'Law & Order: SVU': Benson Fights Religious Stereotypes in Ripped-From-The-Headlines Sex Assault Case

This week's episode of Law & Order: Special Victims Unit focused on a case jam-packed with references to real-life cases that have dominated headlines since President Donald Trump took office.

The criminal case in "Assumptions" involved a Muslim woman's assault inside a synagogue. Two boys were seen running from the scene, with one wearing a "Make America Great Again," according to a witness. The victim also turned out to be Councilwoman Nahla Nasar (Nazneen Contractor), whose hijab was pulled off. Nasar was well-known for making controversial remarks some thought were anti-Semitic.

Nasar told Benson (Mariska Hargitay) and Chief Dodds (Peter Gallagher) she was raped and believed she was set up. She believed she was lured there by a Zionist. Later, Fin (Ice-T) and Carisi (Peter Scanavino) picked up Ari Kaplan (Ted Sutherland), one of the boys who ran from the synagogue.

The SVU team learned the boys were not wearing MAGA hats, but just plain red hats. The two boys insisted they did not rape her, but Ari showed flashes of anger. Carisi gave Ari a chance to tell the truth, but Ari and Michael Schwartz (Brandon Egman) said they were not the attackers.

However, Nasar identified Ari - not as the attacker, but as a protester outside her office. She claimed the two were Islamaphobes who raped her. Things got more complicated when Dodds showed the team a video of Ari yelling and spitting in Nasar's face. News that the SVU team arrested two Jewish teens for raping Nasar, even though the team never arrested them.

Later, Benson and Carisi met Stone (Philip Winchester) at a bar to talk about the video. Carisi realized something was up with the time on the clock in the background, which makes them question the timeline. They saw in her office phone records that someone called the journalists before something happened. It appears that Nasar actually staged the confrontation before she was attacked in the synagogue.

The next day, Stone and Benson told Nasar they believed the whole thing was staged. Nasar accused them of calling her a liar and suggested they were protecting the Jewish boys. Stone later obtained the entire controversial video, showing Nasar egging on the boys.

One of the phone calls in Nasar's records brought Fin and Carisi to a gay bar, where they ask to talk to Tracy. But instead of finding Tracy, they found Nasar who does not want her family to know about her sexual orientation.

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(Photo: NBC)

Carisi and Rollins (Kelli Giddish) spoke with Nasar's parents, who told them about her previous marriage. Her husband Masud (Hadi Tabbal) split because they "grew apart," not because he wanted kids and she did not. He realized he should just let her go. He works as a florist and claimed he was in the shop all day. However, he was really in the background of the controversial video.

Nasar thought it had been years since she saw Masud. However, he chief of staff said Masud visited the office before, and Nasar began to think he was stalking her. Rollins and Carisi went back to the flower shop to arrest Masud for rape.

The next day, Benson tried to assure Nasar she would do fine on the stand. She will finally get to show the world who she really is. Once on the stand, Nasar testified that Masud assaulted her because he found out she is a lesbian. During the assault, he grabbed her hair, just as they did when they had sex. Masud's lawyer reminded Nasar and the jury that she has lied several times.

Masud admitted he knew Nasar is a lesbian. While Stone questioned him, he noticed Masud referred to Nasar as his "wife." Stone also directly read from Sharia law, which says that homosexuality should be punished.

"I should have killed her!" Masud yelled.

"Instead of just assaulting and raping her? Why didn't you kill her?" Stone asked.

"Because she is my wife!" Masud yelled as he stood up.

The jury found Masud guilty of the charges.

Thankfully, Nasar's parents embraced her, despite her fears they would reject her because of her sexual orientation. But the scene of peace was broken up when another Muslim man tried to stone Nasar.

Aside from the main criminal case, Benson was angry for most of the episode after hearing Rob Miller (Titus Welliver) was out on bail and Dodds did not let her know. This connected to the very last scene when Miller visited her and Noah at a restaurant, setting up the season finale clash between Miller and Benson.


The SVU finale airs next Thursday at 10 p.m. ET on NBC.

Photo credit: NBC