"In the criminal justice system, sexually based offenses are considered especially heinous ...." So goes the intro to each episode of this riveting offshoot of the hugely popular "Law & Order" franchise. Detectives Elliot Stabler (Christopher Meloni) and Olivia Benson (Mariska Hargitay) are the top cops investigating the stomach-churning murders and sexual assaults, and A.D.A. Alexandra Cabot (Stephanie March) prosecutes the perps. Overseeing the Special Victims Unit is Captain Donald Cragen (Dann Florek). Also joining the unit is a familiar face from NBC’s "Homicide: Life on the Street" – Detective John Munch, played by the wisecracking Richard Belzer. Munch brings his acerbic wit and street-honed investigative skills to the squad. Rounding out the team is Munch’s partner, Detective Brian Cassidy (Dean Winters), an enthusiastic newcomer, and Detective Monique Jefferies (Michelle Hurd), a young, attractive African-American woman and aggressive member of the Special Victims Unit. Each episode features a new case to solve, new victims to console as well as the constant struggle for the detectives to juggle the emotional toll of the job and the pressure it puts on their personal lives.