portion of the artwork for Alicia Gifford's story

Ugly, Tasty, SVU
Alicia Gifford

In the criminal justice system, sexually based offenses are considered especially heinous. In New York City, the dedicated detectives who investigate these vicious felonies are members of an elite squad, known as the Special Victims Unit. These are their stories.


Saturday morning he breaks into my apartment, wakes me out of a deep sleep, and rapes me. He says if I call the cops, he’ll be back, and next time, he says, he won’t be so nice. He peels off the condom, ties it off, and takes it with him, but I have several of his filthy pubes in my mouth as well as his skin junk under my nails.

“I’m Olivia,” the woman cop says, “and this is my partner, Detective Elliot Stabler.” They show their badges, come in and look around. They ask me a bunch of questions, bag up the pubes, scrape the crud from under my nails, and then they drive me to Bellevue. On the way Olivia tells me that she’s a product of rape. “Olivia Benson would not exist,” she says, “if my mother hadn’t been sexually violated. Quite the paradox.”

In the E.R., I’m rigged up in stirrups waiting for the doc to come in when Olivia tells me I need to get into a support group right away. She says she was nearly raped by a prison guard when she was doing an undercover gig as an inmate. She says she thought that she was just fine when really she was totally fucked up. She gets intense, peers into my eyes, and shifts hers back and forth. “Get help,” she says. “Don’t wait.” She smells a little boozy. Meanwhile, Stabler’s out in the hall doing push-ups.

The doctor says I’m bruised and torn down there. I get a few stitches and he gives me antibiotics and pain pills. Then the detectives take me to the police station to look at mug shots. My rapist is Hispanic, five foot four or so, stocky, pockmarked, a shaved head with dark stubble, a raised scar on his left forearm. “But mainly,” I tell them, “the main thing about my rapist is his cock. Huge,” I say. “Like a baby’s leg. A big fat baby.”

A cop whose nameplate says Det. Sgt. John Munch looks up sharply at that. He says someone fitting that description busses tables at a little Greek restaurant he frequents.

“What do you mean?” Stabler says.

“I mean a Hispanic guy with a putz like a baby’s leg works at Maltezos,” Munch says. “I took a piss same time as him and I couldn’t help notice his thing hanging like a giant geoduck. And he’s short, with acne scars.”

“This guy’s a regular crater face.” I say. “A lunar landscape.”

Munch glares at me. “The scars of acne vulgaris go deeper than just skin. It’s a psychologically devastating disease, being that it hits in adolescence when self-esteem is most fragile. A bit of sensitivity is in order.” I cringe because now I see that Munch’s face is as pitted as an open-faced English muffin.

Olivia’s sitting on the edge of a desk, nipping from a slim silver flask “How’s the moussaka?” she asks. “And what the fuck is a geoduck? Hey, I’m a poet.” She turns to me. “I’m off the clock,” she says. “It’s Miller time. Except, vodka.”

Stabler undoes his tie and slips it off. He unbuttons his shirt and tosses it on a nearby file cabinet. “Me too,” he says. “Off the clock.” He poses and flexes. He smells his armpits. Olivia raises the flask to her lips and watches.

A harassed looking bald guy walks in. “Where are we with this?” he says. “That’s not booze, is it, Detective Benson?”

“I’m off duty, Cap’n,” Olivia says. She turns to me. “This is our beloved boss, Captain Cragen.” She takes another swallow. “What’s a geoduck?”

“It’s a clam with a long schlong. Ugly, tasty,” Munch says. He turns to Cragen. “Someone who works at Maltezos matches our lovely victim’s astute description.” Now Munch smiles widely at me. He looks like a Day of the Dead calavera.

The captain barks orders: “Run the DNA. Munch, take the vic to where you think the perp works. See if you can do a quiet ID. We can get an arrest warrant if the vic—” he turns to me. “I’m sorry. Your name?”

“Coco,” I say. “Coco Farfél.” My real name is Esther Farfel. I’ve been going by Coco since I was sixteen, and I added the accent to the last syllable of Farfel when I moved to Manhattan from Long Island. Farfél. It helps.

“We’ll get Cabot to draw up a warrant if Coco makes a positive ID.” The captain turns to Olivia. “I know you’re not driving tonight.”

“Nope,” Olivia says. “Elliot’s taking me home. Right, El?”

Elliot drops to the floor to work his abs. “Yep,” he grunts. He crosses his arms over his chest and tweaks his nipples as he crunches. Olivia snorts.

So Munch, me, and Fin, a black detective with an attitude and a ponytail, go over to Maltezos, a joint that’s just six blocks from my apartment. I’ve passed it a million times but never paid attention. Anyway, I wear a wig and fake eyeglasses as a lame disguise. We sit there and order stuffed grape leaves and some lamb meatballs.

“You think Stabler’s doing Liv?” Fin asks Munch.

“Fifty bucks says: and how,” Munch replies.

Then I see him, my rapist, wiping a booth down and setting it up. I’ve felt pretty cool until now, but seeing him makes my head go light. I break into a cold sweat and get so fucking scared again, even more scared than when the rape was actually happening because I’d sort of disengaged from it then. I inhale a quick breath and a chunk of meatball sucks into my windpipe and I’m choking. I try and try to chuck it up but the meatball is stuck; I can’t breathe and my heart is hammering and I’m going to die but then Munch shoves me out of the booth, gets behind me and squeezes, one! two! three!—and it rockets from my mouth onto the table of an old man, who picks it up and eats it.

“It’s him, right?” Fin says. “Tell me if that’s the guy that raped you.”

“It’s him.” I can barely talk. I’m still hanging in Munch’s arms.

“Let’s just arrest the fuck,” Fin says, and he goes over to the guy. “You’re under arrest for the rape of Coco Farfel,” Fin says.

“Farfél,” I whisper.

My rapist acts all like: Whaaaa?—but I take off my wig and fake glasses and he sees it’s me. He tries to bolt but Fin elbows him hard in the belly, knees him on the chin, and then handcuffs him. Once he’s cuffed I get away from Munch and walk over to that short miserable sonofabitch and spit on his goddamn pockmarked face. Flecks of lamb and grape leaf stick on his cheek.

“Can I slap him?” I ask.

“G’ahead,” says Fin, looking away.

Munch shakes his head. “Violence begetting violence,” he says. “Think about it. Do you want to lower yourself to this scumbag’s level? Would you willingly put your hand on a rat?” So I don’t slap him but my meaty, leafy spit dries on that low-life’s face and remains there for his mug shot.

Suddenly I’m exhausted, limp, like every muscle fiber in my body gives up at the same instant. Munch is right there by my side. “We can finish taking your statement tomorrow,” he says. “We’ve got a squad car on the way to haul this piece of shit to his new home. I’ll give you a lift.” Fin tosses Munch the keys and we all go outside, my rapist hanging his head and shuffling his feet while Fin Mirandas him. The squad car is already there, red lights whirling. Fin and my rapist get into it and Munch and I go off in the unmarked car. He double parks it in front of my apartment and puts the patrol lights on so he can walk me to the front door. “You will be fine, Coco. We’re going to lock this guy up a long time. You did good.” He does a little bow and turns to leave, but he looks back and I must look bad, I sure feel bad, so he asks if I want some company for a bit, and I say yes.


The prosecution takes pictures of my rapist’s dick even though they have his DNA. Meanwhile, two other rape victims come forward to testify. During the trial, Assistant D.A. Alexandra Cabot asks me, “Is this the penis of the man who raped you?” “Yes,” I say. “How do you know?” “Look at it,” I say. “It’s a toothless one-eyed Moray eel.”

She hands the pictures to the jurors who raise eyebrows and nod as they pass them. A lady makes the sign of the cross. My rapist sits there in his cheap suit, the overhead lights of the courtroom reflecting off his shiny shaved head and the fat rolls on the back of his neck. His shrunken mother sifts through her rosary beads mouthing Hail Marys and Our Fathers. I picture my rapist as a fat, brown baby, his fleshy mouth leaking her milk at the corners, his giant dick hanging out of his diaper.

His public defender asks me, “So, Miss Farfel, it seems you’ve seen quite a few penises in your life. Is that right?”

Alex Cabot jumps up. “Objection!—relevance.”

“Overruled,” says the judge, a hatchet-faced woman who looks just like Judith Light from Who’s the Boss? “Answer the question.”

“First, it’s Farfél,” I say. “Second—enough penises to know freaky.”

The public defender picks up the photos, cocks his head. “No further questions,” he says in a high, thin voice. The verdict comes back in an hour: Guilty of three counts of first-degree rape. Guilty of three counts of breaking and entering. Sayonara motherfucker. I glance sideways at my rapist’s mother who doesn’t miss a beat with her prayers, but a long slow tear slides down to plunk on her rosary. For a second—whatever.

Munch takes me to Tavern on the Green to celebrate. We’re an item now, from the Woody Allen/Soon Yee Department of WTF? May/December Romances. What can I say? In a hooded sweatshirt he looks like the Grim Reaper and my friends call him Skeletor, but he takes me to the Met, to literary readings, the best restaurants, orders in French—he’s cynical, deep, and totally funny. And Jewish! Yeah, he’s been married a bunch of times, exes, alimony, yada yada, on and off antidepressants; I’m not looking to exchange I do’s anytime soon. And he doesn’t press me for sex, being that my vaginal lacerations are still healing, though he jokes about hot future three-ways with his blow-up doll. We keep our relationship on the QT from Captain Cragen since special victims aren’t supposed to get that special, but we pal around with Elliot sometimes, visiting Olivia in rehab. Elliot’s getting a divorce so he and Liv can hook up for good, once she’s clean and sober.

Olivia still bugs me about getting into a support group and Munch says it’s a good idea so I go and it’s a major downer, all these women so damaged and raw, goose-stepping along on their special victim’s trip. They say I’m with Munch because he represents safety after so much menace and violation; that he’s taking advantage of me and that I’m in denial, blah blah blah, because being raped is supposed to ruin your life forever and if it doesn’t you’re a failure as a rape survivor. Fuck them. If this is denial I’m staying here because I’m happy as a dog with a bone. A pig in shit! A clam in high water.


I’m a faithful Law & Order devotee, (with an emphasis on SVU, my favorite) and I realized as I was writing this piece that I felt like I really knew these characters, I mean, really, like I could smell Olivia’s booze breath and see the dandruff on Munch’s shoulders.

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FRiGG: A Magazine of Fiction and Poetry | Issue 27 | Law & Order Issue | Winter 2010