In SVU's midseason return, Hargitay's Benson is found facing her attacker William Lewis (Pablo Schreiber) in court. The actress said it was important to have her character face her attacker because people sometimes need "to be reminded of their own strength."
"[A] lot of time people sort of put Benson up on a pedestal, right? Because they think she's so strong, 'I wish I could be like that.' A lot of this is sort of Joyful Heart-induced and I always say, 'She's not so strong.' We can't define ourselves by an event. That's something that happened to you," she said backstage at the Today show.
"I think it was important for her to face him again because she can, and victims, I feel, need to sometimes be reminded of their own inner strength. That's what I wanted to do," she continued.
"Yes, it's a struggle. I couldn't take any of the advice I've been giving people all these years because it's different once you're in it and it just shows how hard it is and how courageous she is. But that's what I love about her, it's not that it's not hard, it's that we feel the fear and we do it anyway and we fight through. And she is a fighter, even at all odds. He was in her head; she didn't know that she could do it. Plus, she's battling a moral issue, which is she's under oath, that's her badge. It's her honor. For me, I found the story so compelling, I thought it was even better than the season premiere."
Hargitay added that she couldn't sleep before shooting some of the courtroom scenes for Wednesday's episode.
"I was so scared," she explained. "Scared as an actor, just hoping it was going to be good, and then scared because I knew where I had to go. It was like double, you're scared because you want it to be good because the premiere was so good and I wanted to make it as raw and truthful and frightening and nuanced on different levels as it was."
In the end, Hargitay said she was "extremely" pleased with how the episode turned out.
"It was one of the best shows," she said.
As for her future in the show, the actress told E! News she "does't know what's going to happen." Hargitay is set to direct an upcoming episode of SVU in the near future.
"It's a long time coming," she said, "I've wanted to do it for a while. There are a lot of things that I've learned and collected. I know how to get performances, I know what buttons to push in people and I've been doing it for a long time.
Law & Order: SVU airs Wednesdays at 9 p.m. on NBC.