The new "Grey's Anatomy" episode, "Silent All These Years," premiered Thursday night and shined a strong light on sexual assault. The powerful episode, on ABC, documented everything from the process of reporting to the trauma and emotions attached to the process.
A woman, Abby, played by Khalilah Joi, explained her injuries to doctors at Grey Sloan Memorial Hospital at the beginning of the episode with several explanations, including hitting her head on a kitchen cabinet and a mishap at a hockey game.
But some of the doctors were hesitant to believe her, as physical evidence of assault was very apparent.
She later revealed she was attacked after a night out in which drinking occurred, but does not want to report her assault.
"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 emotionally declared 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.
The staff convinced her to submit to a rape kit test, in case she changed her mind about reporting the incident later.
Showrunner Krista Vernoff described the episode as "the most powerful hour of TV I've ever been a part of in my 20-year career," in an interview with The Hollywood Reporter.
She said the idea for the episode stemmed from watching the Christine Blasey Ford testimony last year. Blasey Ford accused now-Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh of sexual assault while they were in high school during her testimony before the Senate Judiciary Committee on Sept. 27, 2018. 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."
"I felt that through my whole body -- the way a lot of women did," Vernoff said of Ford's testimony. "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," she continued. "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."
She wanted to create a character to convey this feeling.
"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,'" she added. "We had to use our platform to do something."
They worked with RAINN, the Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network, in order to make the content and language of the episode as accurate and sensitive as possible.
In one of the most impactful scenes from the episode, Dr. Jo Wilson, played by Camilla Luddington, arranges for the women in the hospital to line the halls of the hospital in support of Abby as she is transferred to the operating room for surgery, due to a tear in her diaphragm that affected her abdominal organs.
Abby had expressed earlier that she saw her attacker's face in every man she saw, so Dr. Wilson goes to this measure to ensure she doesn't see a man during her transfer to the operating room.
"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 continued. "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.
Women from the show, including cast, crew and ABC staff members, wanted to be in the scene, according to 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," she told THR. "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."