"Spousal Privilege"
SVU, Episode 16.08
Production number: 16008
First aired: 19 November 2014
  th of 476 produced in SVU  
th of 476 released in SVU
  th of 1229 released in all  
Teleplay By
Julie Martin & Samantha Corbin-Miller

Story By
Warren Leight & Julie Martin

Directed By
Sharat Raju

Sergeant Benson tries to help a domestic violence victim who continues to stand by her husband.


Detective Tutuola comes across leaked security footage of a violent domestic dispute in a parking garage, showing sportscaster A.J. Martin hit his girlfriend Paula. While Fin and Benson investigate the couple's lifestyle and history, Paula pushes back to keep her relationship and family intact. Benson turns to ADA Barba for help to convince Paula that her world doesn't have to revolve around A.J. Meanwhile, the case has an interesting effect on Rollins and Amaro's relationship.


Fin discovers a video on a gossip website of football player AJ Martin assaulting his girlfriend, Paula Bryant and then dragging her unconscious body to his car. A police officer is seen stopping him as AJ puts her in the car.

Amaro and Rollins talk to the officer and learn that Paula and AJ were interviewed about the incident, but Paula refused medical treatment and charges weren't filed. It is revealed that AJ was offered a deal, but he refused to take it.

When Olivia and Fin talk to Paula and AJ, AJ claims that the two of them had too much to drink and had a few words. When Olivia talks to Paula alone, she claims that she was drunk and tripped and fell down, but AJ interrupts them, saying that if the cops have anything to say, they can say it in front of him.

Later on, it is revealed on TV that a video of AJ assaulting Paula has been leaked to the news and it is clearly shown that AJ punched Paula in the face and knocked her out.

When AJ and Paula are brought in for questioning, AJ claims that Paula was acting out and he had to stop her while Paula says that AJ was only protecting her and they want to put the incident behind them.

Barba tries to come up with a deal for AJ, but his lawyer Calhoun refuses to accept it and says they'll see him in court.

At arraignment, AJ pleads not guilty to assaulting Paula and the judge sets bail since he isn't a flight risk. Olivia speaks to Paula in the bathroom and warns her that what happened to Paula could happen again.

After arraignment, Paula and AJ talk to the press with their reverend by their side. Paula takes responsibility for provoking AJ the night he assaulted her and says that the two of them are working on their issues and ask for their privacy. In a later interview on TV, it is revealed that AJ proposed to Paula and they are getting married.

The next day in court, a doctor testifies that the punch AJ gave to Paula could've been serious and she is lucky that it didn't kill her, but Calhoun points out that Paula is okay now and was able to maintain a conversation with police officers on the night of the incident. When Olivia takes the stand, she explains that Paula is a domestic violence victim and the reason why she stays with her husband. When Calhoun questions her, she brings up Amaro's issues with his own anger.

After work, Rollins and Amaro are shown going out for drinks and they discuss the case. A drunk Rollins tries to get Amaro angry by taunting him and repeatedly shoving him, but Nick holds back. Finally, Rollins shoves him so hard that he nearly falls off the barstool, and he leaps up angrily and gets in Rollins' face, but resigns himself to knocking a glass off of the bar in anger and walks out the bar, saying that he's doing what AJ should have done - walk away.

The next day in court, Paula and AJ's reverend takes the stand, saying that the couple are working on more positive ways to communicate better. When AJ takes the stand, he claims that he didn't mean to hurt Paula and the reason he didn't call 911 or take her to the hospital was because Paula woke up and he didn't think it was that bad.

When Paula decides to take the stand to defend AJ, she says that she was jealous and drunk that night and claims that AJ is a good man. During Barba's cross-examination, she breaks down in tears, saying that she doesn't want to lose her family and asks Barba to let them be.

A.J. is convicted of reckless endangerment and is sentenced to two years in prison. Paula tells Benson that it was her choice to stay with A.J. and that Benson took that choice away from her. Barba then says to Olivia "We did the right thing" and Olivia responds by saying "I know".


Main cast

Recurring cast

Guest cast



[After Amaro gets into an argument with his wife over the phone]
Rollins: Hey, you all right? What's going on?
Amaro: Nothing.
Rollins: Okay, take a breath.
Amaro: How about you don't tell me what to do?

Amaro: You know you don't want naked pictures of yourself on the Internet, don't take naked pictures of yourself.
Rollins: Right. And if you don't want to get assaulted, don't wear a short skirt?

Olivia (about A.J. Martin's behavior): Fin, you saw it. He's controlling. His little son was terrified of him.
Fin: I was terrified of my mother. When I used to act a fool, she'd beat my ass.
Rollins: Yeah, I was raised the same way. In the South, you have to pick out your own switch.
Olivia: So now we're making cultural exemptions?
Amaro: You know, my father, he went at me with his fists. It taught me you never lay a hand on a child or a woman.

Paula Martin (to Olivia): Do you know what it's like to have the whole world watching us at our worst moment? To be judging us by a split second?
Olivia: If you can look me in the eye right now and tell me this has only happened once, I'll believe you. It's gonna happen again.
Paula Martin: And why is that? Because a strong black man can't control himself? He has to be taken down a notch, right? By the legal system, by the public, by you.
Olivia: I'm concerned about your safety. I'm concerned about your son's safety. I'm not concerned about the public perception of black men.
Paula Martin: Well, we're living as a family and A.J. needs me just as much as I need him.

Fin (to Rollins): I've learned two things in my 15 years here at SVU. One is you can't take this job home with you.
Rollins: Working on that.
Fin: Two is you can't take anyone from this job home with you.

Paula Martin (to Olivia after A.J. is convicted of assaulting her): I lost a husband, my son lost his father.
Olivia: Paula, you deserve better than that. So does your son.
Paula Martin: What the hell do you know about it?! I was happy, I was fine. Me and my son, we were just making it work. It was my choice! And you took that away. You think A.J. was beating me up? What do you think you did? (walks away)
Barba: We did the right thing.
Olivia: I know.

Background information and notes

Background info.

Episode scene cards

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Home of
A.J. Martin & Paula Bryant
548 Pear Lane
Greenwich, Connecticut
Tuesday, November 11

Arraignment Court
Part 5
Thursday, November 13

Supreme Court
Part 11
Tuesday, November 18

Supreme Court
Part 11
Wednesday, November 19

Supreme Court
Part 11
Friday, November 21

Previous episode:
"Chicago Crossover"
"Spousal Privilege"
Law & Order: Special Victims Unit
Season 16
Next episode:
"Pattern Seventeen"
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