A young woman (Lauren Hodges) reports that her baby has been tossed out of a car. Benson and Stabler learn that she is addicted to prescription pain killers and this leads them to an elderly woman (Melinda Dillon) who lives with her son (Matt Schulze) and daughter-in-law (Christine Elise). The young woman identifies the daughter-in-law as the one who sold her the drugs, but when the detectives go to confront her, they find the drug dealer dead. Stabler uses his influence as a police officer when his daughter, Kathleen, is arrested for drunk driving.
Benson and Stabler investigate the rape and murder of a woman found with a wad of money stuffed in her mouth. They trace the money to a lawyer (Bradley Cooper) handling the finances of a wealthy family. The woman (Angela Lansbury) demands that the detectives stay away from her son (Alfred Molina) even though they suspect that he preys on illegal immigrants who do not report the crimes out of fear of getting deported. The people are short on evidence until a Bosnian immigrant has the courage to come forward. Angry about exposing the fact that she was raped, her brother (Stelio Savante), an Islamic fundamentalist, brutally assaults ADA Casey Novak.
An eighteen-year-old girl (Molly Bea Spears) is abducted by a rapist, causing her family (Marianne Hagan and Taylor Spreitler) to offer a substantial reward for her safe return. A self-proclaimed psychic (Martin Short) comes forward claiming to have information and the girl is found dead shortly thereafter. Stabler refuses to believe that the man in the squadroom is a real psychic. As he drops hints and plays calculating mind games, it becomes increasingly apparent that either he or his wife (Mary Mara) is involved.
A fifteen-year-old girl (Danielle Panabaker) is caught about to have sex with her twenty one-year-old boyfriend (Jon Foster) by her mother (Cathy Moriarty), who demands that the police charge him with statutory rape, despite her daughter's objections. On their way to the hospital, Benson calls a children's rights lawyer (Glenne Headly) who interrupts the exam. This backfires when the mother is found brutally murdered and the young lovers are the prime suspects. The detectives try to piece together what led to the murder and discover a history of violence and alcohol abuse by the deceased.
A series of drug-related hits leads the detectives back to the notorious drug lord Cesar Velez. The detectives are left with one survivor (Reymond Wittman), a scared child whom the drug lords are trying to finish off. The gun used in the murders is linked to Liam Connors (Brían F. O'Byrne), one of Velez's top agents. Connors has a strong defense which almost gets him acquitted until Benson and Stabler arrest him for trying to kill ADA Alexandra Cabot a year earlier. Alex returns from witness protection to assist with the case.
The discovery of a body leads to a man (Matthew Modine) arrested by Stabler fourteen years ago. Stabler swears that he will not let him get away with rape and murder for a second time. The squad can only hold him for twenty-four hours, but after a visceral interrogation are able to glean enough information during that time period to have a place to start. Cragen and Benson both worry that Stabler will let his hatred for the suspected child molester interfere with his ability to do his job.
A rape / murder preceded by a vehicular assault against the victim is discovered to be a recreation of a violent video game called Intensity. Interviewing the game's creators leads the detectives to a former employee (Matthew Faber), who then leads them to a teenage couple (Seth Gabel and Trisha LaFache) who claim to be unable to distinguish fantasy from reality.
When the body of a teenager (Janae Kram) is found with an ID belonging to her older cousin (Jessica Dunphy), Benson and Stabler learn that she and her best friend (Hayden Panettiere) were sexually promiscuous. They later learn that she was an HIV-positive prostitute working for a porn director (Matt Malloy), and the object of an older man's obsession.
The body of a seven-year-old child reported missing in 1980 is found and the squad begins to investigate convicted serial killer Lucas Biggs (John Savage) who is on death row in Virginia. While Biggs can detail every child he ever molested, he swears he has no memory of this one. The squad learns that the boy was killed by one of Biggs' former victims (Terry Serpico) who, unbeknownst to his wife (Angelica Torn), lives a secret life as a child molester passing on the abusive habits he learned. Someone kills the suspect before he can be picked up. When a man (Michael Shannon) confesses to picking off a rapist, the detectives need to decide whether he committed the crime or whether he confessed out of trauma and shame.
Complications ensue in the investigation of a gangbanger who fell off a building after the victim that he tried to rape bit him in self-defense. When Detectives Benson and Stabler are sure that they have found the victim (Reiley McClendon), his twin sister (Reiley McClendon) admits to biting the gangbanger even though the bite came from someone who was chromosomally male. The twins are shocked at the revelation that their parents (John Bolger and Hillary Bailey Smith) tried to raise one of them as a girl after a botched circumcision. Investigation reveals more regarding the ulterior motive of a doctor (Peter Firth) to prove that nurture supersedes nature.
In their investigation of a serial rapist, the detectives enlist the help of a former cop turned psychiatrist (Mary Stuart Masterson) in order to reach out to a paranoid schizophrenic (Amanda Plummer), who remembers being attacked by the perpetrator but is unable to express her account of it.
A medical exam of a nine-year-old girl (Jennette McCurdy) who survived a car accident with her parents reveals that she was a victim of sexual abuse. Out of fear and desperation, she ends up blaming the wrong suspect (Daniel Hugh Kelly), leading to a rash of false accusations against him by other girls.
After a woman's head is found in a car junkyard, SVU detectives track it down to the black market. This journey exposes them to the tragic lives of people who die waiting for kidney transplants. Through the organ dealer (Marc Grapey), Stabler and Munch learn that the parents (Kevin Carroll and Cherita Armstrong) of a dying boy (Tyler James Williams) broke the law to get him on the fast track to receiving a kidney. The two begin to feel like they cost an innocent person his life until someone close to Munch (Marlee Matlin) makes a sacrifice.
When a college student (Shannyn Sossamon) claims rape and her professor (Billy Campbell) claims it was consensual sex, Stabler and Benson find themselves in the middle of a "he said, she said" battle. The argument indirectly reveals that Stabler has become separated from his wife. Stabler initially believes the professor but changes his mind when he sees him manipulate his daughter (Carolyn Miller). Benson initially believes the student but changes her mind when she stages a suicide attempt to gain sympathy. Unsure of where blame lies, they make their way to the courtroom to hear the jury's verdict.
A missing high school student (Amanda Seyfried) is found at a construction site, claiming that she was raped by several men in uniform. In what becomes an increasingly fraught investigation, Benson and Stabler have to deal not only with the media frenzy surrounding the case, but also with the girl's changing account of the events.
The five-year-old son (Michael and Max Illes) of a psychiatrist (Kyle MacLachlan) disappears from a birthday party, and is later found dead by the police. As the detectives investigate, the pool of suspects gradually shrinks, until the evidence eventually points in an unexpected direction (Jordan Garrett).
The SVU squad races against the clock to solve the puzzles and uncover the clues scattered throughout the city by a taunting copycat serial killer (Doug Hutchison). With the help of his mother (Anne Meara), the squad is able to save a survivor of the original crime.
A teenage actress (Maggie Grace) is raped while sleeping in her trailer. The producer (Nestor Serrano) of the show, which features sexually suggestive content, suspects that the rape was orchestrated as part of a media decency campaign led by a protective mother (Dana Delany). The SVU discovers that it was her son (Ricky Ullman) who committed the rape because he thought it would impress a radio shock jock (Lewis Black). This leads to two trials focusing on the influence and power of entertainment media.
A child abandonment incident prompts Benson and Stabler investigate the disappearance of a mother. They learn from her sister that she made a deal with human traffickers to have her teenage daughter smuggled to New York from China. It is revealed that the teenage immigrant has been forced into prostitution and that her life is being used as a bargaining chip by the gangsters to avoid prosecution. When the squad captures the gang's leader, Detective Stabler is able to get help from one of his junior members by convincing him that the bright future he was promised is a lie. After arresting a corrupt immigration attorney, the NYPD finally learns where the captive women are being held. Detective Stabler arrives just in time to keep the promise he made.
A young woman appears to be raped and left for dead, but she was trying to kill herself, and when she succeeds, the woman who helped her is put on trial.
A spy cam in a bathroom uncovers the molestation of a 12-year-old boy by his high school principal, but the explanation for her behavior is quite shocking.