The writers and producers of “Private Practice” took on a very difficult yet important task when they decided to let Charlotte King get raped. Many viewers may wonder not only why the writers chose to go with this arc but why Charlotte responded the way she did. Many viewers may want lightness and fluff when watching television, but increasingly “Private Practice” has been taking on controversial and difficult subjects. At its inception, “Private Practice” was suppose to be light and sexy, but it is becoming a powerhouse of a show as it dares to show and deal with uncomfortable situations and the various sides of the issues; Episode 07 has been the most courageous and real depiction of tragedy to date.
The scene begins with Charlotte hiding something in her desk drawer and leaving her office in the hospital where the rape took place, to go to the supply closet to get supplies for her injuries. Pete sees her and Charlotte has obviously been beaten badly. Already, the show has earned its warning advisory status and the viewer is very uncomfortable; but so many things run through your head: why is Charlotte trying to clean herself up by herself, why isn’t she yelling for help and what did she put in her drawer and why? As the show progresses, it becomes clear that Charlotte plans to hide the rape. Immediately, the viewer wonders why and gets annoyed at Charlotte and that is when things become interesting and complex.
Charlotte tells Addison about the rape, well actually, Addison figures it out, but Charlotte refuses to let Addison use the rape kit which would provide evidence for police. Again, the viewer feels anger and bewilderment and wonders what is wrong with Charlotte! But that is the brilliance of this episode. It is not like the story when Violet got her baby cut out of her; while everyone was shocked at how that season ended, many were appalled and perplexed as to the way Violet left Pete and disowned her son; most mothers would have thought that it would have made her more protective and that she would not want to have her baby out of her sight, so not all viewers/mothers could relate. But this is different. Unlike Violet, Charlotte is acting true to her character… For whatever reason, Charlotte refuses to allow herself to be seen as weak. And that is the beauty of the episode. Charlotte has been brutally victimized yet refuses to allow herself to be viewed as victim. Why not? Through several discussions, one with Addison, one with Amelia, and one with Cooper, it becomes clear that Charlotte has several secrets, and is a force to be reckoned with. Many may hate Charlotte but many more will want to know why she is the way she is.
The best thing, and ironically the worst thing, is the replaying of the rape itself. As Charlotte puts it, rape is dirty and sweaty and as the rapist shows, it is about having power over the victim. Viewers will be angry and scared and confused, but when it is done, no one feels sorry for Charlotte, she won’t let you. Shonda Rhimes and her team of writers and the actors, especially KaDee Strickland, have done an amazing job at showing the complexity, the legality, the brutality and the raw pain of rape. This is one of the hardest episodes to watch, yet perhaps the most important.
Rape affects millions of women every day; it is not caused by a desire for sex; but rather by a desire for power. Rape be it of man or woman, robs the survivor of their power. It is brutal and dirty and sweaty. Kudos to “Private Practice” for taking on such an intense subject and allowing the viewer to see into its rawness. The right answer for Charlotte to make would have been for her to report it, but when she doesn’t, it makes the viewer think and examine why. Why would anyone so violently violated NOT want to report the crime? As the story continues, the answers will come. What will be next in Episode 8?