KaDee Strickland talks about the show's harrowing plotline

By Jennifer Armstrong
Updated November 19, 2010 at 05:00 AM EST

Shonda Rhimes‘ ABC drama Private Practice earned a serious ratings spike this month, thanks to its unflinching portrayal of the rape of Dr. Charlotte King (KaDee Strickland). More than 10 million viewers watched the Nov. 4 episode (a 44 percent ratings surge), and the story arc provoked widespread discussion about sexual assault, its depiction on TV, and Charlotte’s decision not to report it. We talked to Strickland about the harrowing plotline.

What kinds of reactions are you getting?
The Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network hotline has just been booming. The fact that anyone felt compelled to get help or come forward or deal with it affecting someone they love…there’s nothing more extraordinary. People have thanked me. I’m reeling from that.

What did you think of Charlotte’s assertion that we rarely see rape depicted realistically on TV?
It’s so spot-on. We wanted it to be truthful, we wanted people to feel connected to this event so that perhaps they had more of a consciousness and a humanity around survivors. What you saw in the episode was brutal, but it is not half as graphic or horrible as the things I heard about in my research.

Do you think this shows TV’s power to do good?
It’s an intimate relationship television has with people. So to use the opportunity to bring a delicate subject matter into people’s consciousness is such a gift.