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Genre: Crime, Drama, Mystery, Thriller
Episode Name: Her Negotiation
Air date: 5/22/2013
Summary: After making a seemingly routine arrest of a man exposing himself in Central Park, Detective Rollins has a bad feeling about the suspect and calls upon the entire SVU squad and ADA Barba to help. With no way to discover the suspect’s true identity, he masterfully outplays them at every turn. A shocking theory comes to light, and as Barba’s trial comes to a close, the situation rapidly escalates and Detective Benson is put into mortal danger.
“Traumatic Wound” covered a lot of ground, featuring a hard to crack case of a gang sexual assault which was both complicated and helped by a witness with PTSD. The sexual assault case likely was geared towards keeping the interest of the younger demographic, but the case of PTSD could be relatable to those who served in the military over a wide range of age groups. PTSD, to those who have served in the military, has taken many names in the past, starting in WWI when it was often called “shell shock” (often as a result of being under heavy fire/bombing) and in later wars through WWII, the Korean, and Vietnam wars it was often known as combat stress/fatigue. PTSD can be caused by a broad range of triggers not necessarily related to war (an SVU example is Benson’s own PTSD from her sexual assault). In my opinion, the one-size-fits-all term PTSD doesn’t begin to encompass the disorders affecting military personnel who have been in combat situations.
Opinions about those suffering from PTSD in the military has also changed over the decades; going back to WWI and II, stress from combat was considered shameful and an embarrassment. The Vietnam war – where hundreds of thousands of young men were drafted and had to serve in a war most of the country did not want – brought back large numbers of soldiers suffering from the horror of what they experienced; the numbers too large to ignore. Over time, the stresses of war were better understood and the stigma of suffering from PTSD from war diminished. Having known Vietnam vets who returned with unbearable mental side effects from that war, I believe that there should be a better term to describe this condition and better identification and treatment for those currently serving who exhibit even the mildest form of stress from combat.
Frank’s (played perfectly by Eion Bailey) inability to recall the details of the sexual attack may seem hard to believe for someone who has never known someone with combat related PTSD, but in this episode, the writers got this right. Sometimes the slightest trigger can startle and cause confusion and along with it, memory problems and behavioral issues. Amaro, who later admitted he realized his wife’s own PTSD too late to save their marriage, was on the ball enough to spot Frank’s problem. I was, however, surprised that Rollins was too quick to dismiss Amaro’s opinion on the matter, as she’s usually the one that’s been a little better at profiling people.