A product of rape herself, Olivia Benson is one of the detectives of the NYPD’s Special Victims Unit. Never knowing her father, she was raised by her alcoholic mother. She then went on to be accepted and graduate from Sienna College, assumingly with a degree in Criminal Justice. Olivia has always displayed an incredible ability to connect with rape victims and help them find at least a few minutes of comfort and peace of mind. She is always fighting for the victim, and always looking out for the right thing. Her partner in SVU is the rash and hot headed Elliot Stabler. Her calm and peaceful demeanor balances the duo out and makes them a formidable team. Though Olivia is a calm person, she has shot her weapon more times than the other detective (killing two and wounding two others.) She often sides with the victim until irrefutable or incredibly strong evidence proves her wrong, and often becomes upset when a victim has blatantly lied to her.
As time goes on, she learns through an investigation that she has a half brother, Simon Marsden, who is the son of her father. She eventually learns that her father may not have raped her mother, and that her father watched over her from afar, always making sure his daughter was okay, but it is then discovered that she is in fact the daughter of a rape. When Simon is accused of rape himself, Olivia eventually proves her brother’s innocence, after she realizes that he never hurt anyone. Simon is always trying to help her as his way of thanking her. Olivia has, in a way, come to terms with her mothers drinking after she fell down a flight of subway stairs drunk.
She and her partner, Detective Elliot Stabler, have a strong mutual friendship (she calls him her best friend), and Olivia even helped deliver Elliot and his wifes Kathy’s son, Eli, after Olivia and Kathy were involved in a traffic accident together.
Olivia has a semi long list of boyfriends, one of whom was a homosexual and had contracted HIV sometime after they dated, another being a newspaper reporter and wanted her to act out a rape fantasy, and another being a newspaper editor who asked her to move in with him, but she said no and broke up with him shortly after, and is the only main detective never to have been married, claiming that her partner is “the longest relationship she’s ever had with a man.”
Olivia has been attacked on several occasions, stalked three times, held hostage three times, and has even had her throat slit, although it turned out to be a superficial cut in the end. The worst of these attacks was when she went undercover in a Sealview, a womans prison, in order to catch a male corrections officer who raped the daughter of one of the inmates. She was groped, verbally harassed, and was sexually assaulted when one of the guards took her down to the basement and tried to force her to give him oral sex. Due to the attack, Olivia contracted PTSD, and held her weapon to the head of an innocent man because of it. She has since moved on and is now dealing with it in a healthy way. Although you don’t see it in the series, the producers say that she has told her partner about what happened to her. She has been accused of murder twice, both times with surprisingly strong evidence at first glance. Once when she showed up without back up to a serial rapists apartment to arrest him and her colleagues find her standing over the bloody dead body, and she claimed she had just gotten there. She is not arrested, but the defense for the real killer uses it as a smoke screen and it looks promising until forensics showed that the knife came from the suspects mothers antique store. Another, and more serious time, is when they find her business card near a dead bikers body who had been tazered and castrated. They find her DNA on the knife and she is arrested for the crime and is even sent to jail with a 250,000 bail. Elliot mortgages his house for her and they find out that the business card came from a private eye who had been instructed to follow her, and her DNA came from a lab where one of the techs working there took another persons blood, spun out the DNA matter in it, took Olivias DNA, and thus made the entire sample look like it was Olivia’s.
Although she is wonderful with child victims, she is not a mother herself. She looked into adoption, but the agency turned her down due to the fact she was single, she worked all hours, and had “no family support system.” Olivia has (had) power of attorney over the new born daughter of one victim she worked with, Gladys Dalton. Gladys had the baby 5 months prematurely and leaves, telling Olivia that she is going to rehab and will return when she believes she can be a fit mother. Olivia is forced to make a decision regarding the baby’s health and must choose between the doctors not operating and allowing the child to die, or having the doctors operate and have the child have a very high risk of having her be mentally disabled her entire life. It is unknown what her decision is although producers tell us the baby died before she could make a decision. She was later given legalized parental guardianship over a pre teen boy named Calvin Arliss after his mother, a drug addict and alcoholic named Vivian Arliss, supposedly killed her mother’s rapist and her own father fled the city. Olivia and Calvin share a mother/son like bond and he even referred to himself as “Calvin Benson”. But when they find Vivian’s fingerprint at a crime scene, Olivia questions a high Vivian who blames Olivia for everything bad that has happened and begs for her not to arrest her. She also tells Olivia that she deserves Calvin and she gave him to her because she wanted to make Calvin happy. Vivian also says that if Olivia will let her go, Olivia can have Calvin on a permanent basis. Olivia pauses for a moment to consider this before Elliot steps in and tells Olivia it’s her call. Olivia elects to arrest her. It is later revealed that Sarah, Vivian’s lover, committed the murder. They bring her up on charges but she is shot outside the court room and once again Vivian blames Olivia for what happened. Sarah’s murderer was Calvin’s father, David, who was angry at Sarah for stealing Vivian away from him. Later, Vivian and a social worker come into the unit where Olivia and Calvin are and we learn that Vivian is shipping Calvin off to Vermont to live with his fathers parents and she’s transferring custody to them and taking him away from Olivia who tells the social worker he’s making a ‘huge mistake’ and the social worker say’s if she disagrees, she can contest the decision in court. Neither Calvin nor Olivia want to be separated from one another and finally the social worker and Vivian literally rip Calvin out of Olivia’s arms and drag him away screaming Olivia’s name and begging her to help him while she appears devastated. It is unknown as of now rather Olivia will try to contest the decision or if his grandparents are even fit to take care of him..
Olivia, unlike four of her four colleagues (Elliot was in the Marines, Captain Donald Cragen was in the Army, ME Melina Warner was in the Air force, and Detective Odafin Fin Tutuola was in the Army as well), has never been a member of a branch of the US Armed Forces. Olivia has stated that while she does support US armed forces members, she does not support the US military itself because of its reputation for “refusing to acknowledge rampant sexual trauma,” amongst its troops.