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Groundbreaking Grey's Anatomy Episode Increased Searches Online About Rape & Sexual Assault

Groundbreaking Grey's Anatomy Episode Increased Searches Online About Rape & Sexual Assault

TW: Rape, Sexual Assault: This is an example of how viewers can be encouraged to take action after they learn about something on television.

Grey's Anatomy is a show which challenges the norm and has been constantly breaking barriers. An article by Reuters shows just how effective an episode of the series was. We are talking about Season 15, Episode 19: Silent All These Years, which was aired in March earlier this year and was centered around sexual assault. It featured a woman named Abby who was raped. When she came into the hospital and claimed she hurt herself because of a bad fall, but as viewers recall, doctors Teddy Altman and Jo Karev tended to Abby and they convinced her to get a rape kit done. 



 

This was the first time in the history of television that a show openly addressed the process that goes behind getting a rape kit administered and the importance of consent. Naturally, Abby expressed her fear of men, when she was informed by her doctors that some of her injuries were so grave that it had caused internal bleeding and she'd need surgery. She told her doctors that she did not want to see any men neither in the hallways nor in the OT. 



 

This led to one of the most powerful scenes one has ever witnessed in the history of television drama. As Abby was wheeled to surgery in a gurney, Jo, Meredith, and Teddy made sure the hallways were lined with women, so Abby would feel safe. At the end of the episode, Grey’s star Ellen Pompeo encouraged viewers to ask for help if they were personally affected by sexual violence. She explained how to reach the free National Sexual Assault Hotline operated by the Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network, or RAINN (800-856-HOPE or via online chat hotline.rainn.org/online/).



 

To study the impact, researchers analyzed Google and Twitter trends for two weeks before and one week after the episode aired. It was discovered that conversations about RAINN on social media drastically increased after the episode aired. “Engagements with the @RAINN Twitter account and tweets mentioning ‘sexual assault hotline’ increased by 1,097% the day after the episode,” Trevor Torgerson, a medical student at Oklahoma State University Center for Health Sciences in Tulsa, said. 



 

Not to mention, the National Sexual Assault Hotline call volume increased by 43 percent in the 48 hours after the episode was aired and the volume of searches for the term “RAINN” was 41 percent larger than expected; search volumes for “rape” and “sexual assault” were 8 percent and 9 percent higher respectively, Torgerson and fellow colleagues at OSU discovered. Apparently, studies have shown that viewers can be encouraged to take action after they have been educated about something through television.



 

“TV storylines can have a powerful impact on viewers, and when coupled with an action item, such as a hotline or website, we often see a significant spike in outreach directly after the show and public service announcement,” Kate Langrall Folb, director of Hollywood, Health & Society at the USC Annenberg Norman Lear Center in Beverly Hills told the outlet. In March, Grey’s creator Shonda Rhimes tweeted about the importance of the episode. “Making scenes like this is what Shondaland is all about,” said Rhimes. “So proud.”



 

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