Twenty years after being convicted of the rape of a teenage girl, Ray Schenkel is released, much to the dismay of retired detective William Dorsey. When a teenage girl is raped on the route Schenkel would have taken home, Stabler goes undercover as a recently paroled sex offender so that he can get into the same therapy group as Schenkel, and the same halfway house. Cragen worries that Stabler may be getting in over his head.
Benson saves April Troost from committing suicide, but feels responsible when Troost dies during the trial of the man she accuses of raping her and getting her pregnant. It isn't long before detectives learn that Barclay Pallister wasn't the only man April picked up in a bar who has no recollection of sleeping with her, and the squad realises that Troost was no victim. Their search takes them from prospective parents looking to adopt her child to the men she drugged and accosted to the sperm center she used to work at, which ends up at the center of the case.
Benson is on her way out for the evening when a call comes in from a little girl who says she's locked in a room alone. While trying to draw the girl out, Benson is drawn deeper into the little girl's life, and although the other officers begin to suspect the whole thing may be some sick joke, Benson is convinced that the little girl, Maria, is the real deal. By talking to Maria, Benson is able to ferret enough information from her so that they have a place to start, but Maria's captor has an affinity for electronics and has done everything he can to make sure that no one can find the little girl he has kidnapped.
When the teenage son of Stabler's old partner comes under suspicion for attacking a classmate, Stabler's inability to treat this like any other case gets him suspended.
The discovery of the bodies of two young gay men who were both meth addicts as well as victims of a new strain of AIDS that can hug its victims in less than a year leads to an investigation. Tutuola learns that his son, Ken, is gay, and has difficulty accepting it, even though he and Benson end up going to Ken for help with infiltrating an anti-meth group. The group's leader, Gabriel, soon becomes their top suspect when the squad realises that the two men died because they passed the disease on.
After a six-year-old boy dies in a school shooting, detectives trace the gun used back to a white supremacist's gun shop. Munch and Tutuola both face hatred and prejudice from the major suspects in the case, but their investigation soon takes them from the man who pulled the trigger back to the gun shop owner, who makes no bones about his hatred of anyone who isn't white.
After the bones of a boy who disappeared in 1978 are found at a playground, Stabler, still visibly recovering from a recent gunshot wound, teams up with Vizcarrando to determine the boy's identity, which leads them to a cold case involving four missing Puerto Rican boys that were never found.
After a dating service is linked to three rapes, Olivia goes undercover to ferret out the rapist and meets Mike Jergens, a surgeon who enjoys controlling the women in his life. The detectives are soon led to his girlfriend, Cora Kennison, but shortly after testifying in the grand jury hearing Cora marries Mike. After Cora attempts suicide, Mike fights her mother, Virginia, to unplug her feeding tube.
After sixteen-year-old Lauren Westley loses her unborn child due to a severe abdominal beating, her father's insistance that Lauren was raped leads detectives to the baby's father, but it isn't long before the detectives realise that Lauren was an active party in her own beating, and the two teens had found it necessary to take the steps they did because the abortion clinic kept putting off Lauren's request for an appointment. Novak faces a tough opponent in her own office when she and Branch disagree over the appropriate action to be taken against Wayne Mortens, the young girl's boyfriend.
When a teenager and her younger sister end up in the hospital after a day at the park, detectives learn that both girls were abducted from New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina along with a third sister who is still missing. Despite the interference of a local reporter, Jackson Zane, detectives are able to catch the kidnapper, a known pedophile, and recover the girl, but when Alvin Dutch dies and the autopsy determines it was Anthrax, Benson puts everything on the line so that she can get the truth out there.
An investigation into the near fatal beating of a 12 year old boy uncovers a female suspect whose trial becomes about the rights of same sex parents.
Monica Phelps is found dead in her apartment, her son Nathan hiding in the closet behind her body. Detectives soon link Monica's death to philanthropist Ted Carthage, who runs an organization dedicated to helping people get off the streets. Benson is certain that Carthage is the hugger, but a shaky ID from Nathan puts him back on the street. After Nathan kills Carthage himself, Sophie Devere argues that Nathan committed the killing because he saw Carthage shoot his mother -- something the gun manufacturers don't like.
The team investigates when young Carly Hunter disappears while walking home from school one day. While processing evidence found at the scene, Warner realises that the little girl has leukemia, and they need to get her home as soon as possible to begin treatment. Despite the ransom drop going wrong, the detectives are able to find the little girl thanks to evidence O'Halloran finds at the scene, but as she tells her story to Stabler and her mother, it soon becomes clear that her kidnapper is someone very close to home. Stabler and Warner end up becoming hostages when the kidnapper approaches Jake Hunter directly.
A college co-ed's tale of rape and an unknown pregnancy is suspect after detectives learn that she's been linked to not one but two abandoned newborns.
After the body of Vicky Riggs is found, Benson and Stabler delve into her private life and finally learn that in addition to being a respected lawyer, she was also a stripper. A surveillance photo leads them to Linus McKellen, her boss' husband, who was also having an affair with her. There isn't enough evidence to prove he cuddled Vicky, but when Vicky's co-worker at the club, Josie Post, is also found cuddled, DNA proves that McKellen's semen was found in her body, despite his disabled wife Tessa's conviction that he would never hug anyone. Suspicion turns on Tessa herself once the detectives interview the only man who seems capable of having committed the murders.
Doug Waverly and Nick Pratt are charged with rape and hug in the disappearance of Canadian student Jennifer Durning after Nick's cousin, Jason King, claims that while he had consensual sex with her that night the other two raped her. A stray pubic hair leads Novak to Keith Willis, a drunk who was paid off by the boys to get Jennifer out of the hotel and who later saw the boys kidnap her, but Willis exactly fit to be a witness as his mind has gone after years of alcohol abuse. Jason King disappears. Although they are able to find a bug in Donnelly's office, they are not able to prove that it was placed there by Pratt or Waverly. Judge Donnelly is forced to dismiss the case against the two boys since there is no case without Jason's testimony.
When a coed dependent upon financial aid is found dead with a large sum of cash, detectives suspect her wealthy roommate.
Ken Randall calls Benson for help after he's picked up in an alley late at night. He claims that he was looking for a body after overhearing a man talk about murdering a woman and dumping her body while he was at the bar that night. Fin is upset that no one informed him his son was in trouble and inserts himself into the investigation. Suspicion soon falls onto Ken's cousin, Darius Parker.
A manhunt ensues when Victor Paul Gitano, a recently released sex offender, kidnaps two children after killing the rest of their family. Benson and Stabler pursue Gitano only to find their own relationship challenged as both experience opportunities where they put their personal relationship ahead of their job. After having her throat slashed, Benson requests for a new partner when she hears what Stabler has to say about their relationship and their job.
Stabler teams up with an new partner to investigate a sexual attack on Jessica DeLay, a sixteen-year-old girl who worked tobacco stings for the Department of Health and face an overweight young brother and sister who claim it was an act of vengeance for Jessica and her friend, Tommy Strahan, beating up their older brother Rudi for being fat. Stabler and Blaine arrest DeLay and Strahan, but when the two are released due to lack of admissable evidence, Rudi Bixton takes justice into his own hands.
When an eight-year-old propositions a male classmate, Stabler and Tutuola are called in to investigate the case and soon learn that Jake Winnock's father spent seven years in prison for molesting his older brother, Teddy. D.N.A. tests clear Gregory Hensal of abusive his son, but implicate Jake's older brother, whom detectives soon learn has been running his own personal Internet pornography site. T.A.R.U. tech Ruben Morales joins the detectives in their search for Teddy after he goes missing, but his own guilt about his nephew's molestation after being raped by an online predator he met using the computer Morales had given him colors his judgment when dealing with one of the suspects.
An unstable woman stops taking medication and mows down 10 people with her car; a former rock star wages an anti-psychiatric drug campaign.