It's hard enough for victims of sexual assault to come forward — when the perpetrator has enough money to basically write their own fate, it can seem nearly impossible. Such was the case on this week's episode of Law & Order: SVU, titled "Net Worth."
The episode saw veteran actor Tate Donovan cameo as slick Eli Colton, the "king of Wall Street." When an investment banker named Zooey attends a party at Eli's house, the night ends with the two retiring to his room.
However, although she admits to some early flirtation, Zooey shows up at SVU the following morning and reveals to Olivia that she has been raped.
Unfortunately, she's fighting an uphill battle — even with Olivia and the rest of the team on her side. Eli is a man with a nearly unlimited cash flow at his disposal, and he uses it to curry favor with people. He pays Zooey's manager Roger to clean up his messes.
He carries the kind of clout that makes people want to break rules for him, because he helps them get rich. Roger even broke into Zooey's office to forge an email from her to Eli the morning after the rape, all in an attempt to make Zooey look like she is lying.
And here's where things get complicated: what do you do when it seems like you're facing a losing battle from the beginning? More pointedly, what if the person who assaulted you tries to pay you off?
In this week's episode of SVU, we saw both sides of how that plays out.
In trying to nail Eli, the detectives track down a woman who had filed a police report in the past alleging Eli had raped her. Only, in her case, she ultimately recanted her story and took a payout from Eli in exchange for a non-disclosure agreement.
She's rich. She lives in a beautiful home. But she is tortured by her decision and by what he did to her. So much so that she lets Olivia convince her to speak to Zooey about testifying against Eli.
Despite being offered a $20 million job that is essential tantamount to hush money, Zooey ultimately decides to take a stand for her dignity. Could it have been easy? Of course not. But the most important takeaway in this week's episode that just because a "perp" has money, it doesn't mean speaking up and fighting against them will be in vain.
The more victims who choose to take stands against wealthy predators, the less difficult doing so will be.
When the first few women came forward against Bill Cosby, their claims were quite literally shrugged off. Some were even slandered against for suggesting Cosby could do the things they were alleging. But as more women came forward and more evidence mounted, it became impossible to ignore their voices.
Money should not dictate a person's ability to get a fair and equal trial, but that is tragically the cases sometimes. But, like Zooey on this week's episode of SVU, women will always win (even if the court doesn't side with them) if they speak their truth and refuse to be railroaded by the almighty dollar.