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Olivia Benson Is the Queen of the Clapback on Law & Order: SVU
After two decades of arresting criminals, Benson's silver tongue is one of her strongest weapons.
Trigger warning: This piece contains mentions of sexual violence.
Law & Order: Special Victims Unit is a sensation. The dynamite cast, the magnetic chemistry between fan-favorite detectives, and the endless lineup of gripping criminal cases have created an obsession among fans.
Anyone who has faced the challenges Benson has conquered would garner wisdom over the years. Whether she's connecting with victims or joking with her fellow investigators, Benson is a font of knowledge. And her diligent approach to cases has led to dozens, if not hundreds, of iconic quotes that ring true throughout the decades.
From her hilarious clap-backs to her heart-wrenching takes on recovery, Benson always knows what to say. Below, relive some of her best lines.
Olivia Benson's Most Hilarious Clapbacks
Benson deals with quite a lot bull on the daily — and such is life in at the SVU which, over the years has gifted Benson with a thick skin. Benson always has the perfect response when criminals start hurling insults her way, and it's likely hilarious.
"It's 'Detective,' not 'Miss.' Save your lawyering for someone who gives a damn."
Benson is no stranger to needless sexism, and is frequently bombarded by ignorant insults while interrogating potential suspects. But she doesn't allow anyone to talk down to her and certainly doesn't tolerate disrespect surrounding her Detective status.
After a pair of college basketball players became murder suspects in Season 1, Episode 6, ("Sophomore Jinx"), she was quick to settle the score when a patronizing defense attorney tried to make light of her investigation.
"You think I'm a b-tch, don't you? You're not the first."
Benson doesn't waste much time with wording or needless pleasantries: She knows when someone has something they want to say but isn't saying it.
In Season 11, Episode 17 ("Disabled"), while interrogating a woman suspected of targeting victims with disabilities, Benson clarified she couldn't care less what nasty names the suspect was thinking of slinging.
“I’m not the one who stabbed the captain with a pickle!”
Benson witnesses a lot of drug dealing throughout her investigations, but SVU fans will never forget her little run-in with hallucinogenic mushrooms in Season 12, Episode 5 ("Wet").
Benson started to feel the effect of an accidental dosage while interrogating a suspect, whom she humorously believed had assaulted former Captain Donald Cragen (Dann Florek) with a pickle. Her partner, Elliot Stabler (Chris Meloni), was able to sober her up, but there were some chuckles along the way.
"When are these dinosaurs gonna die out?"
Benson knows all too well the impact ignorance can have on justice and, if she isn't duking it out against NYC's criminals, she's likely dealing with a headache within the NYPD.
Prejudice can be dangerous for special victims, and in Season 21, Episode 11 ("She Paints For Vengeance"), Benson humorously voiced her annoyance with a sexist patrol officer who claimed an assault case wasn't "real" enough to investigate.
"Considering I've been up 24 hours? I'm not gonna lie. I'm a stale sandwich of a human being."
Calling Benson overworked is the understatement of the century. Benson always shows up for special victims, and that demanded some hefty overtime in Season 24, Episode 22 ("All Pain Is One Malady").
Benson was tasked with locating the culprit responsible for running a horrendous revenge-for-hire website, leading to an all-nighter of a stakeout. The beacon of relatability, Benson isn't alone in having the occasional stale sandwich day.
Olivia Benson's Most Badass Quotes
Benson isn't just the Captain of Manhattan's elite SVU, she's also a bona fide professional within the precinct. One doesn't climb up the ranks of the NYPD without learning a thing or two. Benson is confident and endlessly capable, making her a precious cornerstone of the SVU's success. And she isn't afraid to make that known.
"I trust my instincts. If I don't have that, I shouldn't be here."
Every so often an investigation will bring Benson a grim sense of déjà vu, which was the case in Season 13, Episode 17 ("Justice Denied") when she recognized the signature of a rapist who she believed she arrested 8 years before.
But was it the original culprit or a copycat? Benson felt it was the O.G. criminal, meaning she'd arrested the wrong man all those years ago. A woman of infinite integrity, Benson was willing to defend her instincts, which proved correct.
"There are two things you need to know about me. First, I like an open and free exchange of ideas. And second, I'm usually right."
In Season 17, Episode 8 ("Melancholy Pursuit"), Benson's search for a teenage girl quickly turned into a murder investigation, leading the SVU to rely on DNA evidence to find the culprit. However, no amount of forensics could compare to Benson's third eye within an investigation. Benson will listen to the research, but ultimately, SVU's mother knows best.
Olivia Benson's Most Empowering Quotes
Benson is a feminist icon and an empathetic force of nature. Her tenacious defense of survivors sparks conversations about how special victims are treated and what recovery and healing look like after these horrific events happen.
Benson doesn't just help these survivors up from their lowest lows, she lifts them up and gives them hope. Have a bad day? Let Benson soothe your woes.
“The truth is, everybody changes every day, and some things are more devastating than others. But we never are the same, and there are two ways to deal with these changes. You either accept them or you fight them like hell all the way.”
Benson has interacted with hundreds of survivors throughout her sprawling SVU tenure, and on dozens of occasions, has found herself dispelling the myth of "closure" after an assault.
One of the first cases of this was in Season 1, Episode 10 ("Closure") when a survivor refused to cooperate in an investigation due to falsely feeling she'd moved on from the attack. In a powerful scene, Benson shined a light on the reality of recovery and the importance of facing trauma head-on.
"Healing begins when someone bears witness. I saw you. I believe you."
It's a rare exception, but every so often, SVU delivers a gut punch of reality when Benson and the squad see a perpetrator manipulate the legal system to slither away from justice.
After a predator assaulted a teenage girl in her own home in Season 13, Episode 6 ("True Believers"), everyone was devastated when the man's defense attorney landed an acquittal. Benson was quick to tell the survivor that seeing her attacker go to prison wouldn't fix everything, but the steps she took to defend herself were the key to finding peace. Benson tearfully reminded her that she believed her no matter the ruling.
"You survived the abuse. You’re going to survive the recovery.”
There were several must-watch performances in Season 13, Episode 8 ("Educated Guess"), which featured SVU guest star Natasha Lyonne as a survivor named Gia. Gia had a history of "false" rape allegations, which were revealed to be legitimate.
Benson kept open mind about Gia and arrested the man responsible, but Gia was more concerned about what would happen after his imprisonment. Benson reminded her of her track record of resilience and assured Gia she had the fortitude to chart a path forward.
“I understand the shame and the stigma. But keeping the abuse secret doesn’t make it go away."
Benson knows better than most that repression and secrecy are a recipe for disaster. While investigating the suicide of a suspected serial rapist and school teacher in Season 14, Episode 8 ("Lessons Learned"), Benson reached a roadblock while asking a group of former students to elaborate on their assaults.
Many of the men felt uncomfortable disclosing the details of the teacher's ritualistic abuse, but Benson urged them to consider the risk of keeping the pain hidden.
"Some things, you can put them behind you, but they do change you."
Benson is more than just a respected resource to special victims, she is actually a survivor, too. During the trial of her kidnapper, the infamous serial killer William Lewis, she opened up about her recovery to a colleague.
In Season 15, Episode 18 ("Criminal Stories"), Benson admitted she will never be the same after the traumatic incident, even if she has made strides in moving past the ordeal.
"Once you tell your story, it can be empowering."
After a woman went public about her group assault during an interview on a national television program in Season 16, Episode 18 ("Devastating Story"), Benson launched an investigation despite dealing with a slim batch of evidence.
After A.D.A. Rafael Barba (Raúl Esparza) voiced confusion over the victim speaking about the assault in public, Benson leveled him out by exploring the empowerment that occurs with coming forward.