[ ABSENCE OF HEART ]

In the criminal justice system, sexually based offenses are considered especially heinous. In New York City, the dedicated detectives who investigate these vicious felonies are members of an elite squad known as the Special Victims Unit.
These are their stories.

[ opening ]

Elliot Stabler sat at his desk, shifting through paperwork and quietly noting the beginning of a headache's steady parade. His right hand held a pen laced under his middle finger and over the others and with his unoccupied fingers, he rubbed his temple, attempting to convince the parade that it was going to start raining really soon and it was time to pack up and crawl back into what little godforsaken hole it had been lurking in.

"You okay?" he heard his partner, Olivia Benson, ask and he looked up to meet her concerned eyes.

"Yeah, I'm fine." He managed to drag up a smile for her.

"Headache?" She smiled back sympathetically.

"Yeah, this is enough to give anyone a migraine." He gestured helplessly at the pile of paper assembled on his desk.

"Want to see if we can sneak out of here to get some lunch?" She grinned conspiratorially.

"I think Cap'n would notice if we left but it's worth a try." He chuckled quietly and got to his feet, walking over to the coat rack to pick up his coat. Olivia followed him, grabbing her own jacket and slipping it on. Elliot noticed John Munch watching them, obviously wishing that he had thought to leave for lunch before them. Elliot felt sorry for the guy but someone had to get left behind to hold the fort.

He turned to walk out of the squad room and ran into someone. "Hey!" Elliot exclaimed in surprise, looking down at the teenage girl who had been knocked to the ground. "Are you okay?" He gave her a hand up and did a quick rundown on her.

She looked to be in her early teen years, no more than sixteen. She had shoulder-length blondish-brown hair and dark brown eyes. Her jeans looked well-worn and the printing on her blue t-shirt was faded, speaking of years of wear. She either loves those clothes or doesn't get to replace them often, he noted. The girl huddled miserably in her large black jacket as if she was trying to retract from the world and shrink smaller, like that would fake others into denying her existence.

"Can we help you?" Olivia asked and, while the girl's eyes were focused on the floor, she quickly shot a look at her partner that said, We're definitely not getting out of here for lunch today.

The girl hesitantly glanced up at Olivia. "They told me I should come here," the girl started shyly, her voice soft. "The other policemen did, that is. They said you dealt with people like me… or, well, my kind of cases… um…" She returned to studying her toes intently.

"Come on and have a seat over here." Olivia put a gentle hand on her shoulder and guided her into the squad room, sitting the girl down in a chair by her and Elliot's desks. Olivia took a seat nearby her and picked up a pad and pen.

"Would you like something to drink? We've got some coffee, tea…" Elliot asked while he stood, leaning back against his desk. He wished he knew what to do to make the girl more comfortable. She was putting him on edge.

"No, I'm fine," she whispered, then looked up quickly and hurriedly added, "But thank you for the offer anyway."

"No problem." Poor kid… Elliot thought. She looks like she's had it rough. "What's your name?"

"Eve Jordan." The girl replied calmly although her eyes were darting around the squad room with in an almost panicked pattern. Elliot pulled his chair up next to Eve's and sat down, hoping she would feel more at ease with both him and his partner appearing to be on her level.

Olivia wrote down the girl's name and looked up. "Okay. What's your problem?"

"I, uh…" Eve's voice failed her and her eyes dropped to the floor once more. Shortly, she started speaking again but she spoke so softly that Olivia had to lean forward to hear what she said. "I, um... I was at home and, uh… I was all alone and… and…" She shakily pulled her hands over her face, breathing deeply as she did so, steeling herself for whatever she was about to say next.

"I was raped."