It’s imperative to envision a world where women can feel safe, says Mariska Hargitay. Inspired by her role on NBC’s hit “Law & Order: Special Victims Unit,” she created the Joyful Heart Foundation to heal, educate and empower survivors of sexual assault, domestic violence and child abuse. For her work creating the foundation, Hargitay is receiving the Karma Award from the Karma Automotive company at Variety’s Power of Women New York luncheon on April 8 at Cipriani Midtown. Karma Automotive will make a donation to Joyful Heart.
“The fact that there’s this underlying belief that a world without sexual assault and domestic violence is not a realistic goal is one of the major obstacles to getting there,” Hargitay says. “It’s our responsibility to apply our best thinking to these issues that have been underfunded, under-researched, and under-regarded for so long,” adds the mom of three, whose “No More” PSA campaign — which she directed — has generated more than 4 billion media impressions. “I believe the resistance to making them a priority is deeply entrenched in the way women are regarded in our world.”
Through Joyful Heart, Hargitay has worked with the medical community, the criminal justice system and law enforcement to generate attention, funding and, most importantly, legislation. This year’s Joyful Revolution Gala — an event that’s raised over $10 million over the past eight years — will honor Vice President Joe Biden, author of the landmark Violence Against Women Act, at New York City’s Lincoln Center.
“It’s very significant for us because we’re not only expanding the reach of the evening, but we’re seeing these issues that have been in the margins for so long take center stage at one of the great cultural institutions of the world,” says Hargitay, who’s grateful for how her onscreen persona has informed her offscreen passion. “Through this role, I had my mind and heart opened to both the prevalence and the deep and lasting impact of these epidemics. That first moment of ‘Wait, this can’t be. Why isn’t everyone talking about this?’ still propels me forward. The end will not come overnight. But I’m confident that change — and the end of violence — will come.”