"Legitimate Rape"
SVU, Episode 14.18
Production number: 14018
First aired: 27 March 2013
  th of 476 produced in SVU  
th of 476 released in SVU
  th of 1229 released in all  
Written By
Kevin Fox & Peter Blauner

Directed By
Jonathan Herron

When a sports reporter accuses her cameraman of rape, the case becomes more complicated when she learns she is pregnant.


A popular sports reporter seeks out Detective Benson to accuse a cameraman of rape and stalking. The SVU squad and A.D.A. Barba begin their preparations for a difficult trial when the victim learns she is pregnant as result of the rape. As the case proceeds, the defense uses controversial tactics in its efforts to persuade the jury.


When well-known sports reporter Avery Jordan meets with Olivia at a restaurant, she reveals that she was sexually assaulted by a coworker in her home a month ago, but was too busy to report it right away. She didn't want to meet at the station because it would attract too much attention.

Their conversation is cut short when Avery is recognized by fans who want to take a picture with her and Olivia hands Avery her card so they can talk later. When Avery returns to her apartment, she sees an envelope outside of her door which includes photographs of her meeting with Olivia and of her having sex with a man. The photos have the words "Watching You" written on them which frightens her.

The next day, Avery talks to Nick and Olivia about the photos and says that her cameraman, Richard "Rick" Purcell is stalking her and that he raped her a month ago after dropping her off at her apartment. She went to see a doctor and was checked for STDs which Olivia and Nick point out that the doctor's report will be helpful in building a case against Purcell. The SVU squad discovers that Purcell studied law, but never took the bar exam.

When Fin and Rollins question Purcell, he claims the sex was consensual and Avery is probably worried because a network anchor she is seeing might have found out. Avery reveals that she had an affair with a co-anchor named Jason Hollis who is married and doesn't want it made public.

When Rollins and Fin talk to Jason, he tells them that Purcell is blackmailing him too. Later, A.D.A Barba shows Avery a video of her having sex with Jason in a hotel room with a camera hidden within the room, which was anonymously sent to Jason 2 weeks ago.

Olivia and Barba convince Avery to press charges against Purcell and he is arrested. Purcell is charged with rape and aggravated stalking and is jailed until the trial. When Olivia informs Avery about the news, Avery appears to be ill and Olivia asks her if she got a pregnancy test. Avery reveals that she is unable to have children which led to her ex-husband divorcing her. Avery then realizes that she is late and breaks down, saying that she can't be pregnant with Purcell's child.

Several months later, Avery, now in the final stages of her pregnancy, is seen walking up the courthouse stairs with Olivia and Barba. In court, Olivia, Nick, Rollins and Fin all testify to what they discovered about Purcell during the investigation.

Barba tells Rollins and Fin to convince Jason to testify in court. At first, Jason is reluctant, but eventually agrees to. The next day in court as Barba is questioning Jason on the stand, Purcell asks Judge Barth if he can approach. Judge Barth calls for a recess and tells the counselors into her chambers. While in Judge Barth's chambers, Purcell tells her that his lawyer is not doing a good job of defending him and wants to defend himself.

Judge Barth allows Purcell to represent himself which upsets Avery. While in court, as Purcell cross-examines Jason, he makes it sound as if Avery only slept with Jason because it helped her career. When Purcell questions Olivia on the stand, he asks why Avery decided to keep her baby of the person who sexually assaulted her and asks her if she has ever seen anything like this in her career. Olivia replies that it has been known to happen.

As Barba questions Avery on the stand, he asks her why she decided to keep the baby. Avery states that she was told by doctors that she couldn't get pregnant and when she found out about her pregnancy, she wanted to terminate it, but eventually realized that the baby was a part of her.

After Judge Barth ends court for the day, Barba tells Rollins and Fin that Purcell's next witness will be Congressman Fritz Showalter, an obstetrician who started a campaign against abortion of rape victims, claiming that it was destruction of evidence. Barba tells them to dig up some information on him before the next hearing.

The next day, Barba is able to discredit Showalter thanks to the information that Rollins and Fin found on him. When Avery is questioned by Purcell on the stand, his questioning unsettles her and Purcell tells Avery that she wanted to get pregnant and that he gave her the baby she always wanted.

The jury finds Purcell guilty of stalking, but not of rape. When Barba talks to one of the jurors, he admits that everybody agreed on the legitimate rape argument except for one juror who wasn't ready to given in, so they all cut a deal and decided to settle only for the stalking charge. While an upset Avery is sitting outside the courtroom on a bench, her water breaks and Olivia takes her to the hospital.

When Olivia visits Avery at the hospital, Avery has given birth to a baby boy named Theo. Moments later, a doctor walks in and gives Avery court documents revealing that Purcell is suing her for custody of Theo. When Barba talks with Cragen and the SVU squad, he recommends a good lawyer who can help Avery, who is revealed to be Rita Calhoun.

At the family court hearing, Avery is awarded full custody of Theo, but because Purcell is willing to pay child support, Judge Linden reluctantly awards Purcell supervised visitation rights once a week. When Purcell waits for Avery at the station for the supervised visit to see his son, Avery doesn't show up.

Avery is shown packing her things, preparing to run away despite Olivia's protests that what she is doing is illegal, but Avery can't think of another way to keep Purcell out of her life. When Olivia returns to the station, she tells Cragen that Avery took off with Theo.

Cragen understands and decides to lie to Purcell that they don't know where Avery and Theo are, but a search is underway. As Cragen leaves to tell Purcell the news, Olivia reveals that Avery and Theo left on a private plane to "somewhere beyond extradition". Olivia hints to Nick that she was a product of her mother's rape.


Main cast

Recurring cast

Guest cast


Episode references


Fin: Avery Jordan. Is she the one that wears those tight white jeans on the sideline?
Rollins: No, Fin, that's someone else, and beside the point.

Fin [to Rick Purcell] Listen, you want to be a father? The first thing you need to learn is it's not all about you anymore!

Olivia: Avery, guys like Rick, they don't stop until you stop them.

Olivia: [to Amaro] Remember when you asked about my father, and I told you it was a long story?
Amaro: Yeah.
Olivia: It's not that long.

Background information and notes

  • The title of the episode alludes to the "legitimate rape" argument made by Congressman Fritz Showalter, who is based on real life politician Todd Akin, a former member of the U.S. House of Representatives (R-Missouri), who became infamous after making a very similar statement while campaigning against a woman's right to have an abortion if she became pregnant from rape. Like the fictional Showalter, Akin posed the argument that in the event of actual, "legitimate" rape, a woman's body would shut down pregnancy and prevent it from happening, implying that if a woman became pregnant, it was because she consented to the sex. Akin made his statement during his campaign for a United States Senate seat from Missouri. He was trounced in the general election by incumbent Claire McCaskill.

Episode scene cards

1 2 3 4

Sports and Events Network
1273 Avenue of the Americas
Friday, August 17

"Jason's Kids" Annual Benefit
Midtown Lanes
693 8th Avenue
Friday, August 17

Supreme Court
Part 52
Tuesday, February 12

Supreme Court
Part 52
Wednesday, February 13

5 6 7

Supreme Court
Part 52
Friday, February 15

Family Court
Part 21
Wednesday, March 6

Family Court
Part 21
Thursday, March 7

Previous episode:
"Undercover Blue"
"Legitimate Rape"
Law & Order: Special Victims Unit
Season 14
Next episode:
"Born Psychopath"
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