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In 2004, advocate and actress Mariska Hargitay, also known as Detective Olivia Benson on Law & Order, founded the Joyful Heart Foundation. The actress has taken her talents and abilities to the next level by not only providing her status and visibility as an actress, but in opening a way for those abused to get help.
Joyful Heart’s Mission is to heal, educate and empower survivors of sexual assault, domestic violence and child abuse and to shed light into the darkness that surrounds these issues. Joyful Heart has guiding values as well to support their mission, which are Integrity, Collaboration, Mindful Conduct, Community, Creativity and Possibility. These values drive the mission and the Vision.
Joyful Heart is:
- a community that is empowered with knowledge, courage and compassion to help survivors of sexual assault, domestic violence and child abuse heal mind, body and spirit
- a community that values and dedicates resources to individuals and families that have been impacted by these issues
- a community that seeks to ignite and foster an open dialogue about how to collaboratively end the cycle of violence and abuse.
- A community that says: “We envision a community that says to a survivor, “We hear you. We believe you. We feel for you. You are not alone. And your healing is our priority.”
When I started playing Detective Olivia Benson on Law & Order: Special Victims Unit a decade ago, my eyes were opened to the silenced epidemics of sexual assault, domestic violence and child abuse in this country. It wasn’t just the scripts for the show, but in the many emails I received from viewers disclosing their stories of abuse, many for the first time… I felt a great responsibility to the brave men and women and wanted them to know that they had been heard and that they could have hope. I studied the subject, trained to become a crises counselor, and used my visibility as an actress to become an advocate. The result was the Joyful Heart Foundation, an organization dedicated to providing support and encouragement for survivors.
What Mariska Hargitay learned were the staggering statistics about sexual abuse right here in the United States:
- 1 in 3 women report being physically or sexually abused by a husband or boyfriend at some point in their lives.
- Every 2 minutes in the United States someone is sexually assaulted.
- Nearly 4 children die every day in this country as a result of child abuse and neglect. And up to 10 Million children witness domestic violence each year.