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The Best Law & Order: SVU Episodes Based On True Stories

Updated May 24, 2021 29.6k votes 6.2k voters 1.4m views30 items

In the world of Law & Order: Special Victims Unit, several episodes over the many seasons are ripped straight from newspaper headlines. The writers of SVU often adapt current events into scripts for the dark, gritty police procedural show that everyone loves to binge (if you're looking for something to watch you can also check out our list of other shows like Law & Order).  

What's the best Law & Order: SVU episode based on a true story? "Funny Valentine" was based on the physical altercation that took place between pop singer Rihanna and rapper Chris Brown in 2009. Another episode, "Devastating Story," was based on the UVA allegations published in Rolling Stone magazine that were later proven to be false. 

Other top based-on-a-true-story episodes of SVU include "Intimidation Game" (based on the Gamergate controversy of 2014) and "Scavenger," (based on the BTK serial killer case).   

Before the credits fade to black, and Executive Producer Dick Wolf's name pops up on the screen, vote up the best episodes of Law & Order: SVU that were ripped straight from newspaper headlines.  

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  • 1

    'Monogamy,' Based On Lisa Montgomery & Bobbie Jo Stinnett

    Photo: NBC

    The Episode: A seven-months pregnant woman is found dead, with her child taken out by a crude Cesarean section. Detectives race to find the missing baby before it is too late.   

    Real Life: In 2004, Lisa Montgomery posed online as a pregnant woman in order to befriend Bobbie Jo Stinnett, who was actually pregnant. Montgomery went to Stinnett's house under false pretenses and kidnapped the unborn child. She was found guilty, and sentenced to capital punishment in 2008. 

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    • 2

      'Imprisoned Lives,' Based On The Ariel Castro Case

      Photo: NBC

      The Episode: After a young boy is found malnourished and abandoned in Times Square, the detectives try to return him to his family. Instead, they find a locked basement where more victims are in need of a rescue.   

      Real Life: Between 2002 and 2004, Ariel Castro took three women: Michelle Knight, Amanda Berry, and Gina DeJesus. He took advantage of all three women, and forced Berry to have his child. The three women lived in captivity in Castro's home until 2013, when Berry escaped and alerted a neighbor of their whereabouts.  

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      • 3

        'Babes,' Based On The Pregnancy Pact From Gloucester High School

        Photo: NBC

        The Episode: Benson and Stabler investigate four high school students with a pregnancy pact after a homeless man is found deceased. One of the girls convinced the mentally ill homeless man to help her conceive, though her brother believes the intercourse was involuntary.  

        Real Life: According to the headlines, in 2008, 18 girls from Gloucester High School in Massachusetts allegedly formed a "pregnancy pact" where they promised each other that they would all get pregnant at the same time and help one another raise their babies. One girl was said to have asked a homeless man to impregnate her, which inspired that part of the SVU episode. 

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        • 4

          'Head,' Based On The Mary Kay Letourneau Case

          Photo: NBC

          The Episode: A school teacher is taking advantage of her male students, and despite many restraining orders and arrests, she ends up having a child with him. Later, she has surgery to remove a brain tumor, and the desires stop.

          Real Life: Mary Kay Letourneau was a school teacher that fell in love with her 12-year-old student. They had two daughters together, despite the fact that Letourneau was convicted of second-degree assault, and had several restraining orders placed against her. When her student turned 18, he filed to overturn the restraining orders, and the two married in 2005. In 2019, they were divorced. 

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