Grey’s Anatomy co-executive producer and writer Elisabeth R. Finch was joined by stars Camilla Luddington and Kim Raver to unpack the highly emotive season 15 episode, titled Silent All These Years, which involved a patient being admitted to Grey Sloan Memorial Hospital after being brutally raped.
Finch initially had the idea after going on a WGA sponsored a story tour of the UCLA Santa Monica rape crisis center which she described as the “gold standard” when it comes to its approach in treating victims rape and sexual assault. It wasn’t until the producers witnessed Christine Blasey Ford’s testimony before the Senate Judiciary Committee in regards Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh that the story came into fruition.
“It destroyed us… I don’t think there’s a woman who wasn’t rocked by that,” said Finch during the show’s presentation at the ATX Television Festival. “We collectively felt that the world was getting a message that consent was irrelevant and we wanted to counter that message and wanted to do it as soon as possible.”
That message sparked a change in the backstory of Jo Karev (Luddington) meeting her mother, which resulted in the character discovering she was a product of rape.
“Finding the why now for our characters and the why now for the world, we needed a story like this because they don’t exist, ” said Finch. “You don’t see rape kits on television and don’t have a conversation about what the impact is of rape and sexual assault… we got to have it here and it started with an issue base.”
There was an initial push back from ABC in regards to how far the show would go to portray the storyline, particularly when it came to showing the fluids.
“So many people had never seen one before,” Finch referring the workings of sexual assault kit. “The reason no one knew the steps is because they’ve never be shown before in so much detail. We show countless acts against women but we don’t show the caretaking. We don’t show what does into actually doing it… that is something that’s a medical step and a medical process and we wanted it on there/”
Ultimately, with the insistence from show creator Shodan Rhimes to include, the network’s Standards and Practices department came around and the head of the department even participated in the potent scene with the wall of women.
Speaking on that scene, “that moment was the very first thing that I pictured… I saw the hallway of women first and its something that I just couldn’t put down,” said Finch, who pulled from her time at the non-profit RAINN (Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network).
“They would have radio communication among the staff and say are we clear in the hallway for us to go to the next room,” she recalled as part of a protocol the organization would initiate when a patient didn’t want to be around other people. “I thought that was one of the most powerful things I’ve heard but what if it’s the opposite? What if safety doesn’t come in removing people from situations, what if it comes in the form of women standing up lining the hallway, holding space, and just being there.”
The title of the episode also had a special meaning. It comes from the “Tori Amos song, from her album ‘Little Earthquakes’, which was a massively important album. It was a powerful piece of art that album,” Finch explained. “That song, in particular, she was unapologetically rageful and emotional about her experience of being sexually assaulted” and “she was the original spokesperson for RAINN”, an organization Finch became privy of while attending her concert.
“I really honor the work that Tori Amos continues to do for survivors and RAINN.”
Season 16 of Grey’s Anatomy will return in the fall on ABC.