Law and Order

Olivia Benson

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Name Olivia Benson
Title Sergeant
Affiliation New York City Police Department
Division Special Victims Unit
Precinct 16th Precinct
Occupation Police Officer in charge of the SVU unit
Family Serena Benson (mother; deceased)
Joseph Hollister (father; deceased)
Simon Marsden (half-brother)
Ty Marsden (nephew)
Olivia Marsden (niece)
Noah Porter (foster son)
Status Alive
Actor Mariska Hargitay
First Appearance Payback

Sergeant Olivia "Liv" Benson heads up the Manhattan Special Victims Unit. Prior to taking over SVU, Olivia worked as a SVU detective and was partnered with Elliot Stabler for over 12 years. After Elliot's resignation, Olivia partnered primarily with Nick Amaro before she became a Sergeant and took over the SVU unit from Captain Donald Cragen in season 15.


Olivia was most likely born in 1968 although no birth date has ever been given. She was the product of the rape of Serena Benson in 1967 by a food salesman named Joseph Hollister, who later committed suicide. At the time of the rape, Serena had been working in the cafeteria of Columbia University. Olivia's mother, Serena, was an alcoholic who emotionally abused Olivia. Serena died from injuries sustained in a fall when she was drunk, which left Olivia deeply saddened.

Olivia Benson has a half-brother, Simon Marsden. She didn't find out about her brother until they were both adults after she illegally ran her DNA through a kinship analysis. Simon was later accused of a series of rapes, for which he was later cleared.


Olivia is deeply sympathetic with victims of sex crimes and as a result; she is often quick to believe victim's stories. Her former partner Elliot Stabler was often more skeptical of victim's accounts, which often brought the two partners into conflict. Olivia's ability to sympathize with victims is a tremendous asset, but there are times when it comes back to haunt her,. She went undercover in a women's prison to find a rapist and was almost raped herself until Detective Odafin Tutuola, also undercover there as a guard of the facility, managed to save her just moments before the man, who was a fellow guard, could violate her. Afterwards, Olivia developed a severe case of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, but has been receiving counseling for the assault and has been seen dealing with it more constructively. While speaking to a victim of a separate rape, the victim asked her if she was better having dealt with her rapist, and Olivia told her that she was better, but that she wouldn't ever forget what happened. When she was captured by another rapist she was kidnapped tortured and almost raped again. This event brought back her PTSD and goes to therapy to deal with it. She later identifies with a woman named Sarah Walsh who, like her, was sexually assaulted twice and helps both her and herself in dealing with these incidents.

While a dedicated officer, Olivia is more likely to go to bat for women she deals with during cases than men, and has shown skepticism during cases where women are the offenders and men are the victim, or allows her sympathy of the victim to cloud her judgement and make her commit actions without thinking. Such as in 'Justice Denied' where she interrogated a man until he confessed to a crime which he was later found to be innocent of and sending him to prison for life, which could have been avoided if she was thinking clearly enough to check on the evidence.

Skills and AbilitiesEdit

Benson speaks some Spanish, Italian, Russian, and French and is able to read the Miranda rights in two or three other languages.[1] She is a recreational mountain climber, and climbed on her own time with her co-worker Monique Jeffries.

Early lifeEdit

In Philadelphia (2007) and Florida (2007) Olivia finds out about the man who raped her mother, and others. He knew about his daughter and kept track of her. He once tried to call her but got Serena instead. Olivia was a graduate of Siena College (Stalked).

In the pilot episode Payback, Olivia and Serena seemed to care about each other a great deal. Serena was worried about Olivia working in the Special Victims Unit. Then in Taken (2000) Serena dies as the result of a fall down the subway stairs across from a bar. Olivia says Serena was a drunk. In Abuse (2000) Olivia becomes involved with a child who was neglected by her parents that way Olivia felt neglected by her mother. In Wanderlust (1999) Olivia said she was in love with an older man and that she "couldn't have loved him more." In Intoxicated (2005) Olivia tells Casey Novak about an incident when she was 16. An older student of her mother asked her to marry him and when she told Serena that she was leaving, her mother who had been drinking flew into a rage and went after her with a broken bottle. Olivia kicked her mother into a wall and ran to Simone Bryce for help. After arguing with ADA Sonya Paxton about alcoholism and seeing her drunk in court, she was moved to leave flowers at her mother's grave.


Olivia has had atrocious luck when it has come to the area of dating and interpersonal relationships.

  • She had a one night stand with Brian Cassidy, her co-worker in the first season. She ended it the next day because he wanted something more.
  • One boyfriend, Marshal Andy Eckerson, seemed to have a death-wish.
  • Another man she dated, reporter Nick Ganzner, was seeing her to get information about a serial rapist she was looking for.
  • A fourth man, ADA Jeffrey York, later turned out to be gay, and was murdered by his colleague, Andy Abbott. York had HIV at the time of his death, and she had to be tested for HIV and fortunately, the test came back negative.
  • Later, Olivia dated a newspaper editor, Kurt Moss, but this fell apart when a tabloid writer at Moss' paper outed Lincoln Havers, a high-profile professional quarterback who happened to be a suspect in a murder that Benson was investigating. Naturally, Havers' attorney accused the NYPD of leaking Havers's sexuality to the press, and the NYPD in turn tried to scapegoat Benson for it. It was ultimately proven that Havers's agent was the real leak. Benson decided to break up with Moss, who had asked her to move in with him.
  • She also had a brief relationship with her former case worker, Dean Porter. She tricked him with a brief date and kiss for a case. The case ended in him lying to her and breaking her heart. His last words were: "Our feelings don't matter." He then left her in an empty interrogation room with tears in her eyes.

Olivia's luck has begun to change in recent years.

  • She began to develop feelings for new Executive Assistant District Attorney David Haden, and also didn't mind that he is a father. At the end of the episode, she and him kiss each other good-night. They stayed in a relationship until they broke up due to a conflict of interest.
  • Sergeant Benson was in a relationship with old co-worker Brian Cassidy. They mutually ended their relationship in "Downloaded Child".

Relationship with Elliot StablerEdit

Main article: Elliot Stabler and Olivia Benson

Benson's partner for her first twelve years on the job was Elliot Stabler. Their relationship is not without friction, as the two sometimes argue over the cases they work on; Benson is quicker to side with the victims while Stabler is slower to assume that victims are telling the truth.

In "Burned" Stabler's wife, Kathy said she worried that Elliot preferred to be with Olivia rather than with herself and the kids. Combined with his long hours on the job and away from home, Stabler's work at SVU placed considerable strain on their marriage, eventually culminating in their separation; they later reconciled before the divorce became final.

Olivia has been asked throughout various episodes if she is attracted to, or has ever slept with Elliot. The answer is always in the negative.

The writers as well as the actors think the relationship was more like a brother/sister relationship. The fact that Dick Wolf named the characters for his son, Elliot and daughter, Olivia, reflects but does not confirm this intent.

In "Internal Affairs" (Season 15) Benson tries to get dirty cop, Detective Quinn to turn on her male partner but ends up revealing her own feelings about her former partner: "You love him, don't you? You're forty years old, wondering if you'll ever have a family - or if riding around with him will be enough for the rest of your life. Did you really think he'd leave his wife and kids for you? You spent the last five years hoping he'd suddenly turn and realize you're the woman he can't live without."

Relationship with Alex CabotEdit

The first constant ADA for SVU was Alexandra Cabot. The two seem to be close, as evidenced by going out as friends to an ice rink ('Theatre Tricks') and for drinks ('Witness'). They seem to argue a lot over cases and warrants, getting in each other's faces to prove their point.

After Cabot's supposed death ("Loss"), Olivia is shown to be distraught over losing her. She doesn't take well immediately to the next ADA (Casey Novak) either. However, Cabot was actually brought into Witness Protection Program. She demanded to see Olivia and Elliot before she left to assure them she was alive.

When she returns as ADA for SVU after her stint in WPP, she and Olivia do have a rocky relationship; in 'Turmoil,' Olivia threatens to put in a request for a new ADA after Alex chooses to drop a case because of the investigation surrounding her. 

Relationship with Casey NovakEdit

Casey and Olivia did not hit it off immediately. In fact, their relationship was initially quite adversarial. However, by the end of "Serendipity," the two women had become considerably closer.

In "Intoxicated," Olivia confided in the latter about her teenage fling with her mother's college student. In the season 7 finale, Casey admits that she was engaged to a schizoprehnic, Charlie, who beat her, went off his meds, and continued to do so for quite some time. She finally kicked him onto the street. In "Blinded," Casey reveals that Charlie was found dead with nothing but her business card on him. She blames herself for kicking him out.


  • Olivia survived being cut in the neck trying to catch child killer Victor Paul Gitano.
  • Olivia lived in apartment 4D, 203 West 89th Street (although from season 12, ep "Penetration" has seen it change to 4E) until Imprisoned Lives (season 15 episode 2).
  • Olivia´s blood type is A positive.
  • Olivia was in a sorority in her college years
  • In the episode "Trophy", the daughter of a rape victim made Olivia the legal guardian of her son, Calvin Arliss, after supposedly killing her mother's rapist (In reality this could not have happened since parental rights are not transferrable). In "Rescue", this was revoked by Calvin's mother and he is sent to Child Services before finalizing his sending to Vermont with his grandparents. Calvin and his grandparents would later come to visit Olivia in the Season 13 episode "Missing Pieces."
  • Olivia's shield number is 4015. ("Wrath").
  • She was often referred to as "Liv" (Instead of Olivia) by many people like her partner, Elliot Stabler, Captain Cragen, Odafin Tutuola, and others.
  • Olivia carries a Glock 19 as her sidearm and also used a SIG-Sauer P228 during the episode "PTSD"
  • Olivia was once hospitalized after being exposed to pesticides.
  • Olivia was once hospitalized after being exposed to mushrooms. She started to blurt out things like: 'I'm not the one who stabbed the Captain with a pickle!' then she fainted.
  • Olivia once kicked her mother into a wall. She told her mother that she was getting married to one of her mother's students. Her mother broke her bottle, then she picked up a piece and came after her screaming: 'I will never let any one else have you.'
  • Olivia was once a suspect in a murder in Perverted
  • Olivia had to interrupt two dates when called to a crime scene.
  • Olivia has posed as a prostitute to help her partner out in the episode 'Wildlife'. She also posed as one in the episode 'Strain'. She was a junkie two times: once in a prison ('Undercover') and once to capture a man in the act (he claimed to help her out, then he touched her). She also played a madam as well as a women named Donna in a bar.
  • Olivia played Elliot Stabler's wife three times while undercover; in "Ace" to stop an illegal adoption, for which the mother was killed and raped, in "Risk" when Elliot was undercover in smuggling drugs and in "Bombshell" when they infiltrated a swingers' club.
  • Olivia had kissed Dean Porter ('Spooked') to provoke him into calling a suspect so they could figure out where she was.
  • Olivia is the only member of the SVU from 1999 to still be working there after John Munch and Captain Craigan retired in 2013 and 2014, respectively.
  • Olivia is taken hostage six times and the six times that Olivia is taken hostage are:
  1. Once because an escaped prisoner wants revenge because his stepson put him in prison, while he was innocent.
  2. Another time when a woman, mad with rage, had takes a gun from a police officer. The woman is very angry at her ex, because of the death of her son. Everyone thought the woman was guilty, she would have gotten him kidnapped because her parental rights were revoked. As it turned out, the husband did it to set her up. In this hostage situation Melinda Warner gets shot and gets a collapsed lung.
  3. In the episode 'Spooked', a drug baron uses Olivia to get out of the airport, saying that his cellphone is a gun, which is true. He is shot by Dean Porter. They later find out it was to shut him up, not to save Olivia. When the man drops dead, Olivia appears to be as well. Elliot rushes over, very concerned, and then he hugs her.
  4. Olivia is also taken hostage by Merritt Rook (Robin Williams). He uses her for the Milgram experiment. He wanted Elliot to hurt Olivia by pressing a button, which he was unable to do. Merritt Rook escaped, and appeared to be dead.
  5. The last time was in Season 13, episode 'Fathers Shadow'. The son of the man she had put in jail takes his girlfriend and her daughter hostage. Olivia gets him to trade the two for her, since he shot his girlfriend in her leg. When he feels like it doesn't matter anymore he walks to the window, wanting to get shot. Olivia saves him from this and everyone returns safely,
  6. In episode "Her Negotiation, at the end of the episode, Olivia was held at gunpoint by a Serial Rapist/Murderer William Lewis at her apartment, later she survives the ordeal in Surrender Benson and Imprisoned Lives.


  • Olivia is often referred to as "Liv" by her squadmates instead of Olivia.
  • Olivia used the undercover alias Rachel Martin to visit reporter Jackson Zane when he was imprisoned for writing an article about Michael Delpit's theft of several dozen vials of anthrax. She also called herself Rachel while she was having dinner with Mike Jergens. She was trying to observe him enough to prove that he was a rapist.
  • Olivia used the alias Persephone James while investigating an environmental activist group undercover in Oregon for the FBI.
  • In the episode "Undercover", she used the alias Katrina Ray Lewis when she went undercover to help bust a corrections officer suspected of raping and killing inmates.
  • In "Risk" Olivia poses in a bar as a woman named Donna.
  • She once used the name Beth, while undercover with Elliott (using the name Glenn) as a married couple trying to adopt a child in an illegal adoption operation in "Ace"
  • In "Hothouse", she posed as a woman named Claudia needing young girls for escorting men.
  • In "Beef", Olivia went undercover as Tania the Russian woman cleaner at Donna Rosa's Meats


  • Olivia considered herself "best friends" with her partner Elliot Stabler.


  1. Season 3, Prodigy

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