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The Top 10 Secrets & Scandals Of 'Law & Order: Special Victims Unit' –– Real-Life Triumphs, Shocking Tragedies & Much More

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Oct. 7 2015, Published 7:13 a.m. ET

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NBC's Law & Order: Special Victims Unit has been a prime-time mainstay since its debut 16 years ago, and RadarOnline.com has the top 10 secrets and scandals from the crime drama.

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law order special victims unit photos
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The program was initially pitched under the title Sex Crimes, and completely unaffiliated with the Law & Order franchise, but NBC executives felt the title was too strong. After negotiations with Law & Order executive producer Dick Wolf, the series was put under the franchise umbrella, and has thrived ever since.

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Series star Mariska Hargitay beat out actresses including Reiko Aylesworth and Samantha Mathis for the lead role of Det. Olivia Benson, according to iMDb.

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In her-now signature role playing the no nonsense investigator, Hargitay displays a photo of her late mother Jayne Mansfield, who died in June of 1967 in an auto accident during a drive from Biloxi, Mississippi to New Orleans, Louisiana. A young Mariska, only 3-years-old, was in the car, suffering minor injuries while in the backseat with her two brothers.

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Hargitay's onscreen sensitivity and bedside manner in speaking with sex crime victims isn't just totally acting: the star is a trained rape crisis counselor, and the founder-president of a nonprofit called the Joyful Heart Foundation, which provides awareness and aid to survivors of domestic violence and sex assault.

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The actress and other cast members, unsurprisingly, have been thanked in public frequently for their work on the gritty program, TV Guide reported.

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One of the star's biggest fans is Taylor Swift, who famously named her cat after Hargitay's character, Olivia Benson. The singer and actress have since struck up a friendship, and occasionally work together.

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Ice-T, who plays the role of Odafin "Fin" Tutuola on the show, was only initially supposed to appear for a four-episode story arc. After expressing his desire to continue, producers made him a permanent cast member on the prime-time program.

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Comic-turned-actor Richard Belzer has portrayed snarky, brilliant Det. John Munch on a number of other series outside of the Law & Order family. The character, which originated in 1993's Homicide: Life on the Street, has been written into episodes of The X-Files, The Beat, Arrested Development and The Wire.

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While the show is set in New York City, it's primarily filmed in North Bergen, New Jersey.

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One shocking episode -- 2013's "My Funny Valentine" -- put a twist to the Rihanna-Chris Brown relationship, documenting the troubled ongoings between two fictional R&B superstars. Brown's alter ego was tweaked to "Caleb Bryant."

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