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Benson's mother Serena (Elizabeth Ashley), an English professor, was an alcoholic who emotionally and physically abused Olivia.In the season 2 episode "Taken", Serena Benson dies falling down a flight of subway stairs outside the entrance to a bar.Benson's life is further complicated when she is named the legal guardian of a young boy named Calvin Arliss (Charlie Tahan).Calvin's mother, Vivian (Maria Bello), abandons him and flees when Benson's investigation uncovers that Vivian (also a child of rape) may have killed her mother's rapist. Calvin lives with her for a while, until she finds Vivian and her lover Sara have relapsed into drug use.The appointment is for a trial period of one year, with the option to apply for legal adoption at the end of that period.At the end of season 17, Sergeant Mike Dodds (Andy Karl) is taken hostage by Corrections Officer Gary Munson (Brad Garrett), who ultimately kills him.Benson has been credited in 411 episodes of SVU (419 in the franchise/universe), and as of season 19, she is currently the second–longest serving character in the Law & Order universe, behind SVU's Munch.
Hargitay remains the only original cast member still present on the series.
In a later episode, "Intoxicated", Olivia mentions being engaged briefly when she was 16 to one of her mother's students; when her mother found out, she broke a bottle of vodka and went after Olivia with it.
Olivia fought back, kicked her mother twice, and ran out of the house. She has a younger half-brother named Simon Marsden (Michael Weston).
For the first twelve seasons of the show, she is partnered with Elliot Stabler (Christopher Meloni); after he resigns (offscreen) at the beginning of season 13, she is partnered with Nick Amaro (Danny Pino).
She is tough, empathetic, In the episode "Paranoia", Benson described how, despite the difficulty she faced in dealing with a two-year-old female rape victim on her second case, Karen Smythe (Khandi Alexander), who trained her, praised her for displaying a talent in dealing with victims.