When Mariska Hargitay began playing Detective Olivia Benson on Law & Order: Special Victims Unit, the content of the scripts, as well as the research she did to prepare for the role, opened her eyes to the epidemics of sexual assault, domestic violence, and child abuse.
- 1 in 3 women report being physically or sexually abused by a husband or boyfriend at some point during their lives;
- Every two minutes, someone is sexually assaulted in the United States;
- More than 5 children die every day in the U.S. as a result of child abuse and neglect, and up to 15 million children witness violence in their homes each year.
But what really opened her eyes—and ultimately, her heart—were the thousands of letters and emails she received from survivors disclosing their stories of abuse, many for the first time. Her response was to create Joyful Heart.
Mariska founded the Joyful Heart Foundation in 2004 to help survivors heal and reclaim joy in their lives. Twelve years later, Joyful Heart is a national organization with hubs of service in Los Angeles, New York, and Honolulu. Its mission is to transform society’s response to sexual assault, domestic violence, and child abuse, support survivors’ healing, and end this violence forever.
Joyful Heart is paving the way for innovative approaches to treating trauma, igniting shifts in the way the public responds to sexual assault, domestic violence, and child abuse, and reforming and advancing policies and legislation at the city, state, and federal levels to ensure justice for survivors.