‘SVU’ Alum Diane Neal Urges Series to Showcase How Rape Cases Are Really Handled

“Law & Order: Special Victims Unit” alum Diane Neal is weighing in on the debate of glorifying law enforcement.

The long-running Dick Wolf series kicks off its 24th season on NBC this fall, but former cast member Neal is now responding to the criticisms that “Last Week Tonight” host John Oliver voiced last week.

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

Oliver added, “Instead of depicting a flawed system riddled with structural racism, the show presents exceptionally competent cops working within a largely fair framework that mostly convicts white people.”

Neal, who portrayed New York Assistant District Attorney Casey Novak from 2001 to 2012 in an on-and-off supporting role, responded to Oliver’s statements on the 23rd anniversary of “SVU” premiering (the first episode aired September 20, 1999).

“Real life is nuanced, and several things can be true at the same time,” Neal started a Twitter thread. “@LastWeekTonight and @iamjohnoliver brought attention to what has been a reality for many victims, including ME, the chasm between how we BELIEVE #lawenforcement should function, and how it often does not.”

Neal continued, “That does not conflict with #SVU being a spectacular TV show, a necessary outlet for many victims, and how hard it’s cast and crew work to change things for the better. (Seriously, just look at Mariska Hargitay and her decades of hands-on advocacy! Same for Stephanie March and others.)”

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

“No one WANTS to be a victim,” Neal tweeted. “It’s thrust upon them. And what people come to expect from all their combined experiences-whether it’s real #LawEnforcement plastering ‘To Protect & Serve’ on everything, to that of watching empathetic crime shows-it’s that law should help, not hurt. THAT is what needs to change. #SVU tries. It always has, despite not being obligated to. And with pieces like the one on @LastWeekTonight, and so many people sharing their stories, the truth finally starts to come out about the real problem: many crime victims being treated awfully.”

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

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