The initial crime (rape and murder) wasn’t the most disturbing part. But as was discovered during the investigation, the murderer’s mother had sexually abused him from a young age. He went on to kill her while they were having sex.
“Monogamy” (Season 3, Episode 11)
Convinced his pregnant wife was having another man’s child, he killed the baby, only to find out he was the father.
“Undercover” (Season 9, Episode 15)
Olivia went undercover to investigate the officers at a correctional facility and was nearly raped.
“Authority” (Season 9, Episode 17)
An audio engineer was quite convincing — in a disturbing way — to commit his crimes, from duping a restaurant manager into conducting a strip search of an employee to telling Stabler Olivia was in a room wired with explosives and being shocked over and over. (She was not.) He escaped custody, and they presumed he drowned.
“Legitimate Rape” (Season 14, Episode 18)
A cameraman raped a sports reporter, then represented himself at trial, and she learned she was pregnant. Her suffering continued when he wasn’t found guilty of rape and was granted supervised visitation rights. She took off with her son.
“Surrender Benson” (Season 15, Episode 1)
William Lewis kidnapped Olivia and held her captive. What made it even worse was that she then had to relive her ordeal during the trial.
“Intimidation Game” (Season 16, Episode 14)
A female video game developer was threatened, kidnapped, and assaulted because she worked in a male-dominated field.
“Daydream Believer” (Season 16, Episode 20)
Yates was pretty much disturbing every time he was on screen — remember when he smelled that Rollins was pregnant? — but the worst came when he raped and killed Chicago P.D.‘s Nadia and then detailed her suffering in court.
“Send in the Clowns” (Season 19, Episode 17)
A teenager became involved with her music teacher, and when she learned he was actually her biological father, she only focused on the “connection” she felt with him.
“Caretaker” (Season 20, Episode 7)
A woman killed her family because she believed they were “better off now.”
Some investigations stay with you long after the episode ends.
Such is the case with many of the ones throughout the 20 seasons of Law & Order: SVU (so far). Viewers have tuned in and watched the most horrific crimes committed against another human being — and sometimes against characters we've come to know and love over the years.