Mariska Hargitay: from Actress to Activist

Stefan Doyno
Katie's Take

Mariska Hargitay plays a Special Victims Unit detective on TV, but life started imitating art when she started receiving letters from victims of abuse.

“I was getting fan mail from survivors of sexual assault,” she said, “These letters just started pouring in every day -- and I’m feeling like why isn’t everyone talking about this?”

Hargitay knew that something had to be done, so she started the Joyful Heart Foundation in 2004.

The foundation’s mission is to heal, educate and empower victims of sexual assault, domestic violence and child abuse and to shed light on the darkness that surrounds these issues. The foundation has three main missions -- healing and wellness, advocacy and policy (where the organization works to help change the laws to support victims better) and education and awareness.

“Why are we blaming survivors when the blame and the stigma belongs to the perpetrator?” Hargitay asked.

While there are so many things that can be done to help victims of abuse, and while many feel powerless in not knowing where to start, Hargitay said there is one thing that everyone can do.

“By simply talking about it you can save a person’s life.”