Allison Leotta, ‘SVU’ Explores Sex Abuse in Hollywood, Huffington Post

‘SVU’ Explores Sex Abuse in Hollywood

 Novelist, Former Federal Sex-Crimes Prosecutor

Tonight’s SVU shone a light on the darkest corner of Hollywood’s casting couch, where kids vying for roles are sexually abused and passed around by moguls and producers.


In the wake of a hit-and-run, Nick arrests Tensley Evans, a beautiful but troubled starlet resembling Lindsey Lohan. When she falsely accuses Nick of propositioning her, SVU gets involved. Dashcam video exonerates poor Nick, but car trouble is just the tip of Tensley’s iceberg.

While in rehab, she performed oral sex on a 15-year-old boy. Tensley, who’s in her 20s, is charged with statutory rape (although the boy protests, “It was the best experience of my life!”). But our SVU experts are familiar with “the short path between victim and suspect.” Turns out, Tensley molests others because she was molested.

A powerful producer named Adam auditioned her on the proverbial casting couch when she was 13. Then he passed her around to his friends, coercing her to have sex with them too. Adam did this to a bunch of kids, even procuring underwater sex acts, which led to one girl’s death in a swimming pool.

Our detectives wants to prosecute Adam, but he’s wily. The statute of limitations has run on his older rapes. And in recent years, he only made movies — and “auditioned” girls — in states where the age of consent is 16 and “mistake of age” is a defense.

Although Adam thoroughly researched states’ law, he forgot to consider the feds. He went to Canada to have sex with a pretty 16-year-old actress, confident because the age of consent in Canada is 16. But U.S. federal law makes it a crime to travel to another country for the purpose of having sex with a person under 18. Adam is finally arrested and hauled away by the U.S. Marshals.

Tensley does a glowing (but premature) victory lap on Hoda Kotb’s talk show.

Verdict: B+

What They Got Right:

No one’s exactly sure how Lindsey got to where she is, but sex abuse in Hollywood is a real and serious problem. Corey Feldman, a child actor who, as an adult, revealed that he had been repeatedly sexually abused by powerful men in the industry, reportedly said, “I can tell you that the No. 1 problem in Hollywood was and is and always will be pedophilia … It’s the big secret.”

Alison Arngrim, a former Little House on the Prairie star, agreed: “This has been going on for a very long time,” she said. “It was the gossip back in the ’80s. People said, ‘Oh yeah, the Coreys, everyone’s had them.’ People talked about it like it was not a big deal… The word was that they were given drugs and being used for sex. It was awful — these were kids, they weren’t 18 yet.”

Hollywood, with its glittering promise of fame and fortune held in the hands of a few powerful men, is ripe for corruption when eager young kids come looking to make their way.

Speaking of corrupt patriarchal organizations, SVU was correct about what’s holding up the expansion of statutes of limitation for sexual assault. Although many reformers advocate longer periods, the Catholic Church has spent a small fortune trying to keep state legislatures from expanding the time in which past sex crimes can be prosecuted.

Dashcam footage has been providing incredible evidence in jurisdictions around the country. Sometimes, like tonight, it can exonerate a cop who’s falsely accused. And sometimes, it can do the opposite. Check out this chilling video of a cop shooting an unarmed man during a traffic stop.

This episode authentically portrayed the different attitudes about sex with a 15-year-old girl versus a 15-year-old boy. For her, it’s a traumatic crime. For him, it’s a Facebook brag. Is the difference in biology or in how we’re socialized? Whatever the answer, it’s the same crime under the law.

Traveling to another country for the purpose of having sex with a person under 18-years-old is a federal crime.  SVU presented an interesting legal issue, where the foreign country’s laws allowed consent at 16. But the American sex tourism prohibitions would trump. Nice legal research, SVU! And nice plot twist. Getting Adam — who murdered a girl — on an iffy traveler’s case is kind of like getting Al Capone for tax evasion.

What They Got Wrong:

Maybe Olivia was distracted by all the baby gear and nanny-planning, but there’s no way she should have assigned Nick to investigate Tensley’s case. Tensley accused him of misconduct! He has every reason to want to send her to jail. Somebody teach that baby to say, “Conflict of interest, Mama.”

In the final scene, Tensley sat on Hoda’s spotless white couch, all apple-cheeked and rehabilitated — but she’s still being prosecuted. Adam’s arrest didn’t make her legal woes disappear. She’s still on the hook for having sex with that 15-year-old boy — the only thing that’s changed for her, legally, is that she may present the evidence of Adam’s abuse as mitigation for her actions at her own sentencing hearing.

Adam’s wily plan for abusing young actresses was pretty far-fetched. Sex abuse in Hollywood is a crime of opportunity. I’ve never heard of a producer filming movies in specific locations in order cherry pick their statutory rape laws. First off, he’d have to hire a lawyer to do a 50-state survey, and that would be expensive and … awkward. Second, what if you need a tropical harbor scene? Adam’s not going to find that in Montana.

Finally, it was a bit insincere for SVU to condemn a culture that exploits teenage actresses in wet bikinis, while delivering for your viewing pleasure a bunch of teenage actresses in wet bikinis. When will Ice-T have a scene in a Speedo?