Sexual Misconduct Portrayed in Media: Grey’s Anatomy

Sexual Misconduct Awareness-Raising Team (SMART)

Spoiler Alert and Trigger Warning

“Grey’s Anatomy” is a long-running medical drama on ABC.  For those who are not familiar with the show, it follows the lives of doctors throughout their time at a hospital in Seattle. Recently, the show has been covering various social issues in an honest and open way. A recent episode, “Silent All These Years,” focuses on sexual assault. The show has been known to feature intense and emotional storylines but is not afraid to kill off characters either.

The episode was very powerful, respectful to victim survivors and emphasized the very real and prevalent issue of sexual assault. It focused on the character Jo Karev, who had a very rough life and was abused. It flips back and forth between her finding her birth mother and her helping a patient in the ER. In the ER, she discovers her patient received her injuries from being raped and abused; she also learns that her birth mother was raped and hears the terrible, vivid story. She and other doctors help encourage the woman at the hospital to complete a sexual assault forensic exam (often referred to colloquially as a “rape kit”) so that she can come forward with the evidence if she so chooses.

We give you this brief synopsis of the plot to stress how the writers dug deep into this important issue, the fears survivors have in the moment (and shortly after) and the life-long effects of sexual misconduct. The episode explores why it is so difficult for women to report and how saying yes to one thing, like a date, does not mean saying yes to sex (or anything else, for that matter). They went really in-depth in the gathering of evidence for the sexual assault forensic exam, which was both depressing and eye-opening. The music and effects helped demonstrate the fear of the woman. All of this was portrayed so well through the life of Jo, her birth mother and the woman at the hospital. Near the end of the episode, the woman is scared to leave the room. In a show of solidarity, all of the female doctors, nurses and staff stand along the halls on her way to surgery.

Consent and recovery are addressed in a variety of ways framed in this tough but empowering episode and is important for everyone to watch if they are able. These are just some examples of the powerful writing and acting moments in this episode.

This article was originally published in the April 12, 2019 issue.