When I met Mariska Hargitay 11 years ago, she took one look at me and said, "we're going to be friends." She was right, and I learned very quickly to never doubt her word or her intention, because both are rock solid. Widely known across the globe for her famous parents (Jayne Mansfield and Mickey Hargitay) and her even more famous portrayal of Detective Olivia Benson on Law & Order: SVU (which happens to be the most-watched show on television. Ever), what Hargitay should be recognized for is her infectious laugh, her fierce loyalty, her gigantic heart, her extraordinary compassion and her ability to make everyone around her feel loved, safe and incredibly special. She’s half of an incredible partnership with husband Peter Hermann (yes, #TEAMCHARLES), a kickass mother and a tremendous activist. In fact she took what many might just consider a juicy role on a wildly popular TV franchise and turned it into one of the most important organizations on the planet: The Joyful Heart Foundation, whose mission is to transform society’s response to sexual assault, domestic violence, and child abuse, support survivors’ healing, and end the violence. Which brings me to why we're here with her today. As I said, Mariska is a doer, and when she learned about the existence of the national backlog of untested rape kits in this country, she responded exactly how you would expect her to: With passion, commitment and the full expectation that we can end it. So she made a movie called I AM EVIDENCE and it premieres on HBO tonight at 8:00 pm PT/ET, 7:00 pm CT, 9:00 pm MT and 11:30 pm HBO Latino. It's something every person on this planet should watch, and its an issue every person on this planet should help Mariska fight. Read on and be inspired.
I created the Joyful Heart Foundation in 2004 to help survivors of sexual assault, domestic violence and child abuse heal and reclaim their lives. Joyful Heart was my response to both the shocking statistics I’d learned while preparing for my role on Law & Order: SVU, and the hundreds, then thousands of letters I’d received from survivors disclosing their stories of abuse, many of them for the first time. We have grown into a robust, pioneering organization, fiercely dedicated to changing the way our society responds to the issues of sexual assault, domestic violence and child abuse, and to ending — yes, ending — this violence forever.
In 2009, thanks to a report by Human Rights Watch, I learned about the national backlog of untested rape kits in this country —hundreds of thousands of sexual assault evidence collection kits sitting in police storage facilities, unopened, disregarded, sometimes literally left to rot. I honestly thought my head was going to explode. We made the backlog our advocacy priority at Joyful Heart and set about shining as bright a light as we could on this travesty. That involved launching studies on how to reengage survivors in the criminal justice system, partnering with cities to clean up their backlogs, me testifying before Congress, along with many other routes of engagement.
I also wanted as many people as possible to know not only about the existence of the backlog, but to hear the stories of the women whose kits have sat on shelves for so long. So a team of dedicated, compassionate filmmakers and I — and a group of survivors who taught me what courage was — made I AM EVIDENCE, which premieres on HBO tonight at 8:00 pm PT/ET, 7:00 pm CT, 9:00 pm MT and 11:30 pm (HBO Lati
As the landscape around these issues continues to change dramatically in this extraordinary cultural moment, where women’s individual acts of courage have brought an unprecedented wave of change, I have reflected on what has driven me to work in this field. My most immediate answer was outrage. Put most simply, what I learned made me mad, and I wanted to do something about it. But I have also been driven by hope. And fueled by possibility. And sustained by the joy of community.
I want to say a special thank you here to my friend Pam Murphy for being part of this broad community of people who know what matters, this community of people who get mad together in response to what just isn’t right, who hope together, and who are determined to do the good we can with the power we have.
For more information on the Rape Kit Backlog, and to find out how you can help, please click here.
As an actress, activist, and advocate, Mariska Hargitay has dedicated her time, talent and resources to be an inspiration and force for change. Putting her passion for healing, education and community involvement to use, Ms. Hargitay works to help not only survivors of sexual assault, domestic violence and child abuse but other causes she is passionate about.Through her role as Lieutenant Olivia Benson on NBC's Law & Order: Special Victims Unit , Ms. Hargitay was awakened to the weight that survivors of sexual assault, domestic violence and child abuse carry—the weight of shame, pain, fear, darkness, judgment and isolation—and inspired by their courage. Ms. Hargitay has been a part of multiple education and awareness campaigns around these issues for Joyful Heart and other organizations. She has made public service announcements to pass critical legislation to bring healing and justice to survivors, prevent child abuse and neglect, engage men to end violence and abuse, and most recently, produced the documentary I AM EVIDENCE with HBO, about the national backlog of untested rape kits. She has also filmed PSAs with NBC's "The More You Know" campaigns and Got Milk and has lent her time and voice to other victim assistance organizations in hopes of raising awareness and much needed financial support for their programs. Her dedication to providing assistance to sexual assault, domestic violence and child abuse survivors speaks to her depth of character and generosity of spirit. Committed to ending violence and abuse and caring for those who have survived it, Ms. Hargitay spends as much time off screen dealing with these crimes as she does while busting perps through her role as Detective Olivia Benson. In 2004, Ms. Hargitay took her commitment to a higher and more personal level by founding the Joyful Heart Foundation. The Foundation's mission is to transform society’s response to sexual assault, domestic violence, and child abuse, support survivors’ healing, and end this violence forever. Ms. Hargitay won the 2006 Emmy for Outstanding Actress in a Drama for her role as Olivia Benson, the ambitious and emotionally driven detective on NBC's Law & Order: Special Victims Unit. The role earned her an additional seven Emmy nominations, a 2004 Golden Globe Award, five SAG Award nominations and a Gracie Allen Award for American Women in Radio and Television. Ms. Hargitay has also been honored with The Good Sister Award for Advocacy at the Children's Advocacy Center of Manhattan's “100 Women Against Child Abuse" Gala Benefit in 2005, the Empowerment Award at Peace Over Violence 38th Annual Humanitarian Awards, the New York State Coalition Against Sexual Assault Special Ally Award and a 2012 Muse Award from New York Women in Film and Television. Ms. Hargitay is married to her husband, actor, writer and advocate Peter Hermann. Peter is a graduate of Yale University and was a charter member of the Teach For America Teaching Corps. He currently stars in the hit TV Land seriesYounger, and recently authored his first children’s book, “If the S in MOOSE Comes Loose” (HarperCollins). Mariska and Peter live in New York with their three children.