After practicing piano, Sarah returns to her apartment building and shares an elevator with Michael. Moments later, Michael forces himself into Sarah's apartment and holds her at gunpoint. Nervous, Sarah offers Michael a beer and money. Michael rapes Sarah. The next day, Sarah reports the rape to Benson. Sarah says she waited because she had a recital. Sarah blames herself for not putting up more of a fight against Michael. Benson tells Sarah she's alive and that's all that matters.
Benson and the gang begin researching the case. Sarah is a sophomore at the Manhattan Academy of Music. A crisis counselor named Jen tells Sarah that since she showered after the rape, it will be difficult to prosecute. Jen even tells Sarah she doesn't have to press charges. Benson immediately objects to Jen's comments. Benson tells Sarah she's not alone and urges her to stand up for herself. She even accompanies Sarah back to her apartment. Sarah is shaken to find that her apartment is still a mess.
Back at the precinct, Benson and the gang review surveillance footage from the elevator moments before Sarah's rape. They see Sarah enter the elevator just before Michael makes his way in. They seem friendly. Later, Sarah's boyfriend Paul comes by with flowers to celebrate her successful recital. Sarah makes up an excuse and says she'll see him later. That night, Fin and Rollins mistakenly handcuff some suspects who look like Michael. Meanwhile, Sarah sees Michael at a bar. Chillingly, he smiles at her.
Sarah tells Amaro and Benson that she saw Michael at a bar. They immediately come to her aid and arrest Michael. Amaro finds marijuana and a gun on Michael. Amaro and Fin have gathered all the suspects - including Michael - on the corner. Benson drives by with Sarah who states that Michael is the man who raped her. At the trial, Michael's mother introduces Counselor Barry Ellis to her son. Ellis is the best defense Michael could ever ask for. Meanwhile, Benson introduces Sarah to Bureau Chief Mike Cutter, the prosecution on the case.
Cutter reviews the case with Sarah. Now that Ellis is onboard, they have got to get their facts straight. Ellis started the NY Center for Civil Liberties, and there's no doubt he's determined to win Michael's case. Cutter asks about Sarah's boyfriend Paul. Sarah is hesitant to involve him; Paul's Sarah's piano teacher at the school and could lose his job. Then Sutter asks Sarah when she last had sex. She says it was two weeks ago. Sarah is curt and distracted. It's hard to tell if she's really divulging all she knows.
Later, Fin and Rollins tell Benson that Sarah frequented a local bar and was there the night before her rape. She was drunk and flirting with a guy who wasn't her boyfriend. When Benson and Cutter ask Sarah about it, she's defensive. Later, Ellis shows the SVU team he's not playing around. He demands a copy of the elevator surveillance footage and accuses Fin and Rollins of racial profiling only days before. That night, Sarah learns that Michael's out on bail thanks to Ellis. She clearly terrified.
Benson takes the stand to defend her approach to Sarah's case. Ellis objects the fact that Michael wasn't officially brought into the station to be identified; instead, Sarah pointed him out while he was handcuffed on the street. Later, Ellis questions Amaro about the gun Amaro claimed Michael was carrying during arrest. Ellis suggests that both Amaro and Benson acted quite questionably and made many assumptions during the case. Meanwhile, Sarah tells her concerned father that she was raped.
Medical results show that there was evidence of fresh semen on Sarah's bed. It didn't belong to Michael or her boyfriend Paul. Later, Sarah admits that she had a one-night stand the night before she was raped. Benson tells Sarah that she needs to start telling the truth. This little white lie could create reasonable doubt, and Ellis will eat this up. On the stand, Michael claims he didn't have a gun on his person when Amaro arrested him. He admits to being a pot dealer, but not a rapist. He says Sarah invited him to her apartment and pursued him.
Ellis questons Sarah while she's on the witness stand. He asks why Sarah took so long to report the rape and tells the jury that she played a recital right after the alleged incident. Ellis then brings up Sarah's partying at a bar only one night before. He gets Sarah to admit she had a one-night stand with a man who looks just like Michael. It's clear Ellis is putting Sarah on trial and there's nothing Cutter or Benson can do about it. Later, the jury comes back with their verdict; they find Michael not guilty.
Benson rushes up to Sarah before she can storm out of the courtroom. Benson tells Sarah she did the right thing accusing Michael. Sarah feels humiliated and crushed. She takes her rage out on Benson before leaving. Outside the courtroom, Benson harshly condemns Ellis for his brutal tactics. Ellis counters that the SVU team bungled the case and that if Michael were white, he'd be let off easily. The two recognize and respect each other's passion for justice. Ellis invites Benson to one of his daughter's softball games, but Benson declines.