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Law and Order: SVU - Down Low in Hell's Kitchen - Review



Police and the Special Victims Unit are aware of a serial rapist in the area that follows a similar pattern each time. He targets gay, black men, tases, then sexually assaults them with a bottle in secluded areas in the Hell's Kitchen neighborhood. The victims are also all on the "down low," meaning they all have wives and children but frequent gay bars in secret. That means all three currently identified victims refuse to testify knowing that their families will find out if they do.

That leads us to this week's "ripped from the headlines" story, which is a twist on the Jussie Smollett case. We begin with an artist named Mathis who reports an assault, also in the Hell's Kitchen neighborhood. The difference being that Mathis is not openly gay, with his manager even saying to Rollins that, "He sees more ass than a toilet." When detectives discover an Instagram post with Mathis tagged at one of the gay bars, they suspect that he is leaving out crucial details of his story. When confronted, he denies that he is gay until the detectives say that coming forward publicly about his assault would help shed more light on the investigation.

Mathis not only breaks his silence on the assault, but also comes out to his fans and the world as gay. The detectives are surprised, as police were trying to avoid a public outing. Mathis coming forward leads to a much larger public awareness of the case and a sudden uptick for Mathis' career opportunities.

Police decide to set up a sting operation to catch the assailant. The team suggests that Deputy Chief Garland steps in to fill the role, as he fits the description of the victims (he's a young black man). They set up at the same bar where the assailant frequents. After a while, the man who fits the description laid out by several victims approaches Garland, who politely declines his advances and lays out the same scenario as the victims as being "down low." Upon leaving, the assailant follows with a bottle in his back pocket. The team follows and arrests him just as he pulls out a taser.

Holes start to appear in Mathis' story when first, the description that the three anonymous victims give are all consistent, whereas Mathis provides a different description. At first, they assume Mathis' assailant may be a copy cat. Then, when Mathis is the only one willing to testify publicly, he is asked to identify the attacker in a line up. When he is both unable to and clearly fishing for hints from the officers, they begin to suspect he fabricated his story.

When confronted, Mathis denies the allegation and insists that he was assaulted according to his initial story. This ends up leaking in the media and he takes the accusation head on. Like Smollett, he accuses police of treating black men like criminals instead of victims, leaving the Special Victims Unit in a very tough spot with the media optics of the situation.

More details emerge regarding Mathis when police discover that Mathis' brother purchased a taser the same day the alleged assault took place. He maintains that he buys a lot of "gadgets." Police think he used it to stage the attack.

One of the other victims returns to SVU to reveal another detail that he initially left out. He claims that the man that assaulted him performed consensual oral sex on him a few weeks prior at the same bar. He even took a selfie with the attacker that night. While he still refuses to publicly testify, the team uses the photo as leverage to get the attacker to take a plea bargain. Carisi explains to the attacker and his lawyer that, should this go to trial, all evidence would have to come out, including the alleged incident with one the other victims. Carisi says that it would either out him or mean that he just assaults men, making life "difficult" for him in prison.

Mathis faces no legal repercussions, as his high profile accusations helped catch the assailant. Tutuola explains to him that his tarnished reputation is punishment enough.


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