Primetime TV plots draw attention to sex assaults

In this publicity image released by ABC, KaDee Strickland, left, and Kate Walsh, are shown in a scene from "Private Practive," airing Thursday, Nov. 4, 2010. (AP Photo/ABC, Adam Larkey)
November 4, 2010 7:37:37 PM PDT
Actress KaDee Strickland is using the dramatic hurdles of her character on ABC's "Private Practice" to show the devastating effects of sexual assaults.

Strickland plays tough-as-nails doctor Charlotte King, whose world is jolted on this week's episode by a violent rape. It's not just an opportunity to show Strickland's range as an actress, but also to help others.

"No one can take for granted just what a huge, huge issue this is in our country," Strickland said in an interview Wednesday.

"It happens every two minutes," she said, citing a statistic from the Rape, Abuse and Incest National Network. "Someone's attacked. When you think about that, you know, our show's an hour long. That's 30 people."

Strickland also has a personal connection to the issue. She recalled being at a hospital alongside a friend who had just been sexually assaulted. During the taping of this week's episode, the man accused of raping Strickland's friend was found guilty.

"Private Practice" creator and executive producer Shonda Rhimes took a strong interest in the story line and wrote the episode.

"I wanted to talk about rape from the perspective of the survivor," Rhimes said. Her goal was "to illuminate and give voice to the experience of rape survivors as opposed to law enforcement or someone from the outside looking in."

During Thursday's episode, a series of public service announcements on sexual assault will air.

Both Strickland and Rhimes wanted to make sure "Private Practice" didn't just address the rape in a single episode. The story will linger.

"One of the things Shonda and I were very clear about is ... I said, 'It can't go away.' She said, 'No. I hate when they do that.' Four episodes and hands are clean. ... I believe, as does Shonda, that as long as this show is on the air and Charlotte King is a part of it, this will be a part of her."

"Private Practice" isn't the only primetime show fighting sexual assaults. Actress AnnaLynne McCord plays a character on "90210" who was recently raped by a teacher at her school.

Off camera, McCord advocates on behalf of sexual abuse survivors.

"It's already an issue that I work strongly to speak out about," explained McCord in a recent interview. "I'm very blessed to have a position where ... people hear me and hopefully listen."

At least one anti-sexual assault organization is hopeful about this primetime TV platform.

"Unfortunately it is a silent crime for many survivors who haven't spoken out or gotten help," said Katherine Hull, the communications vice president of RAINN. "It's important that we speak about it in a public way."

"90210" airs Mondays on the CW at 8 p.m. Eastern time.

"Private Practice" airs Thursdays on ABC at 10 p.m. Eastern time.


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