A Dream Visit to SVU –by Elexa Nosonchuk

SVU is on a hiatus this week, but this story will make you love the show even more.  This guest post is by Elexa Nosonchuk, one of the biggest SVU fans on the planet.  She visited the set last year via the Dream Foundation.  Here is her inspiring story.  Thanks for sharing this with us, Elexa!  You made me laugh, cry, and … breathe.

elexa mariska breathe pic

 

I have a progressive lung disease that will eventually kill me. The only things that have kept me alive for the last 2 years are experimental treatments, including chemotherapy and steroids. They each have their own side effects which wreak havoc on my body. One of the few things left in my life that I’m able to enjoy is television, and my favorite show is Law & Order: SVU!! I love the show and the inspiring, encouraging message it gives. SVU reruns are constantly on TV and I never get tired of watching them! A few years back, when asked to figure out what one thing I would like as a life wish, it was an easy answer, and thanks to the amazing people at The Dream Foundation (an organization that gives dreams to adults with life threatening illnesses) I was given the opportunity to visit New York so I could go to the filming of the 300th episode of SVU and meet Mariska Hargitay and the cast! Mariska, the driving force behind the show’s message – that sexual assault and domestic violence are never ok – is the show’s star, and my favorite TV actress! When I asked to meet her, I thought I might get to say hi to her for a few minutes and experiencing the city would be the biggest part of my trip, but the people at Dream Foundation and SVU made it so much more!

It started with a private tour of the set at Chelsea Pier. The entire way into the building I was freaking out; I even took a picture of the floor of the elevator. I was able to see each part of the set and got to sit in the judge’s seat in the courtroom. I sat in the interrogation room and watched segments of the episode film. I had multiple moments where I freaked out because I was so excited about everything I was seeing! Every time I passed by one of the actors on set they would stop and take a picture with me and talk to me! Everyone was so extraordinarily nice!! I must have been beet red the entire visit. One of my favorite parts of the visit was meeting the puppies – the actors bring their dogs to work – and I am definitely a dog person!! After meeting most of the cast and crew, there was a little party with cake and photo opportunities for the 300th episode. I was allowed to take a picture with the cast in front of the cake, during which I’m glad I didn’t pass out! I met Dick Wolf, who I didn’t realize was going to be there. I told him all about how I have seen every episode and he indulged my star-struck, wide-eyed freak out.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

We started walking toward Mariska’s dressing room to see if I could finally get my meet and greet with my hero, and we ended up accidentally running into her as we turned a corner. I literally ran into her. I started giggling uncontrollably and doubled over because I couldn’t breathe (remember, I have bad lungs) and she asked, jokingly, if she needed to walk away so I could breathe again. Obviously, I said no!! We were able to sit and talk for a little while and it was so amazing. She wanted to know all about my disease and she took such a real interest, even tearing up multiple times. I was in total disbelief at how amazingly well the day was going. After hearing my story, Mariska got an idea and asked us to follow her to her dressing room. On her wall she had a frame with white paper in it which had the word “Breathe” drawn on it. She told me the story behind this drawing – she made it during an incident where she had a collapsed lung, and she hung it above her door so she could see it whenever she left her dressing room. She took it down, signed the back of it (ending with, “You are a badass. Never forget that”) and gave it to me. We both cried. She also gave me the ‘Fearlessness’ necklace that she was wearing!!! She wears it in every episode, and is a symbol of her Joyful Heart Foundation – and she gave it to ME!!! Again, we both cried. It was such a surreal feeling to be anywhere near her; I couldn’t believe how perfect the day was.

elexa mariska breathe

I was also able to bring the cast some bracelets that I had been selling that say “Just Breathe.” I was sure none of them would actually wear the bracelets, or that the bracelets would break too easily because they were just made of stretchy string, but I still watched every episode after that looking for the bracelet on one of their wrists. It took me about a year – I don’t know how I missed it the first time I saw the episode – but I finally caught a glimpse of my bracelet on Mariska’s wrist in the episode titled, “Vanity’s Bonfire” from 11/14/12 (have I mentioned how much I love Mariska?!). I haven’t noticed the bracelet on any other episode, but I may have just missed it. The last thing I left with my mark on it was a Dream Foundation hat that Kelli Giddish asked me to sign for her. I was so excited that she wanted my autograph, and she said she would wear the hat in her next marathon. I’m not sure if she ever did, but I hope so!!

Elexa Nosonchuk & Danny Pino

I don’t think it’s possible to explain what that trip meant to me. I’ve been trying not to ramble while I type this because I just want to say all of the incredible things that happened in my quick-talking, excited way that makes everyone tell me to calm down. I was invited back, but since I don’t live in New York, I’ll just have to cherish the memories I already have. Danny Pino has been awesome enough to keep in touch with me on Twitter. Every time I get a message from him it makes my stomach jump and I feel the excitement of being on the set all over again. I wish I had taken more pictures, but I was way too excited to think straight. I don’t know if any of the SVU cast and crew remember that day for anything other than it being the 300th episode. I like to think someone other than Danny might remember me, but I understand that they meet fans all the time. I am so grateful for my trip and the memories I’ll always have! I wish I had a word to explain how excited I was all day, but no words exist.

SVU Episode #15-20: Beast’s Obsession

Tonight’s episode wasn’t about a realistic problem that society faces – there were no untested rape kits, no reluctant witnesses, no restitution for child-porn victims. Tonight’s episode was pure thriller. It was disturbing; it was intense; it left you clenching the edge of your seat.

Recap:

Horrible Lewis escapes from prison, and uses his freedom to torment Olivia by going on a crime spree in Manhattan. By the third commercial, he’s tortured and raped two people and killed seven more. His victims include a hospital nurse, prison guard, defense attorney, and a doctor and her two young daughters. Using the youngest daughter as bait, Lewis lures Olivia to a secluded warehouse. He makes one final unsuccessful attempt at raping her, then forces her to play Russian roulette. Lewis may be the world’s worst forced Russian roulette supervisor, because in the end, he takes the gun from Olivia and shoots himself in the face.

[Read more...]

SVU Episode #15-19: Downloaded Child

This was a disturbing but important episode about the power of child pornography to destroy lives, and the power of the law to help victims get restitution.

Recap:

A little girl named Maddie totters on the brink of a 10-story apartment balcony; our detectives swoop in and save her from falling. Her parents aren’t home, leading the detectives to investigate a child neglect case. They discover that Maddie’s mother, Jenny, was a victim of child pornography herself. Jenny’s erratic behavior stems from her own traumatic childhood. As an eight-year-old, Jenny was videotaped having sex with her stepfather; the video was shared on the Internet thousands of times.

Instead of pressing charges against Jenny for leaving her child alone, the detectives help her collect damages from the men who downloaded pornographic images of her. But collecting from one man at a time is logistically difficult. The Violence Against Women Act allows Jenny to collect from a single rich porn viewer the entire $4 million she’s owed in damages. If he wants to sue the other offenders, he can.

Verdict: A

What they got right:

There is an ongoing legal debate about how child-porn victims can collect damages from offenders who downloaded their images. The Supreme Court just heard arguments in January on this very issue.

In the real case of Paroline v. Amy Unknown, an eight-year-old girl named Amy was sexually abused by her uncle, who then posted the images online. Amy’s images were traded thousands of times among child pornographers. When Amy (at age 17) started receiving notices from the government about these cases, she hired a lawyer and started suing the offenders, one by one, for restitution. The Violence Against Women Act allows victims of child pornography to sue people who saw their images, and collect money damages including lost income, counseling, medical expenses, and attorney’s fees. Using VAWA, Amy has succeeded in collecting about $1.7 million from more than 170 men.

In January, the Supreme Court heard arguments in a case Amy brought against Donald Paroline. Paroline was caught with hundreds of images of child pornography, including two pictures of 8-year-old Amy. Amy sued him for the restitution due from all offenders who viewed her images; the Fifth Circuit upheld her claim. This is known as “joint and several liability,” and effectively forces the porn offender, rather than the victim, to collect from the other offenders.

But other courts have held that a single offender can only be held responsible for his own portion of the restitution. In an unusual move, a bipartisan group of Senatorsfiled a brief with the Supreme Court, in which they explicitly stated that they did mean to include this form of restitution in VAWA for victims like Amy. Hang tight to find out what the Supremes say.

Tonight’s episode also highlighted that child pornography isn’t a victimless crime. Each time an image is downloaded, the child is revictimized. I loved the courtroom scene where Jenny confronted the child porn offender (right after his daughter finished speaking on his behalf). It was very realistic and summarized the harrowing issues that cases like this present.

Many American judges feel that watching child porn is victimless crime. It’s not. The damages caused by this marketplace and all the actors in it are devastating. I wish every judge in America would watch this episode of SVU.

What they got wrong:

No way would Olivia bring Jenny to her own personal therapist. Detectives usually try to keep their personal and professional lives far apart.  I’ve even known detectives and prosecutors who refuse to keep family photos on their desks for that reason.

What do you think, SVU fans? Should a single porn viewer be responsible for the damages caused by every other offender who views the images? Who should have the burden of collecting damages, the victim or the offender? And did Olivia and Cassidy break up or get back together? (I couldn’t tell.) Leave your comments!