Grey’s Anatomy tackles the tough issues

Amy Donohoe discusses how Grey's Anatomy tackled the difficult issue of sexual assault

GREY'S ANATOMY - "Games People Play" - Maggie's relationship with Clive starts to progress, and she invites him over for a game night to meet Meredith and Amelia. Meredith and Jo meet with the owner of the patent to the polymer they need for their project, who coincidentally is a friend of the family, on "Grey's Anatomy," THURSDAY, MARCH 8 (8:00-9:00 p.m. EST), on The ABC Television Network. (ABC/Byron Cohen) CAMILLA LUDDINGTON, ELLEN POMPEO

Grey’s Anatomy has focused on many taboo topics over the years, and now they’ve taken to tackling the issues of rape and sexual violence in season 15.

The episode titled, “Silent All These Years,” features a scene where a sexual assault forensic evidence kit is administered, which was inspired by Christine Blasey Ford’s testimony against Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh.

ABC initially rejected many detailed depictions of how precisely a rape kit is administered. Creator of Grey’s Anatomy, Shonda Rhimes, was unhappy with this and gave a “pretty passionate response” explaining the importance of the episode. She said, “respectfully, I decline these notes,” and ABC understood that she was right.

In the episode, the rape victim (Abby) came into the hospital needing help but refused to reveal why she was hurt. The doctors asked, “Did your husband sexually assault you? Do you want to press charges?” and she refuses to answer.

After empathising with a doctor who was once in a similar situation, she eventually opens up and breaks down, wondering if a judge and jury will blame her for wearing a skirt a little too short at the bar that night, or for drinking a little too much tequila, and would a rape examination convince them she wasn’t flirting?

Eventually, she agreed to the rape examination. This difficult yet necessary scene showed Abby repeatedly saying “yes” at every stage of the invasive rape kit procedure, ensuring she gives her consent.

For several minutes, the camera focused on collecting her blood samples, strands of hair, and fingernails as we see all the bruises, scrapes, and bite marks. A doctor held her hand the entire time and tears streamed down Abby’s face.

After her surgery the doctors encouraged her to talk to someone about what happened, assuring her that it isn’t her fault. The rape does not define her. She is a survivor.

When Abby had to go for surgery, a surprisingly rare decision occurred when many women lined a hallway in support her after the attack. It was an incredible moment which also featured many female Grey’s writers and Rhimes’ executives, even the executive who flagged the scenes in the first place joined in solidarity.

There is also a memorable moment when a father (Ben) had to have the “talk” with his stepson (Tuck) about consent. Ben revealed that the first rule is, “If she says time out, you time out. No questions asked…She can change her mind at any time. It’s game over.”

It’s rare to get that kind of representation on TV that looks at the violence involved but also focuses on ways we can support and heal each other.

To be able to have a show display the kind of support that survivors deserve is so important. Hopefully, the idea behind it can move from the screen and into our daily lives, especially in the #metoo era where people need a deeper understanding of how many different ways rape can impact the survivor and those close to them.

Amy Donohoe

Image Credit: ABC