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Private Practice Tackles Violent Rape Storyline

Private Practice Tackles Violent Rape Storyline

If you watched last week’s episode of ABC’s hit show Private Practice then I’m sure that like me you were on the edge of your seat, mouth agape in shock during the final few moments of the episode. As Charlotte King, Chief of Staff at St. Ambrose’s Hospital and the doctor whose specialty is sexology, leaves her office she is attacked by an unknown man and thrown into her office with a slamming door.

From the looks of the chilling teaser for the November 4th episode, it was a violent attack and if you’ve read the inside scoop from Entertainment Weekly  you’d know too that it was in fact a violent rape.

The Aftermath of the Attack

Last night’s episode focuses on the immediate aftermath of the attack. From the start King is adamant that she was robbed – not raped – even reporting so to the police. It isn’t until she is alone with Addison, played by Kate Walsh, that the reality of the rape becomes evident but King herself isn’t ready to admit it. 

“I wasn’t raped. I was robbed. No rape kit…He took my wallet. He didn’t take anything else.”

Addison later tries to convince King to report the rape but King is unwavering. She does however give Addison (and viewers) a glimpse at the horror she experienced:

“It’s dirty and sweaty and he licks your face and he wipes himself off in your hair and when you try to scream he punches you so hard you see God. And then he goes at you again, raping stuff you didn’t even know you had because he enjoyed it so much the first time.”

This raw picture of the attack is chilling but one thing is clearer than anything else – King will not play the victim.

“I know you’re trying to help,” King says to Addison, “but if helping means that everyone, that Cooper [her finance], is going to be looking at me like you’re looking at me now, well, then please don’t help me.”

Not a Victim

One of the most striking aspects of the episode for me was King’s refusal to play the victim. She is adamant in keeping the rape a secret from anyone but Addison and unlike the “typical victims” we normally see on TV who breakdown and cry, King’s loudest emotion is her anger. In fact, it is her anger that gives her strength and helps her cope.

I know many will say that King’s refusal to admit the rape or be labeled a victim is her denial, and I wouldn’t argue with that, but I think that for King it is more about how this label – victim – would change how people see her, how she sees herself.

When attacked she fought, she screamed, yelled, punched and kicked much like many other women. She will not be the victim because she survived and makes it clear she won’t have anyone calling her one when Cooper uses the word (albeit concerning the robbery, the only thing he thinks happened) and she lashes out saying:   

“You ever call me the victim again this marriage is off.”

A System Full of Flaws

One of the most frustrating aspects of the episode for me was the many flaws we see with the criminal system. The man who raped King is questioned by police and Sheldon, the practice’s psychiatrist after he is found confused on the street and covered in someone else’s blood, but because no one has filed any charges the longest they can keep him is 72 hours for assaulting Sheldon and kicking a cop. 

The fact that he raped someone is clear, but without a charge he is relatively a free man. Regardless of the fact that King refused a rape kit and lied to police, this man is a rapist with or without a named “victim” – or shall we say survivor. Not only is he a rapist but in this case he is a mentally ill man with a temper and vendetta again women after recently finding his girlfriend cheating.
Unfortunately, women who are raped often keep the attack a secret like King and refuse a rape kit or press charges. For some it is denial, for others shame or fear or like King the need not be to labeled a victim, but for whatever reason charges are not made and rapists walk free.

What’s Next?

Both Strickland who plays King and Shonda Rhimes, the executive producer of the show, understand the severity of undertaking such a story line.

“A lot of violence against women on television is from the point of view of law enforcement,” points out Rhimes, “as opposed to standing in the shoes of the actual victim and seeing how it is for them and the people around them.” 

“Creatively, it’s a real gift for an actor,” said Strickland. “But I also knew that this would reach so many people who have either experienced it or have been close to people who have experienced it. The only thing I said was that we have to get it right.”

Part of getting it right means that King’s rape will not serve as a single episode or fleeting moment in her character’s storyline.

“We in no way are going to let this thing go away in four episodes” says Strickland, “Charlotte will live with this for as long as she’s a character on Private Practice,” much like any other woman who is violently raped.

It is my hope that the show stays true to this promise.

How do you think Private Practice handled the rape storyline?

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76 comments

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10:52AM PST on Nov 29, 2010

Well, there is something upcoming that might change the whole situation of rapes. Google "The Kavli Institute Researchers Translocate DNA Through Graphene Nanopore". They are developing a cheap nanopore-based DNA-sequencing device. The implication of that is ENORMOUS, because unlike the faked DNA tests in "CSI' shows that take an hour, the real tests takes two weeks and are very expensive, so much so that there's an incredible backlog of rape kits to be tested across the nation. A cheap, fast DNA analysis device will mean that EVERYONE, including newborns, will eventually have their DNA tested and recorded in a global CODIS DNA file, so that NOBODY could commit a rape without being immediately identified from the DNA traces. Soon, 'Big Brother' will be watching you down to your geome, but it will actually make the whole world a much safer place, because it will enable us to ID the serial rapists and serial killers quickly, before they can add to their lists of victims.

6:31PM PST on Nov 14, 2010

Great Show-- Thanks to them for going where so many fear to go.

4:28AM PST on Nov 9, 2010

I watched the episode and found it very difficult at times because of the brutality depicted. All the actors and the writers involved gave great performances, especially KaDee Strickland. I hope that they will stay true to the statement that this will not just be a sweeps month storyline. I am concerned however that having the Charlotte(Strickland) character refuse a rape kit will disallow for legal justice in upcoming episodes unless the deranged rapist confesses. I just hope they continue to do justice to the storyline they have begun and don't morph into some kind of vigilante fueled outcome which will detract from the horrific and violent nature of rape.

1:37AM PST on Nov 9, 2010

Very good episode. Thanx for post.

7:19AM PST on Nov 8, 2010

I only saw the Nov 4 episode, not the previous one

9:23PM PST on Nov 7, 2010

I have never seen the show, but I think that is a great cause.

6:37PM PST on Nov 7, 2010

Wow ... I did not watch this show...

Kate...I know many good men who would never do this to a woman. It is not what we as womwne have done to them...it is a sickness in their own psyche that causes then to attack in such a way...

Don't hate men because of the actions of a few....

Most men are wonderful .... :)

3:19PM PST on Nov 7, 2010

Interesting.

10:57AM PST on Nov 7, 2010

I am another one who did not see the show.

There was a comment awhile back, mentioning how many men hate women. Unfortunately, these men can cause a great deal of damage. What are we doing to them to cause this kind of hate. Are we treating them badly when they are children? what??? It is all over the world, not just our society - WHAT IS CAUSING IT???? I ASK YOU MEN - WHAT ARE WE DOING TO YOU, IN ORDER TO DESERVE THIS KIND OF "PUNISHMENT"??? WHAT DO YOU WANT???

We women must be EXTREMELY STRONG to survive the hate these men act out towards us! WHO IS THE WEAKER SEX??? The one who attacks or the one who survives the attack??? This alone should unite women - all over the world!!!

Since these men who hate us, have so little respect for us, I would chose an injection of estrogen, or a series of them; wouldn't that be the ultimate of humiliations for them??? Or, I would chose hug therapy, where they have to be hugged and nurtured, by a willing woman, several times a day - I would love to see the results of THAT???

YOU MEN HAVE IT SO GOOD, as far as society goes. Now all you need is a nurturing set of parents - and you have got it made. Most men, who have it good in both instances, ignore the rape issue, because they have other things on their plate and they can't relate to it. We need you men on our side - in order to change the justice system. Maybe someday we can explain the magnitude of the crime - in a way you can understand!!!???

9:33AM PST on Nov 7, 2010

Sounds like they handled this issue very well.

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