SVU, Episode 8.11
Production number: 08011
First aired: 9 January 2007
  th of 476 produced in SVU  
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Stabler Benson Burned
Written By
Judith McCreary

Directed By
Eriq La Salle


When Valerie Sennet accuses her ex-husband, Miles, of rape, it becomes a case of he said, she said. Valerie refuses to use her young daughter, Tessa, as a witness, and since Miles has no history of violence, he is soon released. As the case increases, Stabler and Benson butt heads over it. Stabler believes that Valerie is crying rape to punish Miles, while Benson believes that Miles did rape his ex-wife. The case takes a shocking twist when Miles decides to take matters into his own hands, endangering Valerie's life.


During a scheduled supervised visit with her father, Miles Sennet, Tessa exercises with him until he is too tired to continue. Miles questions if she is exercising because of her crush. When she confirms his suspicion, he tells her not to grow up too fast. Tessa asks what a "Dallas head hunter" is causing her social worker, Sara Jenner, to end the visit. Miles protests stating she has ended the visits early three times in a month. Jenner claims Tessa needs the time to study since her grades are slipping. Tessa corrects her saying she made a D on one pop quiz. Before walking them to the car, Miles reminds Jenner he still has a half hour left.

At the car, Tessa tells her father to take care of himself as she hugs him. After they drive off, Miles begins pressing buttons on his cell phone. While standing in the doorway of Tessa's bedroom, Valerie, her mother, tries to explain Miles has issues he is not dealing with making him untrustworthy. Tessa puts on her headphones causing Valerie to leave her room shutting the door behind her. While Valerie is in the shower, someone rips the curtain down wrapping it around her and removing her from the shower as she screams.

Valerie explains to Benson and Stabler that she could not report her rape until her 12-year-old daughter went to school claiming she does not want Tessa to know. Her attacker dragged her from the shower to her bedroom and raped her before apologizing. She adds "like he always does" causing Stabler to realize she knew her attacker. She identifies him as her soon-to-be ex-husband making sure they understand Tessa is not to know about it.

At the station, Valerie informs Benson and Stabler of Tessa's visit with her father the previous day stating she returned home around 5:30 or 6:00. She believes Tessa gave her the silent treatment because she thinks Valerie is keeping her from Miles. When she tells them the visits are supervised, Stabler questions if Miles ever abused either of them. She asks if drug and alcohol addiction count as abuse. Stabler explains they do not count as abuse by themselves. The judge in the case disagrees with Stabler because he issued an Order of Protection. Valerie stresses her ex-husband was in her home and raped her before asking why they have not arrested him. Benson explains they need to finish taking her statement before they can talk to him. Stabler adds they will need to talk with Tessa. Valerie does not believe Tessa will know anything since she was asleep at the time. Benson informs her that Miles had to have a key since there were no signs of forced entry. Valerie does not believe Tessa would give him a key or their address because she knows if he found out where they live, then they would have to move again. Stabler thinks she may have out of anger towards her. Valerie claims Tessa loves her and Miles and questioning her will force her to choose between them. She requests they keep Tessa out of it. Stabler questions where Miles got the key.

In the squad room, Stabler informs Benson Miles will be returning tonight from a business trip scheduled over a month prior. Benson believes it was convenient. When Cragen joins them, Benson tells him CSU found fibers at the scene along with hairs. The rape kit was positive for intercourse, but negative for semen. Stabler notes husbands do not wear condoms. Benson believes he would if he went over there to humiliate her. She thinks Tessa is angry and misses her father. She does not know if Tessa gave Miles the key or the address reminding them they are not allowed to talk to Tessa without parental consent. Cragen will try to get Novak to find a way around that. Stabler informs him of two domestic violence calls to the Miles residence while they were together. One was no dispensation. The other resulted in court-ordered anger management after Miles put his fist through a wall. Neither Valerie or Tessa have a history of ER visits. Benson reminds them she grew up with an alcoholic mother stating abuse does not have to be physical to cause damage. Stabler believes more families would have protection orders and supervised visits if that was all it takes. The Restraining Order expires in a week, but the hearing to request an extension was held a month prior resulting in the request being denied. Cragen wants to know why the judge denied the request.

Judge Harrison informs Benson and Stabler the original petition for an Order of Protection did not have grounds adding they are handed out like candy because jurists feel pressured by feminazis. Benson wonders why he dismissed Valerie's fears. Judge Harrison believes Valerie watched too many movies adding there was never any violence or abuse in the home. Benson tells him the violence took place the night before when Miles raped his ex-wife. Judge Harrison reminds her if she had the evidence to prove it, then she would not be there. Stabler reminds him their job is to believe the victim. Judge Harrison reminds them his job is to believe whoever is lying the least. Benson does not believe Valerie has a reason to lie. Judge Harrison explains that by accusing a husband of abuse, a wife tips the case in her favor. Stabler calls it the Silver Bullet Defense while Judge Harrison calls it Sexual Assault in Divorce. Stabler tells him Kathy declined hiring a lawyer that suggested she use that strategy. Judge Harrison explains other men are not that lucky before clarifying some women do need protection while others abuse the system in order to get what they want. He believes Valerie is abusing the system. Benson asks if he has proof or if he is making it up as he goes along. Judge Harrison warns her that accusing him of Judicial Misconduct without proof could land her in jail.

As they leave the courthouse, Stabler scolds Benson for baiting a judge. She reminds him Valerie was raped. She believes his family situation is clouding his judgment causing him to empathize with the suspect. He corrects her stating it is an outrage because Miles never touched his wife. When Benson adds "until last night" and reminds him of the bruises, Stabler explains Miles is being punished even though he never touched either of them.

Jenner explains to Munch and Tutuola that she has picked Tessa up, supervised the visits, and taken her home for the past 6 months. At first, she thought Valerie was being overprotective, but Miles showed up at her apartment every day demanding to see Tessa. He was never charged because he stayed 500 feet away, but Jenner still felt it was harassment. Valerie moved frequently because she fears Miles when he is drunk or high. Jenner claims to understand her feelings stating Miles has exhibited a temper after she shortened some visits by getting in her face. Tutuola reminds her cutting the visits short was not her call to make. Jenner cuts the questioning short stating she has to go investigate a complaint on a father for spanking his child. When Tutola says that spanking is not against the law, Jenner replied that violence begets violence. When Tutuola asks for her supervisor's name, she tells him to "Go to hell" before leaving. Tutuola takes out his notepad to file a formal complaint because cutting visits short is an abuse of her power.

At Tessa's school, Stabler questions Benson about speaking with Tessa. Benson explains it is the only way to know if Miles was in the house. Tessa is introduced to them saying they need to ask her questions about Miles. When Stabler asks her to sit down, Tessa wonders if Miles is in trouble. She explains he used to have problems with drugs and alcohol. She denies telling him where she lives, but admits to leaving her backpack laying around with her house keys in it. Benson tries to convince her to tell them if she told Miles saying no one would be angry. Tessa denies telling him again realizing they do not believe her. She denies seeing Miles in her home the previous night. Valerie interrupts them telling Tessa to wait outside. Benson defends their actions assuring her they did not tell Tessa about the assault. She continues stating Tessa denies seeing Miles. Stabler believes Tessa is hiding something. He explains she needs to let them do their jobs since rape is a serious charge. Valerie orders them to stay away from Tessa since they have already questioned her. Benson believes Tessa is trying to protect Miles, but Stabler does not believe it is Miles she is protecting.

Miles is infuriated that Valerie is trying to deprive him of his freedom after taking everything else from him. Stabler calms him stating they want to hear his side of the story. Miles tells them he is a recovering alcoholic and drug addict as well as a lousy husband, but denies being a rapist. He clarifies for Benson that if Valerie had sex it was not with him. When Stabler tries to make sure Valerie did not back out of consensual sex at the last minute, Miles repeats they did not have sex. Benson informs him he will have to come with them since he does not have an alibi. He questions how he can clear himself if no one knows where he was. Stabler has him agree to take a poly.

At the station, Cragen urges Valerie to think before she recants her statement. She claims she knows what she is doing. They are surprised to see Benson and Stabler escorting Miles out of the elevator. When Cragen informs them Valerie recanted. Miles and Valerie go after each other. Before they can get physical, Benson ushers Valerie into the elevator as Stabler pins Miles against the wall. Cragen orders a uniform to escort Miles out allowing Stabler to add to take him down the back stairs.

Benson believes Valerie recanted to stop them from talking to Tessa. Stabler believes Miles is a hothead. Valerie and Miles are trying to destroy each other. Tutuola joins them informing Stabler Kathy called. He continues stating the hair found at Valerie's belong to Miles. Benson notes he knows where they live. Stabler believes Tessa transferred the hairs from her visit. Benson does not buy it. Stabler reminds her that her relationship with him is the longest she has ever had with a man so she would not know how bad things can get with couples. She fires back stating that after 8 years in SVU, she does not need to be married to know when an abusive man is escalating. She walks off in one direction and after a brief pause he goes in the other direction.

In Cragen's office, Novak informs Benson and Stabler they will not be able to get a search warrant without a corroborating witness placing Miles in the apartment. Stabler suggests they arrest Valerie for lying to police and filing a bogus police report. Benson believes that would be re-victimizing a rape victim. Stabler reminds her Valerie recanted. Benson thinks Stabler is upset because he believes Valerie is abusing the system. He clarifies if Valerie is facing jail time she would allow them to talk to Tessa. Cragen is not comfortable with the idea. Stabler explains if she lied about the rape she will be in jail and if she did not lie they will have what they need to nail Miles. Novak agrees to arrest Valerie, but wants Huang to interview Tessa in case Valerie cannot be persuaded. After Novak leaves, Cragen asks if they can work the case together or does he need to reassign it. Benson says it is fine before getting up to leave.

As Valerie picks Tessa up after school, Stabler approaches her informing her she is under arrest for Filing a False Report and Lying to Police. Benson approaches Tessa attempting to hold her back and calm her. When Valerie does not heed Stabler's warning of doing it the easy way, Benson suggests Valerie calm down and think about Tessa. Valerie assures Tessa it will be okay telling her to come with her.

At the station, Tessa asks Huang what will happen. He responds saying it depends on Valerie. She believes he is treating her like a kid instead of someone with a brain. She explains she has found Miles passed out. She has flushed his stash. As a result, Miles would scream and yell before going out to buy more. She denies he ever hit either one of them. Miles would break things and hit the wall instead. Dr. Huang informs her that Valerie claims her ex-husband raped her. Tessa does not believe he would do so.

When Benson asks her if Miles raped her, Valerie refuses to talk about it adding she wants a lawyer. Stabler informs her she is charged with lying to police, facing fines and up to two years in prison. Tessa says her father appeared in her room that night, but that she didn't tell her father where they lived and doesn't believe that he would hurt their family. Valerie says her ex-husband did rape her, but she recanted because she did not want to endanger her daughter's life.

Munch and Tutuola find a receipt for a GPS tracker in Miles' apartment. The GPS tracker is attached to Jenner's car, to follow her back as she dropped Tessa off. The detectives arrest Miles for the rape.

Stabler and Benson interrogate Miles. He admits to sneaking into the house, but claims he just went to talk to Tessa about her comment about a "Dallas head hunter". Tessa tells him Valerie is planning to move out of state to be with a man in Dallas. Miles went to the bathroom and pulled Valerie out of the tub and shook her violently for trying to take his daughter away. However, Miles still claims that he did not rape Valerie.

Stabler still believes that Miles did not rape his ex-wife, but Benson and Cragen are not convinced. Wong says that Tessa's behavior makes it seem that there was not physical abuse in the home. Cragen tells the detectives to investigate Valerie further.

Benson gets a call in the precinct from Stabler's wife, Kathy, and goes to talk to her in the park about Stabler. She wants to know about Stabler, and says she doesn't think that he would sign the divorce papers. Kathy wants Benson to talk to Stabler and convince him to sign the papers.

Stabler interviews a runner, Denise, outside of Valerie's apartment. Denise says she saw Valerie with a man named Phil from her attorney's office at their apartment late at night.

At the arraignment, Miles pleads not guilty to the charges. Despite requests for $100,000 bail, Judge Petrovsky sets bail at 500,000 for Miles' violation of the protection order. Valerie seems disappointed and leaves the courtroom without going over her statement with Novak.

Stabler is making calls in the precinct, searching for Valerie's boyfriend Phillip who works for her divorce attorney's office. He and Benson get a call that Valerie was attacked in the park and is in the Burn Unit. As she is being worked on by doctors, Valerie says Miles approached her with a water bottle filled with gasoline and lit her on fire. She tells the detectives not to let Miles take Tessa, and falls unconscious.

A tourist had caught photographs of Valerie being burnt. Novak tells Cragen that Miles' parents had posted his bail, and that the detectives are out searching for Tessa by tracking her cell phone to the park.

In the park, Miles meets with his daughter and tells her that he killed Valerie. Benson approaches and Tessa grabs onto her father, screaming for Stabler not to hurt him. Miles pushes her away and tells Stabler to take Tessa away, causing Stabler to rush over, grab her, and run as she begs for him to let her go. As soon as she is out of sight, Miles reaches into his back pocket pulling out a long kitchen knife. Tutuola orders him to put it down and stay put. Benson makes her way from behind the statue with her gun raised. When he raises the knife aiming it at Tutuola, she yells his name getting his attention. As soon as he turns around, she shoots three times to his chest dropping him. She approaches him and removes the clip from her gun. She informs him his ribs will hurt since she used plastic bullets. She walks away allowing the others to cuff him.

At the Burn Unit, the doctor explains Valerie will be going through very painful debridement. In a few days if she stabilizes, she will have surgery, a round of maggots, and then another surgery to remove dead tissue. He believes it is remarkable she has survived this long, but doubts she will survive more. Benson informs Valerie Miles has been arrested and Tessa is in the waiting room with her parents. When Valerie asks if they killed him, Stabler notes she is out of it. Valerie tells them the shower was his fault, but she showed him. Before exiting the Burn Unit Benson questions if Miles raped her. She confirms it.

Stabler looks at the house once he is on the porch. He puts the large manila envelope into the mailbox before ringing the doorbell and making his way back to his car. He turns around in time to see Kathy come out. She notices the envelope causing her to look at him. After a few moments, he gets in his car and drives away. She watches him leave before going back inside.

In the squad room, Phillip Anderson arrives asking Benson for Stabler. He explains they were looking for him concerning the Miles Sennet case. She informs him the case is closed. Anderson tells her he heard Valerie was in critical condition on the news. He believes she was an amazing woman. He explains their relationship was casual with him only coming over while Tessa was with Miles. Benson tells him Valerie accused her ex-husband of rape so she needs to know when they were last together sexually. He confirms they were together on the 5th. He was gone before 5:00 p.m. so Tessa would not see him. After she verifies he used a condom, he tells her he hopes she is done prying into his sex life because he is leaving. Benson informs him Valerie is in Cornell's Burn Unit in case he wants to visit her. He reminds her the relationship was casual before leaving.

As Stabler lays in bed awake at 4:47 a.m., he receives a text message from Benson stating "Meet me downstairs...Liv." When Stabler comes out of the door, Benson hands him a cup of coffee. He notices a flower in her cup as he sits down beside her. She explains it is tea causing him to realize she is serious about the change. After they confirm neither could sleep, Benson informs him Valerie was sleeping with the investigator from her lawyer's office clarifying she was not raped. When he informs her Valerie died 20 minutes earlier, Benson realizes Valerie knew she was dying and still lied. Stabler explains, "When love warps into hate, there's nothing you won't do." He tells her he signed the divorce papers because he did not want Kathy to ever regret him. Benson believes it is a step in the right direction. She asks if they are okay. Stabler is afraid if he disagrees with her, he will lose the partnership. When Benson questions the change, he simply responds that things change. Benson reminds him the longest relationship she has ever had with a man has been with him. She questions if anyone else would put up with her. When she asks if he is hungry, he agrees he could eat but wonders who is buying. She explains with his divorce and four kids he is. He assumed that would be the case.


Main cast

Recurring cast

Guest cast




  • Kathy Stabler: (to Olivia about Elliot) You're his partner. You give him stability. Elliot can't move on until he feels like he's on solid ground.

  • Olivia Benson: I grew up with an alcoholic mother, and abuse doesn't have to be physical to cause damage.

  • Miles Sennet: (when Olivia arrests him) I swear I didn't touch her ...
  • Olivia Benson: Swear on what? The Bible? God? Your daughter? You have the right to keep your mouth shut.

  • Elliot Stabler: [to Olivia]: I'm the longest relationship you've ever had with a man. You've no idea how bad things can get when a couple goes south.
  • Olivia Benson: And 8 years in this unit tells me that I don't need to be married to know when an abusive man is escalating.

  • Elliot Stabler [about Miles Sennet]: You said he was escalating, you were right.
  • Olivia Benson: You think that's what I want to hear? He set her on fire, Elliot. Who could have anticipated that?
  • Elliot Stabler: If I had listened to you, we could have prevented this.
  • Olivia Benson: How?
  • Elliot Stabler: Have Novak push for remand, get a blue and white on him. Anything but make excuses for the guy.
  • Olivia Benson: Miles Sennet chose gasoline and a match, not you. He didn't just want to kill her, he wanted her to suffer.
  • Elliot Stabler: He said he wanted her dead. I just wasn't listening.
  • Olivia Benson: Well, you weren't the only one in that room. I was there, too.

  • Olivia Benson [to Elliot]: So, are we okay?
  • Elliot Stabler: I just need space to disagree with you so that I don't feel like it's going to cost me our partnership.
  • Olivia Benson: You never been gun-shy before.
  • Elliot Stabler: Yeah, well, you know, things change.
  • Olivia Benson: Well, like you said, you're the longest relationship that I've ever had with a man. Who else would put up with me?

Background information and notes

  • The episode is partially based on the Roger Hargrave case.
  • At the end of the episode when Olivia and Elliot are talking outside Elliot's apartment on the stairs, Elliot takes a sip of his drink, but he later has to remove the lid from the drink that had been placed on the ground.
  • Eriq LaSalle makes his "Law & Order: Special Victims Unit" directorial debut, which reunites him with former ER castmates Mariska Hargitay and Michael Michele, and former "ER" writer and producer Neal Baer, now an executive producer with "Law & Order: Special Victims Unit." This was also a mini-reunion for three former "Homicide: Life on the Street" stars (Michael Michele, Richard Belzer and Peter Gerety), although none of the three shared a scene.

Episode scene cards

1 2 3 4 5

Family Court
Part 37
Monday, November 6

P.S. 388
135 East 84th Street
Monday, November 6

Apartment of
Miles Sennet
273 West 93rd Street
Tuesday, November 7

Part 46
Thursday, November 9

Central Park
Friday, November 10

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