Law and Order
Law and Order
Olivia Benson
Name Olivia Margaret Benson
Title Captain (2019-present)
Lieutenant (2015-2019)
Sergeant (2013-2015)
Detective (1998-2013)
Officer (1992-1998)
Affiliation NYPD
Division Special Victims Unit (1998-)
CPU Crimes Unit (2006)
Community Affairs (2016)
Precinct 16th Precinct (1993-)
55th Precinct (1992-1993)
Occupation Police officer (1992-present)
Family Serena Benson (mother; deceased)
Joseph Hollister (father; deceased)
Simon Marsden (paternal half-brother; deceased)
Ty Harrison (step-nephew)
Olivia Marsden (niece)
Noah Porter-Benson (adoptive son)
Status Alive
Actor Mariska Hargitay
First Appearance "Payback"

Captain Olivia "Liv" Margaret Benson (born February 7, 1968) is the commanding officer of the Manhattan Special Victims Unit. Before taking over SVU, Benson worked as an SVU detective and was partnered with Elliot Stabler for over twelve years. After Elliot's resignation, Benson partnered primarily with Nick Amaro before she became a sergeant and took over the SVU unit from Captain Donald Cragen.

When she was a detective, her badge number was 4015. When she was a sergeant, her badge number was 01139 and as a lieutenant, she no longer has a badge number.

In 2019, she was promoted to Captain by Deputy Chief William Dodds. (SVU: "I'm Going To Make You a Star)


Olivia was born in 1968 as the product of the rape of Serena Benson in the spring of 1967 by a food salesman named Joseph Hollister, who later committed suicide. At the time of the rape, Serena had been working in the cafeteria of Columbia University. Benson's mother, Serena, was an alcoholic who emotionally and physically abused Benson. Serena died from injuries sustained in a fall in 2000 when she was drunk, which left Benson deeply saddened. Olivia never visited her mother's grave, until a case left her shook (SVU: "Hammered").

Benson has a half-brother named Simon Marsden. She didn't find out about her brother until she illegally ran her DNA through a kinship analysis in 2007 (SVU: "Haystack"). Simon was later accused of a series of break-ins and one rape, for which he was later cleared. Simon makes his way into her life again in 2012, this time with a family of his own, including a daughter he named Olivia after her aunt. Simon sought her help in keeping his family intact but they failed. In 2019, Olivia bumps into Simon after a few years and wanted lunch with her and Noah but died of an overdose.

In 2010, Olivia was appointed to be the legal guardian of Gladys Dalton's cocaine afflicted premature daughter who passed away after Benson gave the doctors permission to perform surgery to try and save her life. (SVU: "Savior")

Olivia is appointed Calvin Arliss' legal guardian too, but her legal guardian rights were then terminated by Calvin's mother through his paternal grandparents. After her legal guardian rights were terminated, she is shown to still have kept in contact with Calvin, since he came over to New York on Halloween to see Olivia. (SVU: "Trophy", "Rescue", "Missing Pieces")

In 2014, after the Season 15 finale, Benson becomes the court-appointed custodial guardian of Noah Porter, an orphaned baby who she rescued from child pornographers. The appointment is for a trial period of one year, with the option to apply for legal adoption at the end of that period; Although the year is rocky due to Noah's health issues and the demands of her job, Benson formally adopts Noah a year later at the end of Season 16.

Personality and sexual assault[]

Benson is deeply sympathetic to victims of sex crimes and as a result, she is often quick to believe victims' stories. Her former partner Elliot Stabler was often more skeptical of victims' accounts, which often brought the two partners into conflict. Benson's ability to sympathize with victims is a tremendous asset, but there are times when it comes back to haunt her.

In "Undercover", she went undercover in a women's prison to find a rapist and was almost raped herself until Detective Odafin Tutuola, also undercover there as a guard in the facility, managed to save her just moments before the man (a fellow guard) could violate her.

Afterward, Benson developed a severe case of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, but has been receiving counseling for the assault and has been seen dealing with it more constructively. (SVU: "PTSD").

While speaking to a victim of a separate rape, the victim asked her if she was better having dealt with her rapist, and Benson told her that she was better, but that she wouldn't ever forget what happened. (SVU: "Smut")

At the end of the season 14 finale "Her Negotiation", Benson is kidnapped by serial rapist/murderer William Lewis.

Lewis makes her watch while he rapes and tortures the mother of his attorney and kills a police officer who attempted to pull him over. He then beats and tortures her, burning her with cigarettes and wire hangers, and holds her hostage for four days. Just as he is about to rape her, she breaks free and attacks, 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. (SVU: "Surrender Benson")

She returns to work in the following episode, "Imprisoned Lives", which takes place two months later, but is still haunted by the experience. She begins seeing a therapist to cope with the trauma. It is later revealed that Lewis survived and is in jail awaiting trial.

In "Psycho/Therapist", Lewis fires his new 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 he had broken free of his restraints and lunged at her. 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. The episode closes with Benson weeping on the courthouse stairs and, four months later, Lewis being wheeled away on a stretcher.

In "Beast's Obsession", Lewis uses the distraction caused by his (self-induced) cardiac incident to escape from prison. He then rapes a teenaged girl, kidnaps her younger 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 a police squad closes in, Lewis taunts her one last time before committing suicide right in front of her.

In "Post-Mortem Blues", she is brought before a grand jury to explain her admission and Lewis' death. Her career is threatened until Declan Murphy tells the grand jury that he instructed Benson to lie in her press conference, thus clearing her of Lewis' death and possible perjury charges. Murphy then makes Benson his second-in-command until he got transferred out for a undercover assignment.

She later identifies with a woman named Sarah Walsh who, like her, was sexually assaulted twice and helps both her and herself in dealing with these incidents.

While a dedicated officer, Benson is more likely to go to bat for women she deals with during cases than men and has shown skepticism during cases where women are the offenders and men are the victims, or allows her sympathy for the victim to cloud her judgment and make her commit actions without thinking. This was exemplified when she interrogated a man until he confessed to a crime which he was later found to be innocent of and sending him to prison for life, which could have been avoided if she was thinking clearly enough to check on the evidence. (SVU: "Justice Denied")

Skills and abilities[]

Benson speaks some Spanish, Russian, Italian, and French. She is also able to read the Miranda rights in two or three other languages. (SVU: "Prodigy")

Early life[]

Benson found out about the man who raped her mother and others. He knew about his daughter and kept track of her. He once tried to call her but got Serena instead. (SVU: "Philadelphia", "Florida") Benson was a graduate of Siena College. (SVU: "Stalked")

Benson and Serena seemed to care about each other a great deal. (SVU: "Payback") Serena was worried about Benson working in the Special Victims Unit. Serena died sustained during a fall down the subway stairs across from a bar in 2000, (SVU: "Taken"), Benson said her mother was a drunk. Benson became involved with a child who was neglected by her parents the way Benson felt neglected by her mother. (SVU: "Abuse") Benson said she was in love with an older man and that she "couldn't have loved him more." (SVU: "Wanderlust") Benson once told Casey Novak about an incident when she was 16, an older student of her mother asked her to marry him and when she told Serena that she was leaving, her mother who had been drinking flew into a rage and went after her with a broken bottle. Benson kicked her mother into a wall and ran to Simone Bryce for help. After arguing with ADA Sonya Paxton about alcoholism and seeing her drunk in court, she was moved to leave flowers at her mother's grave. (SVU: "Intoxicated")

Officer-involved shootings[]



  • As of Amaro's One-Eighty, Benson is the last remaining main character from the first season of Law and Order: Special Victims Unit. However, Cragen, Munch, and Stabler have made guest appearances.
  • Benson became a detective with SVU in May 1998 (SVU: "Stalked").
  • Benson and Stabler were partners for 13 years, not 12 as commonly referred to (SVU: "Swing").
  • Benson's blood type is A positive (SVU: "Choreographed").
  • Benson's cell phone number is (212) 555-0105 (SVU: "Zebras").
  • Benson's driver's license number is 71-401-561 (SVU: "Pure").
  • As of Season 22, Benson has never been shot in the line of duty. She has, however, been stabbed off-duty in Season 9 while investigating a case and has been assaulted several times, as well as been stalked, kidnapped, and nearly raped and murdered while undercover.
  • In a deleted scene in Season 2, it was shown that Serena Benson was never raped. In another deleted scene, Benson had met her father, a psychiatrist by the name of Robert Spencer.
  • Benson is the longest-running character in the Law & Order franchise.
  • Benson is one of two main characters in the Law & Order franchise who are products of rape.
  • Benson has been assaulted more than any other main character in the Law & Order franchise, with her getting assaulted at least once every season she has been in.
  • Benson has the highest episode count of any main character in the Law & Order franchise, excluding Munch's appearances in Homicide: Life on the Street.
  • Benson has had more promotions than any other main character in the Law & Order franchise.
  • Benson is fluent in several languages, such as Italian, Spanish, Russian, and French. Alongside that, she can read the Miranda Rights in two different languages.
  • Benson is the only main character in SVU who has dated a fellow member of the Special Victims Unit, that being Brian Cassidy.
  • Benson is the only main character in Law & Order: Special Victims Unit whose parents and siblings are all deceased. Alongside that, she is the only character in the series who has lost a parent and a sibling during their time on the series, excluding Peter Stone, Alexandra Cabot and Elliot Stabler. Stone lost his father before his first appearance. When Cabot came back from witness protection, she stated that her mother had died. Stabler's wife Kathy was killed in a car bombing.
  • Benson is the first main character on Law & Order: Special Victims Unit to speak in the entire series as well as the first female to speak in the series.
  • She was born on February 7, 1968, which would make her 53 as of 2021.
  • Benson has arrested all three of Noah's biological relatives (his parents and grandmother).
  • With the death of Simon, her only known living biological relative is her niece Olivia Marsden.
  • There were plans for Benson to leave the series halfway during the thirteenth season, but those plans were scrapped.
  • Benson was voted Law & Order's second greatest detective on the Hallmark Channel poll in 2010; She was beaten by Robert Goren (who won the poll) and Lennie Briscoe (who came in third).
  • Benson has the second-highest episode count in both the franchise and non-franchise shows. John Munch holds both records, appearing on SVU, Homicide: Life on the Street, and several other shows.


Icon SVU.jpg Law & Order: Special Victims Unit - Main Characters

Senior Detectives: Elliot StablerJohn MunchOdafin TutuolaOlivia BensonAmanda Rollins

Junior Detectives: Olivia BensonMonique JeffriesOdafin TutuolaChester LakeAmanda RollinsNick AmaroDominick Carisi, Jr.Katriona Tamin

Squad Supervisors: John MunchOlivia Benson

Commanding Officers: Donald CragenOlivia BensonChristian Garland

Assistant District Attorneys: Alexandra CabotCasey NovakKim GreylekRafael BarbaPeter StoneDominick Carisi, Jr.

Others: Melinda WarnerGeorge Huang