Mariska Hargitay Helps Survivors of Rape and Violence Find Hope

Mariska Hargitay Charity
Charley Gallay/Getty Images

'SVU' thesp launched Joyful Heart Foundation in 2004

Mariska Hargitay’s fictional life on “Law & Order: Special Victms Unit” inspired her to launch the very real Joyful Heart Foundation.

The mission of the foundation, launched in 2004, is to heal, educate and empower survivors of sexual assault, domestic violence and child abuse.

As Hargitay says on to “It all started when I began my work on ‘Law & Order: Speical Victims Unit’ over a decade ago. In my research for my role, I encountered statistics that shocked me: One in three women report being physically or sexually abused by a husband or boyfriend at some point in their lives. Every two minutes in the United States, someone is sexually assaulted. More than five children die every day in this country as a result of child abuse and neglect, and up to 15 million children witness domestic violence in their homes each year.

“I was also getting letters from viewers who were disclosing their stories of abuse to me. Normally, I’d get letters saying ‘Hi, can I please have an autographed picture,’ but now it was different: ‘I’m 15 and my dad has been raping me since I was 11 and I’ve never told anyone.’”

Hargitay realized she could use her fame created through her work as Det. Olivia Benson on “SVU” to draw attention to the issues surrounding abuse and domestic violence.

Joyful Heart has served more than 13,000 individuals through its healing and wellness programs, connected more than 1.5 million people through its website and online offerings to resources that offer help and effected policy changes in many states.

“Joyful Heart is about the courage to heal, and our programming is dedicated to honoring that brave decision,” says Hargitay.

The nonprofit works with legislators, the medical community, law enforcement and the criminal justice system to craft and enact laws dealing with sexual and family violence.

Hargitay herself is a vocal advocate, testifying before Congress urging lawmakers to address the backlog of untested rape kits in the U.S. She also launched, a website dedicated to this issue. She recently made her directorial debut with the star-laden campaign for No More, the nation’s first unifying symbol to end domestic violence and sexual assault.

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  1. Ken Clark says:

    We applaud Mariska Hargitay tireless effort, dedication and using her voice through her organization in helping to heal, educate and empower survivors of sexual assault, domestic violence and child abuse.

    I wish that more film and tv personalities would help raise awareness for all types of victims of violent crimes including murder, elder abuse, intimate partner abuse and human trafficking.

    Every voice is needed until the voices become some deafening that every victim is assured the help they need.

  2. Abuse survivor says:

    I was raped, beaten, and tortured throughout my childhood by my (therapist-identified) sociopathic father. Law & Order SVU is the one show on tv that reflects the reality of my childhood. I cry throughout episodes, touched by the heroic work of the cops and lawyers who advocate for victims in a way that the system never did for me. I also relate to the continuing discussion of how people can do such terrible things, especially to vulnerable children, even their own. It’s really wonderful that Mariska Hargitay took these stories to heart and created this foundation.

  3. Mary Pitts says:

    I am a recent victim of rape. Finding Joyful Heart gives me hope of recovery and healing. Thank you for being there. Mary

  4. karen says:

    someone needs to rewrite the domestic violence laws the abuser gets away with everything narcissistic sociopaths are very savy at manipulating everyone from the victim to the police and courts and judges my daughters estranged husband gets away with everything she has been raped now three times the third time she got smart and has an audio recording of what he did the childrens voices are on the tape either the judge or nfl is protecting him nowhere to turn he just desided to not show up for court and nothing is being done about it she has good attorneys but the law is in the judges hands

  5. Debby Woodin says:

    Mariska is my favorite actor also. She is a caring person and she has a passion for others, and she has a great heart. Her heart goes out to help women that went through sexaul assualt.

  6. mariska is a talented, lovely and caring woman doing great works and this honor for here is well deserved! and she is my favorite actress, olivia, on my favorite show: svu

  7. Susan. Champlin says:

    I worked at a Domestic Violence shelter until July this year when it closed. I so admire you for the outdtanding work you are doing. God bless you Mariska.

  8. Veneta Britt says:

    Marsiska has always been a wonderful actress, but I did not realize that “A Joyful Heart” was her own charity. CLASS ACT LADY. Not only a talented actress but a loving person. Thank you for your heart and soul that you would find this way to give back.

  9. Roxanne Santoro says:

    Brenda,you took the words out of my mouth-Mariska is not only a terrific actress-But also a great person.

  10. I am so glad that an actress with real talent is finally being recognized for her accomplishments. Congratulations Mariska.

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