Revisiting the Discussion

Thursday, November 10, 2011 / 7:38 PM

There's an episode of Private Practice I can't get out of my mind, and has been on my mind lately because of the story I'm working on. Perhaps I report on topics that I'm familiar with--not because they're comfortable or easy, but because they're difficult and terrifying, because I feel like talking about these issues will help me understand. "It isn't about moving on," I told Jenny the other day. "It's about moving forward."

I hadn't followed Private Practice at all when the episode came to my attention last November. I had no clue where these characters were because I'd stopped watching the show when life got busy and TV became an afterthought. I didn't care -- the show was entertaining for its ridiculously unbelievable stories and dialogue. I had no reason to take it seriously.

I was reading a blog or saw it trending on Twitter, I don't remember. The episode was called "Did You Hear What Happened to Charlotte King?" and it contains one of the most graphic depictions of rape that I'm sure has ever been shown on network television.

One of the show's main characters--a very strong female--is brutally assaulted and raped in her office by a disgruntled and unstable man who had come to the hospital. The episode deals with the reality of rape and the aftermath too. Charlotte's reluctance to report the rape and her refusal to be identified as a victim are not uncommon to real life situations. The strength in "Did You Hear What Happened to Charlotte King?" lies in the show's ability to present something so terrifying in an honest way. There's nothing sugarcoated and they certainly don't shy away from what rape is, and why it's so difficult to report it.

"If you keep this secret, it will eat you alive, I know it," Addison, the show's main character, says to Charlotte when she finds out about the rape. Addison's hesitation to even say the word 'rape' shows on her face and is reflected in her dialogue as she avoids the word, but Charlotte doesn't hold back as she delivers a powerful monologue that describes what rape is really like. And when another doctor asks Charlotte where the pain is the strongest in her body as he treats her wounds, she responds with an answer that every survivor can also identify with: "My soul."

"Did You Hear What Happened to Charlotte King?" is one of the most important episodes of network television because it does the very thing that is so taboo in our society today: it takes the controversial and horrifying subject of sexual violence and pulls it forward into a spotlight that immediately turns to avoid these kinds of topics. But it makes it a point of discussion and we can ask ourselves, as a society, "Are we turning away?" Because I think we often do. I think we don't want to talk about this stuff, or we don't know how.

I don't know if we'll be able to live in a society someday that will address these issues head on, but, for the sake of all victims of sexual violence, I can hope.

You Might Also Like