Commander–Detective Squad, NYPD 16th Precinct (Special Victims Unit) (October 14, 2015–Present)
Temporary assignments Edit
- Detective, NYPD Computer Crimes Unit (May 2, 2006–May 9, 2006)
- Undercover operative, FBI Domestic Terrorism Unit (September 19, 2006–October 31, 2006)
- Special Deputy United States Marshal for the Eastern District of New York (October 6, 2010)
- Detective 3rd Grade
- Detective 2nd Grade – May 11, 2001
- Special Deputy United States Marshal – October 6, 2010 (temporary)
- Detective 1st Grade – September 21, 2011
- Sergeant – January 29, 2014
- Lieutenant – October 14, 2015
- Sergeant Karen Smythe, NYPD – Training officer (1992–1993)
- Detective Elliot Stabler, NYPD Special Victims Unit (1998–May 18, 2011)
- Detective Nick Amaro, NYPD Special Victims Unit (September 28, 2011–May 20, 2015)
Awards and decorations Edit
The following are the medals and service awards fictionally worn by Lieutenant Benson.
- American Flag Breast Bar
- World Trade Center Breast Bar
- NYPD Commendation or Commendation–Integrity
Kill count Edit
- Roger Silver – Shot (February 4, 2000)
- Eric Plummer – Shot (October 5, 2001)
Sexual assault Edit
In 2008, Benson poses as an inmate in a women’s prison to investigate an alleged rape by a corrections officer. While there, the corrections officer in question, Captain Lowell Harris (Johnny Messner), attacks her and attempts to force her to perform oral sex on him. She is rescued by SVU colleague Fin Tutuola (Ice-T), who gets there just in time to stop the rape. Later, Benson helps convict the rapist by questioning his earlier victim about distinguishing features on his penis, prompting the victim to recall a mole on it, which Benson later explains to Warner that she had also seen. When Warner asks Benson if she had been raped, she replies, “It was the closest I’ve ever come.”
Following the assault, Benson is seen struggling with now being a victim of sexual assault herself. She is attending group therapy, something she has not shared with anyone but Tutuola. While investigating the rape of a Marine, she is pushed against a wall while trying to break up a fight between a suspected rapist and another Marine. She subsequently breaks up the fight by holding her gun to the back of the suspect’s head. Later, while in questioning, the other Marine tells Tutuola that, “She [Benson] has PTSD, I would recognize that glassy-eyed look anywhere.” At the end of the case, the original suspect is cleared, and Benson apologizes to him, admitting that she was a victim of sexual assault.
In 2009, Benson becomes the prime suspect in the sexual mutilation and murder of a biker gang member. As more evidence is found linking her to the crime, an Internal Affairs detective insinuates that she may have committed it while suffering from a flashback to the assault. The other detectives eventually discover that Benson has been framed by a man she sent to prison years earlier.
"Surrender Benson" Edit
In May 2013, Benson is kidnapped by serial rapist/murderer William Lewis (Pablo Schreiber). Lewis makes her watch while he rapes and tortures the mother of his attorney and kills a police officer. He then beats, tortures, and holds her hostage for four days. Just as he is about to rape her, she breaks free, handcuffs him, and holds him at gunpoint. When he taunts her, she loses control and beats him within an inch of his life with an iron rod. She is rescued by her fellow detectives moments later, and Cragen puts her on mandatory leave so she can recover. She returns to work two months later, but is still haunted by the experience. She begins seeing a therapist (Bill Irwin) to cope with the trauma.
During his trial, Lewis fires his attorney and chooses to represent himself. He calls Benson as a witness and accuses her of assaulting him because he rejected her sexual advances. She vehemently denies it, and lies under oath that she had used only the necessary force to subdue him. Lewis is found guilty of kidnapping and assaulting a police officer, but the jury voices doubts about Benson’s story and acquits him of attempted rape. After the verdict, Benson weeps on the courthouse stairs.
Four months later, Lewis uses the distraction caused by his (self-induced) seizure to escape from prison. He then rapes a teenaged girl, kidnaps her sister and threatens to kill her unless Benson tells the truth about her testimony. Benson holds a press conference and admits that she lied on the witness stand. When Lewis does not release the girl, Benson tracks him down and surrenders to him. With his hostage watching, Lewis at first attempts to rape Benson, but changes his mind when she refuses to show him fear; instead, he forces her to play Russian roulette with him. As the police close in, Lewis taunts her one last time before committing suicide right in front of her. Benson is subsequently brought before a disciplinary committee to explain her admission and Lewis’ death. Her career is threatened until her new superior officer, Lieutenant Declan Murphy (Donal Logue), tells the committee that he instructed Benson to lie in her press conference, thus clearing her of Lewis’ death and possible perjury charges.