Women from the show, including the cast and crew and staff members of ABC wanted to be in the scene.
The show has never been one to shy away from touchy topics; be it the mass shooting or PTSD. There was one particular episode that showed a kid who was kidnapped and held hostage for nearly 12 years, and it touched a nerve with many. Their latest episode titled "Silent All These Years" after Tori Amos' song, shone a spotlight on sexual assault and this may be their most traumatic episode till date! According to ABC, the episode documents everything; from the process of reporting the trauma to the emotions attached to the process. In the episode, a woman named Abby, played by Khalilah Joi, has bruises and tells the doctors at Grey Sloan Memorial Hospital a different story about how she sustained those injuries including hitting her head on a kitchen cabinet and a mishap at a hockey game.
Being doctors, they found it hard to believe her as there was very clear evidence of physical assault. Finally, she revealed she was attacked after she went out for a couple of drinks, but she did not want to report the assault. The staff somehow convinced Abby to take a rape kit test, in case she changed her mind later on. "We all know if I do that kit, it ends up in the back of some police station, ignored for years, while I sit there wondering when the bomb will go off, waiting to see if a jury of my peers will believe a woman who wore a skirt a few inches too short, who had a few cocktails too many at a bar last night after having a fight about laundry with her husband," Abby candidly confesses during the episode.
"And you know the tequila I drank will make it my fault, and whoever did this to me, whatever he drank, that'll be his excuse," she added. In an interview with The Hollywood Reporter, showrunner Krista Vernoff called the episode as "the most powerful hour of TV I've ever been a part of in my 20-year career." The inspiration for the episode came from watching the Christine Blasey Ford testimony last year. She accused the now-Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh of sexual assault while they were in high school during her testimony on Sept. 27, 2018, before the Senate Judiciary Committee. Kavanaugh denied her allegations, saying, "I have never done this to her or to anyone. That's not who I am. It is not who I was. I am innocent of this charge," reports ABC.
Of Ford's testimony, Vernoff said, "I felt that through my whole body -- the way a lot of women did. She got up and told her truth and a lot of pundits questioned whether she knew what she was talking about or if she could be believed or remember the face of someone who attacked her years ago. It was a pretty powerful moment to watch all of that. I felt that the most damaging thing that happened in all that is that young women and men everywhere were told that consent was irrelevant." It was this that made her want to create a character to convey this very feeling to the Grey's Anatomy audience.
Vernoff continued, "I wrote to the writers and said, 'We have to find a way to come at this through character. We have to do something about consent and try to do our part to explain what consent is and how impactful rape is and how it can damage people for years, decades and generations. We had to use our platform to do something.'" To deliver an accurate, powerful and impactful episode, the team worked with Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network (RAINN) to make the language and content as sensitive as possible in the episode. One of the stand-out scenes in this powerful episode is when Abby is being wheeled into the OR where she had to undergo surgery for a tear in her diaphragm that affected her abdominal organs, Dr. Jo Wilson (Camilla Luddington), arranges for women to stand on either side of the hallways.
The reason why Dr. Jo does this is because Abby confided in Jo that every man she saw reminded her of the attacker, so Dr. Jo thoughtfully ensures that Abby doesn't have to look at any man's face as she's taken in for surgery. "Sexual violence affects nearly every family in America and we wanted to use our platform to raise awareness and remind survivors that they are not alone and they are believed," Luddington told Cosmopolitan. "Part of that message ended up being portrayed in what we ended up calling the 'wall of women,'" she continued. "Many survivors feel that their agency has been taken away from them after an assault; part of giving compassionate care afterwards is helping the survivor restore their sense of power."
"You see that Abby needed to see a space that felt safe on her way to the OR. For her, that was a group of women, locked arm in arm, supporting her every step of the way," she said. "We've seen the power of that in past few years as survivors have stepped forward to share their stories and pursue justice. The people that 'line the hallway' will look different for every survivor of sexual violence, but the support and solidarity is the same," she added. For this particular scene, all the women from the show including cast, crew and staff members of ABC wanted to be a part of it revealed Vernoff.
"That hallway contains nearly the entire female writing staff [of Grey's]. It contains exec producers on the show, exec producers in Shondaland, most of our female crew members," That entire hallway is Shondaland women and that is because they wanted to do it. So many women came up to us after the table read and asked if they could be in that scene. They were willing to lose a day's pay to be in that scene," Vernoff told THR. It definitely had to be a difficult episode to shoot, but it seems there were a few things ABC was worried about and Shonda Rhimes fought back during the making of the episode.
The team initially received notes from ABC's Broadcast Standards and Practices, which said "don't be too gory"; "don't be too explicit in your language"; "no side boob." In addition to all of these conditions, they also got a request that said, "Please don't show any fluid on the Q-tips" and "Please don't show any body fluids under the blue lights." Shonda Rhimes then wrote back to them, questioning how they were okay with showing actual violence, but not a medical response to violence. She firmly stated, "Respectfully, I decline these notes." ABC understood and said, "You're right. You can proceed as scripted."