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Olivia Benson’s Most Memorable Moments From 25 Years of SVU

Twenty-five years. That’s how long Olivia Benson has come into our homes and hearts on Law & Order: SVU.

We’ve grown with her, been inspired by her, and cried with her. She almost feels like a friend, and why wouldn’t she?

After spending a quarter of a century together, Olivia Benson is as familiar as she is iconic and deserves to be celebrated.

It was nearly impossible to whittle the list of memorable Olivia Benson moments to just 25. She shines in every episode, and it’s been exciting to accompany her on her journey from doe-eyed newbie to tough-as-nails captain of the SVU unit.

Still, every season had at least one moment that stood out.

Law & Order: SVU has evolved over the years, as has Benson, but it’s easy to forget how different things were when the series first began.

Benson used to have a different hairstyle every season — remember that? Fin wasn’t even part of things during the first season, and of course, the late, great Richard Belzer was a massive part of the first fifteen years.

One thing that hasn’t changed is Benson’s commitment to survivors, though the older, harder Benson now includes herself on that list. She didn’t when she was younger.

She was the child of rape but hadn’t been victimized herself yet. Now, she has worked on rebuilding from the inside and renewing her commitment to help other survivors.

Please scroll down to check out our 25 favorite Benson moments and see if yours was included on our list!

Benson stands up to Stabler for the first time to get justice for a survivor (SVU Season 1 Episode 5).

This one’s for you, Bensler fans!

In this early episode, Benson found her voice for the first time. She was supposed to be the rookie following Elliot Stabler’s lead, but she made it clear she was an equal partner, something she’d have to do repeatedly over the years.

Benson thought Stabler was wrong about a case involving a travel writer who had been murdered.

Evidence suggested the landlady’s sixteen-year-old daughter was both having an affair with the deceased and killed him, but Elliot won’t buy it — and Benson points out that he’s defending her because she’s the same age as Maureen.

Benson tries and fails to stop a survivor from killing her attacker (SVU Season 2 Episode 3)

This episode was unusual because it was a sequel to a Law & Order: SVU Season 1 episode, which had ended with the team not being able to convict a rapist. (There weren’t as many miracles in the early days in the courtroom.)

This episode was all about the way the overworked system sometimes failed survivors. Harper Anderson, after being unable to ID her attacker during Season 1, decided to stalk him and catch him raping again.

Benson tried her hardest to stop Harper from doing anything illegal, but she failed, and Harper shot her attacker. Although doing the wrong thing for the right reasons can be a tired TV trope, Benson’s mixed feelings about Harper’s activities made this episode unforgettable.

Benson refuses to let Stabler protect her when she is being stalked (SVU Season 3 Episode 2)

This is the moment when a lot of fans began shipping Bensler — how about you?

It’s easy to see why. A bunch of people connected to Benson’s cases are killed, and Benson seems to have a target on her back, so Stabler shows up at her apartment, claiming to “just be in the neighborhood.”

Benson doesn’t like it. She doesn’t want or need protection and isn’t ready to ask for help, yet Stabler will go the extra mile for her anyway.

Bensler relationship aside, these scenes are interesting to contrast with Benson post-William Lewis ordeal. Benson had to learn to let go of not wanting anyone to help her after she became a victim, and it’s a damn shame Stabler wasn’t around for that.

Benson risks her job to stop a corrupt cop (SVU Season 4 Episode 13).

Law & Order: SVU is at its best when Benson has to go up against powerful institutions, and this is one of the earliest examples.

This case is memorable not only because Benson was determined to catch a corrupt cop who had sodomized an arrestee during questioning. The man later died at Rikers.

The episode was one of the ripped-headlines cases for which the Law & Order franchise is famous. In this fictionalized version, Benson is so determined to stop the bad cop from hurting anyone else that she risks her job to confront him without permission.

Plus, we got Ice-T with that awesome ponytail he used to rock, supporting Benson every step of the way.

Benson finally convinces a pregnant woman to stop drinking (SVU Season 5 Episode 7)

This was one of the most emotional episodes ever and one of the first times Benson toed the line between cop and social worker. 

During this story, Benson’s job was to sort out the mess after a man attacked his pregnant wife and then accused her of neglect.

The woman was drinking while pregnant, and it wasn’t the first time it brought up questions of whether it was ethical to arrest a pregnant woman for harmful choices that could affect the fetus. That plays right into the current arguments about abortion rights in the US and should be revisited today!

Rather than going down an ethical rabbit hole, Benson put time and energy into trying to convince the woman to make healthier choices — and in the end, she succeeded.

Benson saves a little girl who called 911 (SVU Season 7 Episode 3)

Yes, THIS episode. It’s iconic, especially since Benson met the adult Maria Recinos on Law & Order: SVU Season 25 Episode 7.

Mariska Hargitay won an Emmy for her performance here, and with good reason. This story takes place almost entirely in the squad room, with Benson on the line with a little girl who called 911.

The others in the squad room were convinced it was a prank, and Munch even used a voice generator to make a similar fake call to prove his point, but Benson wouldn’t give up til that girl was safe.

Because of her, Maria grew up to be a cop. Without her, the child wouldn’t have grown up at all; she was buried alive and was near death when Benson finally found her.

 Benson gets justice for a victim without blowing her cover (SVU Season 8 Episode6)

Law & Order: SVU Season 8 started strangely, with Benson in Oregon doing undercover work. This was around when Mariska Hargitay was on maternity leave, which was why Benson was so far away from the action.

By episode 6, though, Benson was back and faced a dilemma. She had infiltrated an environmental group for the FBI and, in a plot twist that surprised no one, discovered someone had been raped.

Helping the victim meant risking blowing her cover, but as always, Benson put survivors’ well-being first.

After a car accident, Benson delivers Elliot Jr (Eli) (SVU Season 9 Episode 9).

This is another Bensler shipper favorite and is easily one of the most emotional episodes in Benson and Stabler’s long friendship.

Kathy’s pregnancy had been fraught with conflict, including a split for the sake of drama that led Stabler to question if the baby was his. Shortly before Kathy gave birth, she got into a serious car crash.

Kathy was jealous of Benson, but Benson saved her life and helped deliver the baby, who was named after Elliot and popped up again on Law & Order: Organized Crime as a rebellious teenager who felt his dad wasn’t around enough.

For Bensler fans, though, this episode is an important milestone for another reason: it’s the first time Benson and Stabler hug.

Benson is nearly raped while undercover in prison (SVU Season 9 Episode 15).

This episode is considered one of the best in the series’ history.

It involves Benson going undercover in prison to catch a corrections officer who raped a teenage girl.

In the process, Benson is nearly raped herself, foreshadowing what happened with William Lewis during Law & Order: SVU Season 15 Episode 1.

Benson confronts an unethical ADHD doctor (SVU Season 10 Episode 1).

This episode is notable because the doctor in question was played by Days of Our Lives Mary Beth Evans and was more or less the evil twin of her iconic Dr. Kayla Brady-Johnson.

It’s also memorable because Benson seeks to protect kids with ADHD, who are often overmedicated in real life as well as on television.

This episode also comes only a few before Stabler’s daughter Kathleen acts out because of bipolar disorder, making Season 10 one of the strongest seasons in the series.

Benson convinces a mother to do the unthinkable to catch a rapist (SVU Season 11 Episode 5)

During this complicated and heartwrenching case, Benson learns that a boy is being molested by his stepfather and that his mother is too afraid of her husband to speak up.

Benson’s desire for social justice could have backfired badly, as the only thing she could think of was to use the boy as bait to catch his stepfather in the act.

She must convince the mother to allow it and then pray that the boy doesn’t get hurt. Talk about on the edge of your seat!

Benson refuses to give up on catching a rapist with a fake alibi (SVU Season 12 Episode 3)

“Behave” brought a double whammy for Benson.

First, she had to convince a survivor to come forward instead of running away and refusing to admit she was raped.

When she had finally got that settled, the perp lied about his alibi, and Benson had a hell of a time disproving it, especially with the rape kit backlog and other bureaucratic problems. 

Benson protects a perp during a hostage situation (SVU Season 13 Episode 13).

FBI and other police procedurals often show the cops trying to stop the snipers from killing a hostage-taker. You can thank Olivia Benson for that.

The perp in the case on Law & Order SVU Season 13 Episode 13, took hostages because his father was in jail, and he wanted him released. Benson recognized that this criminal had mental health conditions that made him not able to fully appreciate the seriousness of his actions and wanted to resolve the situation peacefully.

She surrendered to him and tried to talk him down. She also purposely positioned herself between him and the snipers so that he couldn’t be killed — a move that many other police procedurals have imitated.

Benson breaks the law to protect a rape victim (SVU Season 14 Episode 18).

Benson again risked her career for a survivor in this story, along with her freedom.

The episode involved a sports reporter who became pregnant after she was raped. When she tried to press charges, her abuser stalked her and made her life a living hell.

Benson helped the woman and her son disappear to keep them safe.

Benson survives being kidnapped by William Lewis (SVU Season 15 Episode 1)

This one is tough to watch. It’s a brilliantly done hour of television that often leaves fans reaching for the remote if it comes up in the rerun roster.

Benson is one of the most badass women on TV, but even she has her breaking point. Being kidnapped from her home by psychopath William Lewis, tied up, forced to take pills, and tortured was too much for her.

This was one of the most graphically violent episodes of SVU ever, and it ended with Benson beating the crap out of her attacker before the police arrived to lead her out in a blanket, never to be quite the same again.

Benson adopts Noah (SVU Season 15 Episode 24)

After everything she went through at William Lewis’ hand, Benson deserved some happiness, and she got it at the end of the season.

After finding an abandoned baby while trying to bust a child porn ring, Benson continually went to court to find out how he was faring in the foster system.

Eventually, the judge asked her if she wanted to adopt the baby. (A few years later, something similar happened on Blue Bloods with Detective Baez).

Becoming a mother changed Benson’s life forever, but this time for the better. Before the adoption could be finalized, she would have to prove to a social worker that she was the right parent for Noah despite her job.

 

Trying to Get Rollins to Seek Therapy - Law & Order: SVU

Benson tries to convince Rollins to seek therapy (SVU Season 16 Episode Episode 10)

Amanda Rollins was often a troubled character, and Law & Order SVU Season 16 Episode 10 proved it. She’d escaped her controlling mother and drug-addicted sister, leaving them in Atlanta while she became a cop in New York, but she had her own demons to slay and relapsed into gambling addict behavior periodically.

Things came to a head when Rollins had to return to Atlanta to testify against a supervisor who had raped her and now had raped another woman.

After this incident, Benson tried convincing Rollins to seek therapy. Sadly, Rollins wasn’t quite ready yet, but at least Benson pushed her in the right direction.

Benson comforts Chief Dodds after his son’s death (SVU Season 17 Episode 23)

Mike Dodds’ death on Law & Order SVU Season 17 Episode 23 has got to be one of the saddest deaths in television history. Mike was the son of then-Chief Dodds, whose father disapproved of his choice to work in SVU, and the two were estranged at the time of his death.

He died because he insisted on staying in a dangerous situation instead of leaving Benson to fight alone.

Benson put aside her own guilt and anguish to comfort Mike’s father despite their bad blood all season long.

Benson fights to help a victim accused of being a terrorist (SVU Season 18 Episode 1)

What do you do when a rape victim is also a terrorist?

That was the quandary Benson found herself in after the team found a boy abandoned in Central Park on Law & Order SVU Season 18 Episode 1. The investigation uncovered a terrorist plot, but one of the people behind it was also an abuse victim.

Benson didn’t care who the victim was — she was going to help her, and she did.

Benson convinces a bullied girl to speak up (SVU Season 19 Episode 4)

Full disclosure: The scene at the end of Law & Order SVU Season 19 Episode 4 is my all-time favorite SVU scene and was part of what sparked my idea for my first novel, so there was no way I was leaving it off this list.

During this episode, Benson tries to find a girl who disappeared after being cyberbullied. At the end of the episode, she helps the girl speak up against cyberbullying at an assembly.

Nothing epitomizes who Olivia Benson is more than this scene. She teaches survivors to find their voice and advocate for themselves, which is one reason we love her.

Benson tries to help a little girl who was forcibly separated from her mother at the southern border (SVU Season 20 Episode 3)

TV was full of stories about the immigration crisis in 2020. This story on Law & Order SVU Season 20 Episode 3 was one of the best and made us cry.

Benson and Rollins got attached to the little girl but were unable to stop ICE from taking her.

I also appreciated Fin sharing a different perspective about immigration, suggesting that while this policy was barbaric, something had to be done about the mass influx of people coming over the border.

It’s always great when a series shows both sides of the issue instead of promoting a specific agenda.

Benson helps a victim reclaim her memories via a reenactment walk (SVU Season 21 Episode 2).

After 20 years, Law & Order: SVU was ready for new, creative directions, and one of the most dramatic involved a creative reenactment.

The idea was that walking a survivor through her traumatic experience would help spark her memories of what had happened.

In one of the show’s most dramatic sequences, on Law & Order: SVU Season 21 Episode 2, Benson led the girl through a walking tour of the area where her rape occurred, hoping to spark some memories.

It worked, but the victim was deeply traumatized and needed Benson’s support afterward.

Benson is supportive when Noah comes out as bisexual

Law & Order: SVU has had many great LBGTQ+-themed episodes recently, but Noah’s coming out was one of the best.

This story was controversial because Noah was only 11 or 12 at the time, and some viewers believed he couldn’t know if he was bi. That’s precisely why this story was needed: to help LGBTQ+ kids feel less alone and to spread awareness that kids that age know who they’re attracted to.

Best of all, Benson completely accepted him and thanked him for telling her about this. That’s how parents of LGBTQ+ kids should act.

Sadly, nothing further came of this story. Noah has not had any girlfriends or boyfriends and has been focused on learning about his birth family. Hopefully, SVU will pick this up again sometime soon.

Benson and Rollins’ last adventure (VU Season 24 Episode 9).

Fans were shocked and disappointed when Kelli Giddish was written out in the middle of the season on Law & Order: SVU Season 24 Episode 9.

Benson was also heartbroken when Rollins told her she was quitting SVU. Those scenes were Emmy-worthy, especially after the two worked together to catch a creepy motel owner who was watching guests on a spycam.

Benson felt abandoned again, which hurt her friendship with Rollins. Thankfully, they’re back on track now, and the door is cracked open for Rollins to return.

Benson tells Noah about his adoption (SVU Season 25 Episode 9)

Benson was not prepared for Noah’s questions about his birth family, though she knew the topic would come up eventually. Eventually turned out to be Law & Order SVU Season 25 Episode 9.

She was worried that learning his father was a rapist would destroy him. Thankfully, she was wrong about that and eventually began telling him in a touching way.

The relationship between Noah and his mother is one of the best parts of SVU, so let’s hope there’s more to come about this storyline!

Your turn, SVU fanatics!

What are your favorite Benson memories?

Hit the big, blue SHOW COMMENTS button and let us know.

Law & Order: SVU airs on NBC on Thursdays at 9/8c. New episodes drop on Peacock the day after they air.

Jack Ori is a senior staff writer for TV Fanatic. His debut young adult novel, Reinventing Hannah, is available on Amazon. Follow him on X.



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