The following is an unofficial list of episodes of Law & Order: Special Victims Unit that have been ripped from the headlines.

This list should contain real-life headlines (or criminal/legal cases and other stories) that fulfill at least one of the following criteria:

  • At least THREE significant aspects (e.g. motive, modus operandi, biographies of central figures, etc.) that should be extremely similar, if not identical, to significant aspects of the case-of-the-week. These similarities should NOT be arbitrary.
  • An explicit reference by at least ONE member of the cast and/or crew confirming the headline was used as a basis for the episode.
  • An explicit reference in at least ONE reliable, well-known news publication confirming the headline was used as a basis for the episode, OR observing similarities between the headline and the episode.
  • At least ONE reference in the episode itself, in which a character compares and DOES NOT contrast the headline to the case-of-the-week.

Season 1

Ep# Episode Title Real Life Incident(s)/Case(s)
1 Payback Inspired by crimes committed during the Bosnian genocide, which included rape and sexual assault.
3 ...Or Just Look Like One The Albert DeSalvo (a.k.a. "The Boston Strangler") case.
4 Hysteria The Victor Gant case.
5 Wanderlust Ripped from the pages of the book Lolita.
7 Uncivilized
9 Stocks & Bondage The Martin Frankel case.
10 Closure (Part I) The Troy Graves (a.k.a. "The Center City Rapist") case, which at the time was still unsolved.
14 Limitations
15 Entitled
16 The Third Guy Ripped from the 1949 noir film The Third Man.
18 Chat Room Based on true stories of pedophiles using chat-rooms to lure out their victims.
21 Nocturne Based on a reported Brooklyn case involving a piano teacher who gave free lessons to underprivileged children in order to videotape himself molesting them.
22 Slaves

Season 2

Ep# Episode Title Real Life Incident(s)/Case(s)
1 Wrong Is Right The Knapp Commission.
2 Honor Based on the belief of "honor killing".
3 Closure (Part II) The Troy Graves (a.k.a. "The Center City Rapist") case, which at the time was still unsolved.
4 Legacy The Elisa Izquierdo case.
5 Baby Killer The Kayla Rolland case.
6 Noncompliance Inspired by the debate over whether mentally-ill people have the right to refuse medication.
8 Taken The Disney World fake rape case.
10 Consent
12 Secrets The Roseann Quinn case and the Looking for Mr. Goodbar novel.
15 Countdown
18 Manhunt The Leonard Lake/Charles Ng case and the related Reference Re Ng Extradition case.
19 Parasites
20 Pique Based on the sexual paraphilia piquerism.
21 Scourge The Peter Sutcliffe (a.k.a. "The Yorkshire Ripper") case.

Season 3

Ep# Episode Title Real Life Incident(s)/Case(s)
1 Repression
2 Wrath Based on wrongful convictions in the U.S.
4 Rooftop
5 Tangled
6 Redemption
8 Inheritance Based on the controversial debate on the impact of genetic predisposition versus environmental upbringing on the nature of violence.
9 Care The Sylvia Likens case.
10 Ridicule
11 Monogamy
13 Prodigy The Troy Graves (a.k.a. "The Center City Rapist") case.
14 Counterfeit The Craig Peyer case.
15 Execution
17 Surveillance
19 Justice A supporting character is partially inspired by John H. Wood, Jr.
21 Denial
22 Competence Inspired by the case of Annette R., a mentally handicapped rape victim.
23 Silence The Roman Catholic Church sexual abuse scandals.

Season 4

Ep# Episode Title Real Life Incident(s)/Case(s)
1 Chameleon The Aileen Wuornos case.
2 Deception The Pamela Smart case.
3 Vulnerable The Kristen Gilbert case.
4 Lust The Nushawn Williams case.
6 Angels
7 Dolls
8 Waste
9 Juvenile Based on the ongoing debate about trying juveniles as adults in high-profile cases.
10 Resilience The Fred West/Rosemary West case.
11 Damaged The Tammy Homolka case.
13 Rotten The Abner Louima case.
15 Pandora
  • The commercial sexual exploitation of children in the Czech Republic.
  • Major worldwide police operations in 1999 cracking down on child pornography websites, including Operation Avalanche.
16 Tortured
19 Appearances The JonBenét Ramsey case.
20 Dominance The Wichita Massacre.
21 Fallacy Based on the lives and social difficulties of transgender people.
22 Futility The Ted Bundy case.
23 Grief Partially ripped from the 1996 crime drama film A Time to Kill.
24 Perfect
25 Soulless The Jesse Pomeroy case.

Season 5

Ep# Episode Title Real Life Incident(s)/Case(s)
2 Manic
3 Mother The Margaret Bean-Bayog case.
4 Loss
5 Serendipity The John Schneeberger case.
6 Coerced The Magnus Gäfgen case.
7 Choice The legality of drinking alcohol while pregnant.
8 Abomination
9 Control The John Jamelske case.
10 Shaken Based on the criminality of inducing shaken baby syndrome.
12 Brotherhood Based on the ongoing issue of hazing rituals committed by fraternities.
13 Hate
  • The Larme Price case.
  • The ongoing nationwide trend of hatred and paranoia towards Muslims that followed the September 11 attacks.
14 Ritual The "Adam" murder case.
15 Families Ripped from the play Fool for Love and its film adaptation.
16 Home The Theresa Knorr case.
17 Mean The Shanda Sharer case.
18 Careless The Terrance Cottrell case.
19 Sick
20 Lowdown Based on the "down-low" phenomenon in the African-American community.
21 Criminal
  • Based on the life of retired con artist Frank Abagnale.
  • The Kevin Tunell case.
22 Painless The alt.suicide.holiday Usenet newsgroup.
23 Bound
24 Poison
25 Head
  • The case of an unidentified British male teacher who developed pedophilic urges due to a tumor in his brain.
  • The Mary Kay Letourneau case.
  • A scene was inspired by the Carlie Brucia case, in which NASA used video enhancement technology to solve the crime.

Season 6

Ep# Episode Title Real Life Incident(s)/Case(s)
3 Obscene
4 Scavenger
5 Outcry The Tawana Brawley rape allegations.
6 Conscience
7 Charisma
9 Weak The Richard Speck case.
12 Identity The David Reimer case.
13 Quarry
14 Game
15 Hooked The main antagonist is based on Max Hardcore.
16 Ghost
18 Pure
19 Intoxicated
22 Parts Based on illegal organ trafficking.
23 Goliath Based on the controversial administration of Mefloquine to soldiers deployed to Iraq.

Season 7

Ep# Episode Title Real Life Incident(s)/Case(s)
1 Demons The Kenneth Bianchi/Angelo Buono, Jr. (a.k.a. "The Hillside Strangler") case.
2 Design The Sante and Kenneth Kimes case.
3 911 Inspired by the story of a hoax 911 call made by "Jessica", an eighteen-year-old girl claiming to be aged four and a witness to a crime.
5 Strain The Matthew Shepard case.
6 Raw
7 Name
8 Starved The Terri Schiavo case.
9 Rockabye
  • The epidemic of fake abortion clinics across the U.S.
  • Based on a case in Michigan in which a teenage couple terminated the girl's unwanted pregnancy by having the boy beat her in the abdomen with a baseball bat.
10 Storm Based on Judith Miller's controversial refusal to disclose her source.
12 Infected Based on controversial research that suggests witnessing gun violence causes people to be more likely to commit acts of gun violence themselves.
14 Taboo
16 Gone
17 Class The Elizabeth Paige Laurie cheating scandal.
18 Venom The Raymond Levi Cobb case.
19 Fault The Joseph Edward Duncan III case.
20 Fat Based on the lawsuits against McDonald's filed by Jazlyn Bradley and others.
21 Web The Justin Berry case.
22 Influence

Season 8

Ep# Episode Title Real Life Incident(s)/Case(s)
1 Informed The Earth Liberation Front.
3 Recall The Melvin Carter (a.k.a. "The College Terrace Rapist") case.
4 Uncle The Kendra Webdale case.
6 Infiltrated The Natascha Kampusch case.
8 Cage
9 Choreographed Inspired by the rise of microchip implants.
11 Burned The Roger B. Hargrave case.
13 Loophole
14 Dependent The urban legend of "pharming parties".
15 Haystack
16 Philadelphia The Keith Hill (a.k.a. "The Baytown Stalker") case.
17 Sin The Ted Haggard scandal.
18 Responsible Based on the epidemic of underage drinking and the people who supply them with alcohol.
20 Annihilated
21 Pretend The Treva Throneberry case.

Season 9

Ep# Episode Title Real Life Incident(s)/Case(s)
1 Alternate
2 Avatar
3 Impulsive
5 Harm The Abu Ghraib torture and prisoner abuse scandal.
6 Svengali
7 Blinded
10 Snitch Based on the Whosarat.com website.
11 Streetwise
12 Signature The Todd Alan Reed (a.k.a. "The Forest Park Killer") case.
13 Unorthodox
14 Inconceivable
15 Undercover Based on the epidemic of prison rape in the U.S.
16 Closet Based on the story of Justin Fashanu.
17 Authority
18 Trade The Sherri Rasmussen case.

Season 10

Ep# Episode Title Real Life Incident(s)/Case(s)
1 Trials Partially ripped from the book Diary of a Rapist and its Italian shock film adaptation.
2 Confession The Jack McClellan case.
4 Lunacy The John Worboys (a.k.a. "The Black Cab Rapist") case.
5 Retro
6 Babes
8 Persona Ripped from a New York Magazine interview with Leslie Crocker Snyder.
9 PTSD The Maria Lauterbach case.
10 Smut
11 Stranger
12 Hothouse Controversies over drug treatment methods for people suffering from attention deficit hyperactivity disorder.
14 Transitions Based on the lives and social difficulties of transgender people.
15 Lead Based on the concerns of high lead levels in toys during the 2007 Chinese export recalls.
16 Ballerina
17 Hell
18 Baggage The Francisco de Assis Pereira (a.k.a. "The Park Maniac") case.
19 Selfish
20 Crush
21 Liberties
22 Zebras

Season 11

Ep# Episode Title Real Life Incident(s)/Case(s)
1 Unstable
2 Sugar The Jasmine Fiore case.
3 Solitary Inspired by the psychiatric effects of solitary confinement in prison.
4 Hammered
5 Hardwired The North American Man/Boy Love Association (NAMBLA).
6 Spooked The Los Zetas drug cartel.
7 Users
9 Perverted
10 Anchor
11 Quickie
12 Shadow The Lizzie Borden case.
13 P.C.
14 Savior
15 Confidential
16 Witness Based on the high rate of sexual violence in the Congo.
18 Bedtime
19 Conned
20 Beef Inspired by the novel The Jungle by muckraker Upton Sinclair.
21 Torch The Cameron Todd Willingham case.
22 Ace The "shadow counsel" invocation.

Season 12

Ep# Episode Title Real Life Incident(s)/Case(s)
1 Locum
2 Bullseye
3 Behave
  • Based on the nationwide rape-kit backlog.
  • The Helena Lazaro case.
4 Merchandise
6 Branded Ripped from the pages of the Millennium book series.
8 Penetration The controversial development of Park51.
10 Rescue The 2010 Duke University faux sex thesis controversy.
11 Pop Inspired by the "fight club" phenomenon caused by the book and film of the same name.
12 Possessed
13 Mask
  • The controversial "sex addiction" diagnosis in the psychiatric world.
  • Ripped from the pages of the book Lolita.
  • The attacks of Teresa Butz, the sister of Norbert Leo Butz, and her partner Jennifer Hopper.
  • The opening scene is ripped from the movie Rear Window.
15 Flight The Jeffrey Epstein/Ghislaine Maxwell case.
16 Spectacle Based on the bystander effect phenomenon.
17 Pursuit
18 Bully
20 Totem The Melissa Huckaby case.
21 Reparations The Dick Rowland case.
22 Bang The recent uproar about reproductive abuse.
23 Delinquent The Cody Legebokoff case.
24 Smoked The ATF gunwalking scandal.

Season 13

Ep# Episode Title Real Life Incident(s)/Case(s)
1 Scorched Earth The Dominique Strauss-Kahn case.
2 Personal Fouls
3 Blood Brothers
4 Double Strands
5 Missing Pieces The Joseph Bales/Helene Lemay case.
7 Russian Brides The "Boris and Natasha" bride scams.
9 Lost Traveler
10 Spiraling Down
11 Theatre Tricks
  • The rise of sexual assaults, particularly of cast members, at interactive theater productions.
  • The featured play is inspired by the Sleep No More immersive play.
12 Official Story The Jamie Leigh Jones case.
13 Father's Shadow The Woody Allen sexual assault allegation.
15 Hunting Ground
16 Child's Welfare The Jaycee Dugard case.
17 Justice Denied
18 Valentine's Day
19 Street Revenge
20 Father Dearest Inspired by the genetic sexual attraction phenomenon.
21 Learning Curve
22 Strange Beauty The John Ronald Brown case.
23 Rhodium Nights

Season 14

Ep# Episode Title Real Life Incident(s)/Case(s)
1 Lost Reputation The Anna Gristina and Jason Itzler escort rivalry.
2 Above Suspicion
3 Twenty-Five Acts
4 Acceptable Loss Based on the arrests of several barcode pimps in Spain.
5 Manhattan Vigil
7 Vanity's Bonfire The John Edwards extramarital affair scandal.
8 Lessons Learned
9 Dreams Deferred
10 Presumed Guilty The Roman Catholic Church sex abuse scandals.
12 Criminal Hatred
13 Monster's Legacy
14 Secrets Exhumed The Sherri Rasmussen case.
16 Funny Valentine
18 Legitimate Rape Based on Todd Akin's controversial statement about "legitimate rape".
19 Born Psychopath
  • Inspired by cases of psychopathic behavior observed in juveniles.
  • Partially ripped from the made-for-TV movie Child of Rage.
20 Girl Dishonored
21 Traumatic Wound The Richmond High School gang rape case.
22 Poisoned Motive
23 Brief Interlude The Sarai Sierra case.
24 Her Negotiation The Nelson Clifford case.

Season 15

Ep# Episode Title Real Life Incident(s)/Case(s)
1 Surrender Benson The Nelson Clifford case.
2 Imprisoned Lives The Ariel Castro case.
3 American Tragedy
4 Internal Affairs
5 Wonderland Story
  • The statistics of sex offense victims being more likely to be victimized in more than one case.
  • The Andrew Luster case.
6 October Surprise
7 Dissonant Voices
8 Military Justice The Air Force sexual assault pamphlets/Louise Slaughter scandal.
9 Rapist Anonymous The Jodi Arias case.
10 Psycho/Therapist
11 Amaro's One-Eighty The Ramarley Graham case.
12 Jersey Breakdown The "kids for cash" scandal.
13 Betrayal's Climax The rape of a Chesterfield teen by MS-13 gang members.
14 Wednesday's Child The recent epidemic of the disrupted adoption practice, in which adopted children are given up via Internet chat-rooms, and the abuse that occurs in the process.
15 Comic Perversion
16 Gridiron Soldier
18 Criminal Stories The Tawana Brawley rape allegations.
19 Downloaded Child Based on the story of "Amy Unknown".
20 Beast's Obsession
22 Reasonable Doubt
23 Thought Criminal The Gilberto Valle case.
24 Spring Awakening

Season 16

Ep# Episode Title Real Life Incident(s)/Case(s)
2 American Disgrace
3 Producer's Backend
4 Holden's Manifesto
5 Pornstar's Requiem Inspired by the story of Belle Knox.
6 Glasgowman's Wrath
8 Spousal Privilege The Ray Rice domestic violence case.
9 Pattern Seventeen Based on the nationwide rape-kit backlog.
10 Forgiving Rollins The Russell Williams case.
11 Agent Provocateur
13 Decaying Morality
14 Intimidation Game
15 Undercover Mother
16 December Solstice The death of Casey Kasem.
17 Parole Violations The legal scenario of female-on-male rape.
18 Devastating Story
19 Granting Immunity
20 Daydream Believer
21 Perverted Justice The Chaneya Kelly case.
22 Parents' Nightmare Based on a Lincoln County, Missouri family's staged kidnapping of their son to educate him about "stranger danger".
23 Surrendering Noah

Season 17

Ep# Episode Title Real Life Incident(s)/Case(s)
1 Devil's Dissections
2 Criminal Pathology
3 Transgender Bridge
4 Institutional Fail The Nixzmary Brown case.
5 Community Policing
6 Maternal Instincts The Stefan Arzberger case.
7 Patrimonial Burden The Duggar family scandal.
9 Depravity Standard The Etan Patz case.
10 Catfishing Teacher
12 A Misunderstanding The "Senior Salute" rape case.
13 Forty-One Witnesses The Kitty Genovese case.
14 Nationwide Manhunt
15 Collateral Damages
16 Star-Struck Victims The Bill Cosby sexual assault cases.
17 Manhattan Transfer
18 Unholiest Alliance
19 Sheltered Outcasts Inspired by homeless shelters that cater to sex offenders.
20 Fashionable Crimes The Terry Richardson sexual misconduct allegations.
21 Assaulting Reality Inspired by the dating reality TV series The Bachelor.
22 Intersecting Lives The Daniel Holtzclaw case.
23 Heartfelt Passages

Season 18

Ep# Episode Title Real Life Incident(s)/Case(s)
1 Terrorized
2 Making a Rapist
3 Imposter
4 Heightened Emotions Based on the story of Suzy Favor Hamilton.
5 Rape Interrupted The 2015 People v. Turner case.
6 Broken Rhymes
  • The outing of the former relationship between rapper Tyga and retired transgender porn actress Mia Isabella.
  • Inspired by the controversy over gender-neutral bathrooms for transgender people.
8 Chasing Theo The Melissa Brannen case.
9 Decline and Fall
10 Motherly Love
11 Great Expectations The Wanda Holloway case and the related Positively True Adventures of the Alleged Texas Cheerleader-Murdering Mom documentary.
12 No Surrender
13 Genes
  • Based on the controversial debate on the impact of genetic predisposition on the nature of violence.
  • The Paul Cox case.
15 Know It All The Paul Durousseau case.
16 The Newsroom
17 Real Fake News
18 Spellbound
  • The Michael Fine case.
  • The Geoffrey Shaw case.
19 Conversion The "corrective rape" hate crime.
20 American Dream
21 Sanctuary

Season 19

Ep# Episode Title Real Life Incident(s)/Case(s)
1 Gone Fishin' The capture of Andrew Luster.
2 Mood Ripped from the ProPublica article "An Unbelievable Story of Rape".
4 No Good Reason Ripped from the TV series 13 Reasons Why.
5 Complicated Inspired by the story of serial impostor Frédéric Bourdin.
8 Intent
10 Pathological The Dee Dee Blancharde case and the Mommy Dead and Dearest documentary.
11 Flight Risk
12 Info Wars
13 The Undiscovered Country The Charlie Gard case.
14 Chasing Demons The Earl Bradley case.
16 Dare
17 Send In The Clowns
18 Service
19 Sunk Cost Fallacy The Scott Peterson case.
20 The Book of Esther
22 Mama
  • The Eagle Crest nursing home controversy involving the alleged rape of an Alzheimer's patient.
  • The Henry Rayhons case.

Season 20

Ep# Episode Title Real Life Incident(s)/Case(s)
1 Man Up
2 Man Down
3 Zero Tolerance
4 Revenge
5 Accredo The NXIVM cult scandal involving Allison Mack.
7 Caretaker
8 Hell's Kitchen
10 Alta Kockers
11 Plastic
12 Dear Ben
13 A Story of More Woe The murder of Terry King.
15 Brothel
16 Facing Demons The epidemic of child molestation committed by Little League Baseball coaches.
19 Dearly Beloved
20 The Good Girl
21 Exchange Inspired by cases of exchange students being sexually assaulted by their host parents.
22 Diss
23 Assumptions

Season 21

Ep# Episode Title Real Life Incident(s)/Case(s)
1 I'm Going To Make You a Star The Harvey Weinstein sexual abuse cases.
2 The Darkest Journey Home Inspired by recent cases of women being assaulted by their Uber drivers.
3 Down Low In Hell's Kitchen
4 The Burden Of Our Choices Inspired by modern anti-abortion state legislation that was controversially passed in a number of states in 2019.
7 Counselor, It's Chinatown The Orchids of Asia Day Spa sex trafficking ring.
8 We Dream Of Machine Elves
9 Can't Be Held Accountable The Jeffrey Epstein/Ghislaine Maxwell case.
10 Must Be Held Accountable
11 She Paints For Vengeance
12 The Longest Night Of Rain Inspired by the slew of suicides of New York City Police Department officers in 2019.
14 I Deserve Some Loving Too
  • The John Jacobs Olivas case.
  • The Wilfredo Rodriguez case.
15 Swimming With The Sharks
16 Eternal Relief From Pain The Naga Raja Thota case.
17 Dance, Lies and Video Tape The New York City Ballet nude photos allegation.
18 Garland's Baptism By Fire
19 Solving For The Unknowns The Andrew Luster case.
20 The Things We Have To Lose The Harvey Weinstein sexual abuse cases.

Season 22

Ep# Episode Title Real Life Incident(s)/Case(s)
1 Guardians and Gladiators
2 Ballad Of Dwight and Irena Inspired by the concern of domestic violence during the COVID-19 pandemic.
3 Remember Me In Quarantine
4 Sightless in a Savage Land
5 Turn Me On Take Me Private Inspired by the story of Lauren Caitlyn Kwei.
6 The Long Arm Of The Witness
7 Hunt, Trap, Rape and Release
8 The Only Way Out Is Through Inspired by the restorative justice approach.
10 Welcome to the Pedo Motel
11 Our Words Will Not Be Heard
12 In The Year We All Fell Down The impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on the U.S. restaurant industry.
13 Trick-Rolled At The Moulin' The legal scenario of female-on-male rape.
14 Post-Graduate Psychopath The legal scenario of institutionalizing criminals as another means of a life sentence.
15 What Can Happen In The Dark The dilemma of domestic violence by wives against their husbands.

See Also

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