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The Most Upsetting Law & Order: SVU Episode According To Fans

By 1999, television staple "Law & Order" had been on the air for nearly a decade and already amassed an impressive nine seasons. Fans were still tuning in week in and week out, and not once did anyone question its status as one of the greatest crime procedurals of all time, so what was the next logical step? Spin-off shows, of course. To lead this initiative, "Law & Order: Special Victims Unit" arrived on the TV scene that September, introducing viewers to now-small screen icons Detective Olivia Benson (Mariska Hargitay) and Detective Elliot Stabler (Christopher Meloni).

Unlike its predecessor, "Law & Order: SVU" stuck to a much tighter formula. Instead of looking broadly at the intersection of crime and the law, this series put the focus strictly on sexual cases ranging from rape to pedophilia — detailing how the New York City Police Department handles such sensitive situations and brings the perpetrators to justice. Though this subject matter can certainly prove uncomfortable to watch, there's no denying that "SVU" is great at captivating its audience, hence why it's currently in its 23rd season and now stands as the longest-running live-action primetime program in United States TV history (via AV Club). 

This is a remarkable accomplishment, especially for a show that has continually pushed the envelope in terms of story content. In fact, there's one episode in particular that even the most devoted "Law & Order: SVU" fans struggle to watch.

Pique took viewers far beyond their comfort zone

At the end of the day, "Law & Order: SVU" is designed to entertain its audience, albeit using grim, morbid tales to do so. However, something that people tend to forget is that the series isn't entirely fictional, and it has often utilized real-life incidents as a basis for its episodes. This adds an extra layer of horror to some of the cases depicted on "SVU," reminding viewers that the world can be a scary place. This holds particularly true for the Season 2 episode, "Pique," which many agree is the program's most unsettling installment to date. 

"Pique" centers on the murder of Veronica Tandy, who investigators found strangled and stabbed to death. Jason Mayberry (Chad Lowe) sat atop the suspect list, given his obsession with Tandy that led him to stalk and take photographs of her without her knowledge. Come to find out, he was, in fact, responsible for her demise, but that was just the tip of the iceberg. He'd developed a sexual fetish for stabbing and pricking known as piquerism, which he'd subjected many women to previously, including his own sexually abusive mother.

Multiple "SVU" fans pointed to "Pique" in a Reddit thread asking them to name their personal five most disturbing episodes. "The whole episode was disturbing, but that's one way child abuse destroys multiple lives," wrote grinthsun, perfectly encapsulating the tragedy behind it. Another user, huncamuncamouse, noted that the imagery of Jason casually covered in his own mom's blood while laying next to her corpse was truly horrific. All in all, most of the "SVU" catalog isn't for the faint of heart, but it's plain to see that the events of "Pique" were especially heinous.

If you or anyone you know has been a victim of sexual assault, help is available. Visit the Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network website or contact RAINN's National Helpline at 1-800-656-HOPE (4673).