Law & Order: SVU season 18 episode 19 review: Religious manipulation

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There are several different reasons to watch Law & Order: SVU on a weekly basis, but one of the best ones is to see some of the intense court battles play out. For Wednesday night’s new episode entitled “Conversion,” the court battle was the main event.

The victim at the heart of the story was Anna, a young woman who had traveled to New York with her church group. After seeing an old friend of hers who happened to be lesbian, her “friend” Lucas came to her hotel room and raped her. Later, he justified his actions by saying that it was a necessary move to cleanse her soul of thoughts of homosexuality; maybe they won’t use the word, but this was effectively rape masked by hiding behind religion. “Curative intercourse” was the phrase the church seemed to prefer.

Maybe Lucas genuinely thought on some demented level that he was helping, but in that situation, it seems hard. Aren’t the rules of Christ about love and compassion? There is nothing compassionate about hearing someone say know, and then being manipulated after the fact by a pastor who claimed that she “wanted” to be saved.

For Barba, the complications within this case centered around trying to figure out how to prove that this was rape, and that she did not consent. He was forced to square off with an argument that this was intercourse justified by religion. The defense did not try to hide anything, but still remained intent that they were religious warriors acting out in a way that was justified in the First Amendment.

Did it work?

This was very difficult, but eventually, Benson was able to pinpoint exactly what needed to be done in order to win the case. The idea of trying to convict solely Lucas wasn’t it; instead, they had to force the argument that it was the Reverend Gary who insisted that Lucas commit the act.

Eventually, the team was able to do that, but in a way they did not see coming. As it turned out, Gary ordered Lucas to do it as penance for his own actions. It turned out that he had been caught in the past kissing another boy, and the Reverend was forcing him to undergo his own brand of conversion therapy. This is horrifying, and further evidence as to who was the real villain at the heart of this story. Gary was eventually taken in on a sex trafficking charge, as it was clear that these actions were taken with other men over the years, as well. Lucas, meanwhile, took a rape 3 charge and will hopefully see over time the error of his ways and the teachings forced into his head.

Final verdict

“Conversion” was another powerful, haunting SVU case. It was a somewhat predictable end that the Reverend was behind it, but that doesn’t matter since how the show got to the end piece by piece was worth being glued to your television. Grade: B+.

What do you think about this episode of SVU? Be sure to share now in the comments below! (Photo: NBC.)

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