Grey's Anatomy has a knack for tackling hard topics over its 15 season run and Season 15, Episode 19 was no stranger to the hard stuff.
They tackled their biggest topic yet, with three different story-lines intermingling within the one-hour standalone episode.
"Silent All These Years," which was the title of the episode, saw Jo Karev, Ben and Doctor Bailey Warren, and Abby dealing with sexual assault and consent. There were too many powerful and incredible moments that happened within the one-hour episode, so I am definitely going to miss some, but here are some of the things that moved me to tears.
1. Jo's Backstory
The beginning of the episode starts out with Doctor Jo Karev finally coming face to face with the woman who she believes is her biological mother, Vicki. Jo has questions and is able to convince Vicki to have one conversation with her and then she will never have to see her again. Jo is angry, during the conversation, until Vicki gives Jo information about her father. Jo learns that she was the product of rape. Jo's mother was raped by her TA while she was in college. She goes on to say that it took her years to finally call it rape,
"I actually had to work to calling it rape, to begin with, because I did say yes to the date, and I did say yes to getting in that car. Someone, somewhere along the way, a man most likely decided they wanted to qualify this word rape be it "date rape," acquaintance rape, somehow it isn't as real unless it happens to a woman running through the park at night or walking down a dark alley. Somehow because I knew him what he took from me didn't matter, but it did. I found a way to hear that; I found a way to believe that, and I found a way to move forward."
This is hugely important because it highlights something big, that even statistically holds up: Majority of rapes and assaults happen between two people who know each other. Does it happen between two people who have no connection to one another, of course, but a lot of society tries to make it the majority when it isn't. At the end of the day, rape is rape, no matter who the perpetrator is.
2. Abby's Monologue
Sometime after the heartbreaking conversation between Jo and Vicki, Jo is back to work when a woman stumbles in seeming confused and has a cut across her head. Jo immediately senses that something is off and takes the woman where she needs to go and begins treating her. An obvious sign that this is more than just a cut is that when a male doctor walks in, Abby grabs Jo's hand tightly and has a look of absolute fear. She begins to suspect domestic violence and Abby eventually shows her the bruising all over her body and tells her that she was sexually assaulted the night before at a bar by an unknown man. This is what Abby had to say when Jo brought up the idea of doing a rape kit.
"We all know if I do that kit it ends up in the back of some police station ignored for years. While I sit there wondering when a bomb will go off waiting to see if a jury of my peers will believe -- will believe a woman who wore a skirt a few inches too short, who had a few cocktails too many at a bar last night after having a fight about laundry with her husband. And you know the tequila I drank will make it my fault, and whoever did this to me whatever he drank, that'll be his excuse. Is your kit going to convince them I wasn't flirting at the bar? If I give them my story, my underwear will it prove to them or to my husband that I didn't cheat on him or made up some story just to save my own ass? Will your kit do that?"
The things that Abby is referring to happen all of the time in sexual assault cases. Rape kits sit on shelves, untouched or even thrown out. Women are constantly blamed for their own assaults, with society saying, "You shouldn't have been drinking/wearing that outfit."
Alcohol condemns a woman's actions, while that same alcohol will be the excuse of the perpetrator, "He was drinking, he had no idea what he was doing."
The idea that any person could be asking for it because of what they were drinking, doing, or wearing is completely unacceptable. Want to know who to blame for rape? Rapists. That's who you blame for rape.
3. The Rape Kit Scene
That rape kit scene. Not everyone realizes how much actually goes into a rape kit and how traumatic it can truly be for victims and survivors.
Before doctors Karev and Teddy begin the rape kit, they have to hear a verbal yes. They have to have Abby's consent before they can move on to the next component of the rape kit. They tell her, if she wants them to stop, they will stop. If Abby wants to continue, they will continue. Once the rape kit was finished, Abby felt apart and Jo held her as she did.
Rape kits are traumatic, but I am so thankful for the writers. I am thankful they did not cut this scene; they showed it for what it is and that is important.
4. That Hallway Scene
Probably the most emotional, tear-jerking scene I have ever watched on TV.
Abby needs surgery but is overwhelmed and panicking about seeing her abusers face because she saw his face on every male's face, and she pleaded with, "Please, I can't see his face. Please, don't make me see his face." That is when Jo did something incredibly spectacular. She had every female staff paged to line the walls so that Abby did not have to see the face of her abuser.
This is such a moment of solidarity not just for Abby, but for every person who is a victim of sexual assault. This scene simply said, "You are not alone, this was not your fault, and we have your back."
5. The Conversation Between Ben and Tuck
Finally, probably one of the more wholesome scenes within the episode surrounds Tuck and Ben in a dinner. Ben is teaching his son, Tuck, about consent.
Earlier in the episode, you see what brings this conversation to the surface and that is Tuck tells his parents he can't go with them later because he "has a thing, with a girl." His parents drop him off and watch him walk over to a girl and put his arm around her; this prompts the conversation you see at the end of the episode.
You see the two bond over burgers and fries while Ben explained, "You pay attention to the girl you're with. You need to care about her feelings and her joy at least as much as you care about your own. And she gets to change her mind at any time. If she says stop or if she stops having fun. You just plain stop. Time-out. Game over."
Ben used a sports analogy to connect with Tuck in explaining that if both teams are playing and one of them calls a time-out, that's it. you stop. Ben goes on to say, "No matter how much fun they're having, everything stops. That's consent."
What an important conversation to be had and seen on TV in a society where we don't see those conversations actually happening. The way the conversation came about to was so easy and nonchalant. Ben talked to Tuck about consent in an easy to understand and age appropriate manner and that was really cool to see.
Fans and critics of the show have said that this is one of, if not, the most powerful episode of Grey's Anatomy that has been aired. It was tasteful and mindful. It addressed the issue without shaming victims and did not back down from their position and how they wanted the episode to run.
If you have been victimized, please know that you are not alone. There are so many resources out there if you don't feel comfortable sharing with someone in your life.
The National Sexual Assault Hotline: 1-800-656-4673