SVU Episode #15-4: Wonderland Story

Tonight’s SVU promised a trip down an Alice-inspired rabbit hole of mind-bending drugs, hipster popup parties, and sly trust-fund kids. But the thing about “Wonderland Story” that was curiouser and curiouser was the oblivious way that the detectives botched their investigation.

Recap:
A pretty blond named Sarah wakes up and discovers she’s been raped – for the second time in two years. At first, we suspect Michael Wedmore, the guy who got away with holding a gun to Sarah’s head and raping her in Season 13. But that would be crazy, right? I mean, no one gets raped by the same stranger multiple times (except in the SVU episode “Behave,” where Jennifer Love Hewitt was raped by the same stranger four separate times.) Anyway, Wedmore has an alibi: working at the nearby hospital and going on a church retreat (all of which seemed rather out-of-character for this psychotic gun-toting rapist, but let’s go with it).

So our detectives don some designer jeans and go undercover (of course!) to follow a path through some spectacular popup Manhattan and Hamptons parties. They discover that a preppy young millionaire named Cameron is using GHB to immobilize and rape young women at these lavish, secret soirees. Not only did he probably drug and rape Sarah, he also probably drugged and raped her best friend Nicole, who doesn’t realize that her blurry night and sore morning in the Hamptons some months ago were probably the result of a sexual assault.

The detectives briefly debate whether they should tell Nicole that she might have been raped. Yes, they decide. “We think you were raped,” Olivia tells her. Nicole can’t believe it. Amanda assures her, “We wouldn’t have told you if we weren’t sure.” “Cameron is a serial rapist,” Olivia adds. “We need to put him away.” (As the Red Queen might say: “Off with his head!”)

Having thus polluted their witness, they send her, wired up, to talk to Cameron. Nicole tells him she’s pregnant with his baby, and he admits to having sex with her many months ago, but says she was drunk and coming on to him. The detectives rush in, arrest Cameron, and execute a search warrant on his posh Manhattan pad.

At that point – hooray! – they find the only real evidence that ties Cameron to any crimes, but lots of it. We’re talking: (a) videos of him having sex with eight different unconscious girls, (b) jugs of GHB, and (c) bloody earrings he tore from the victims’ earlobes and kept as trophies. The only thing that would have been better was if he’d left a notarized letter saying “I raped all those girls.” What a productive search warrant! If only they had a legal basis for it.

But Cameron is duly cuffed and led off to jail. It was a good thing our hour was up before the suppression hearing began. Because Cameron is about to get off on some serious technicalities.

On a happier note, Munch wears a fabulous white tuxedo to his retirement party.

Verdict: C-

What they got wrong:

Detectives and prosecutors are only supposed to take evidence from witnesses – never give it. They can ask a witness a question. They can show her a fair lineup. What they can’t do is tell a witness who doesn’t remember anything: your friend is a rapist and we are certain he raped you. Amanda and Olivia ruined Nicole as a witness. Imagine the devastating cross-examination: “You didn’t think you were raped did you? But then you spoke to the police and they told you it was my client, right? And then you realized you were raped?” Prosecutors have been disciplined for less than this.

And the detectives didn’t have nearly enough evidence to get a search warrant for Cameron’s house. His statement to Nicole was barely incriminating: he said he’d consensual sex with her while she was intoxicated. More importantly, a detective who seeks a search warrant must show probable cause that evidence of the charged offense will be found on the premises. Nicole’s suspected sexual assault took place months ago, in the Hamptons. There was no reason to believe that any evidence would be found in the Manhattan apartment. The fact that amazing evidence was found was a lucky break (very lucky!), but did not change the underlying invalidity of a warrant that was illegally obtained. Those sex tapes, that GHB, those bloody earrings – all will be suppressed.

And that will leave only some fuzzy memories and a fuzzy suspect statement. Which is to say, the sort of evidence you have in most drug-facilitated sexual assault cases. The amazing iron-clad evidence they got from Cameron’s apartment is extremely rare in the real world.

What they got right:

GHB is one of the most common substances used for drug-facilitated sexual assault. Blood tests can ascertain if it is still in your system, but act quickly. After a day or two, your body will metabolize it without a trace. Also, GHB tastes a salty and bitter, so it is often masked in salty drinks like the margarita Nicole had.

“Revictimization” of sex assault survivors is a real things. Research has shown that victims of past sexual assaults are more likely to be assaulted again. There are many possible explanations, including the effect of PTSD, greater self-blame, and effects of the victim’s childhood. One study suggests that two of three individuals who are sexually victimized will be revictimized.

There really have been a bunch of popup parties thrown by a 19-year-old Manhattan millionaire (although this guy seems to be way nicer than Cameron). Alex Schlaferman, aka “Alex Xander,” started with circus tents, fireworks and mechanical bull rides in an abandoned field, and peaked with a raver on the Manhattan bridge. He’s been described as the man Jay Gatsby would be “if Gatsby were a hipster.” After his arrest this August for the bridge flash party, he’s been hailed as the “next big thing,” and is fielding reality-show offers.

What do you think SVU fans? Leave your comments!

Comments

  1. you mist an episode, this is 15, 5. There was one between this and the one about bigot chef claiming self defence on shooting the black kid

    • The chef one was 15-2 . There is a write up on the website about that already.

    • The chef one was 15-2. There is a write up on the website about that already.

      • Thanks for your eagle eyes, Thil. Since NBC seems to count the season premiere double episode as a single episode rather than two, we’re counting it that way here on the blog. You can see the writeup for both “Surrender Benson” and “Imprisoned Lives” under the heading “SVU Season 15 Premiere.”

        • Carl N. Brown says:

          Then at re-run time NBC *may* cinfuse us all again. But, yeah, for now, I accept NBC’s listing this season.

  2. I’m not sure why Nicole didn’t associate vaginal soreness with intercourse, especially as she woke up naked without any memory, but how did she not notice the smell of burnt rubber emanating from her vagina?

    On a more serious note, GHB or GBL (the until recently legal version) are rarely used as date rape drugs in Europe, they are mainly used by gay men during consensual sex. I can’t think of any logical explanation why drug rape would appear less common in Europe, especially as drug rape appears to be on the rise globally (or at least that’s what the UN tells us).

    • I was surprised by how many bodybuilders use GHB to try to “bulk up” and how some of the first formulators ingested it themselves just for “fun.”

      • I’ve heard that too. Although its not a popular club drug, I have heard of some girls taking it for pleasure because if taken in small enough quantities, GHB has a reported aphrodisiac effect on females and causes a trance like effect. Some girls will use it at trance clubs. Its even less popular with straight men because it apparently doesn’t have the same aphrodisiac qualities on men and as a muscle relaxant and powerful sedative can cause impotence. Some bodybuilders were using it about 10 years ago because it was legal, hard to detect and increases hormone levels, and was supposed to give a full sleep cycle. So bodybuilders used to take it as part of their stack but it fell out of favour because it doesn’t significantly increase muscle mass.

        • GHB is used quite a bit in the Netherlands, especially some of the rural areas. Because all of the ingredients can be legally obtained (drain cleaner is one of ‘em), it can be produced relatively easy. It’s a nasty addictive downer. User try to “dose up” little bits at a time, but sometimes take to much and pass out. Addicts have to slowly decrease use under medical supervision in rehab, as going cold turkey can end in death. Stuff is nasty.

          • “GHB is used quite a bit in the Netherlands,”

            Not really,, according to the National Institute of Public Health and the Environment-RIVM 2012 Risk Assessment the prevalence of GHB use in the Netherlands is relatively low (0.2%) and treatment demand is limited (524 of a total of 76,295 referrals to the addiction treatment services in 2010). Furthermore, they could find no reports of “public nuisance or criminality associated with GHB”.

            “Because all of the ingredients can be legally obtained (drain cleaner is one of ‘em), it can be produced relatively easy. ”

            You’re aware that until the Dutch Minister of Health upgraded GHB to Schedule I (hard drugs) of the Dutch Opium Act in 2012, it was classified as a soft drug and decriminalised, so therefore easy to buy with no legal consequence? Also, the ingredient is lye. Most drainpipe cleaners don’t contain a 100% lye and home made GHB is going to be very dangerous.

            “Addicts have to slowly decrease use under medical supervision in rehab, as going cold turkey can end in death.”

            It’s possible to develop a dependency on any drug but GHB is not known to be particularly addictive, in fact, quite the opposite, it’s primarily used in medicine (in the EU at least) for alcohol or opiate withdrawal, and it just simply can’t cause opiate withdrawal (cold turkey) because it’s not an opiate. So I’m not sure what physiological response you’re referring to and I’ve never heard of anyone dying from NOT taking GHB!!! GHB users have been known to slip into comas and die.

            Are you sure you haven’t got that the wrong way around?

          • Oh dear, I stand corrected. I did a little googling myself and you’re right, usage is not as high as I thought it was. However, on the legal side you’re wrong: GHB has actually been upgraded to the list of hard drugs in 2011, and is certainly not decriminalized (although it is still freely available on the internet, like many illegal drugs).

            The drain cleaner is used in GHB, but not for any particular ingredient. When making GHB, the Ph-levels go so low that it is to acidic to consume, and drain cleaner is used to correct it.

            And because it’s such a strong downer, it is indeed very dangerous when a user slips in a coma. But quitting cold turkey can cause extreme physical reactions, and a delirium so heavy they need to transport those people to a hospital. Death is the ultimate result, but it is certainly possible. This is definitely different from an opiate withdrawal, which is similar to a nasty, 2-week flu: unpleasant, but harmless. That’s why most Dutch rehab clinics medical GHB to let users slowly decrease their usage, so the withdrawal does not kick in that hard.

  3. @Toko Bali

    ” However, on the legal side you’re wrong: GHB has actually been upgraded to the list of hard drugs in 2011, ”

    The decision to put GHB of the list of prohibited drugs in the Netherlands by Health Minister Edith Schippers was taken in September 2011 but it didn’t take effect until Monday 14 may 2012 when it was confirmed by the Public Prosecution Service. The reason for the delay is that there has to be a period of time for people to learn of the change of the law.

    Also drainpipe cleaner isn’t (or shouldn’t be) used to make GHB unless is a 100% lye (sodium hydroxide), which is an active ingredient in Gamma-Hydroxybutyric acid. There are lots of internet websites giving instructions on how to make it but some of them are plainly wrong and others are not very precise.

    Also, I still can’t find one single proven case of someone dying from GHB withdrawal, which is not to say no one has. I know that GHB is not very addictive and that detoxification is usually relatively painless, which is why it’s used in Italy to manage alcohol and opiate withdrawal but I’m aware that a physical dependency can be developed on any substances, including caffeine, and that GHB withdrawal is certainly possible, but apparently it is only usually observed in extreme users i.e. those using it around the clock for several months. It’s much more of an American problem than a European one. But you’re right that there is a controlled GHB detoxification trial in the Netherlands but the users are also typically dependent on an aggregate of substances, including alcohol, and as alcohol detoxification is far worse than GHB detoxification, it would be hard to attribute symptoms specifically to GHB withdrawal and not alcohol withdrawal.

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