‘Law & Order: SVU’: How Mariska Hargitay Fights for Survivors on the Show and in Her Spare Time

Mariska Hargitay is an inspiration to people all over the world. She plays Olivia Benson, an unconventional detective with years of experience to back her up. Hargitay doesn’t just fight for survivors on Law & Order: SVU, but she also does in her spare time as well. She’s an advocate and is constantly trying to help improve the lives of survivors who have suffered from trauma or abuse.

Olivia Benson helps victims on our television screens

Det. Benson has been a critical member of the Special Victims Units since the show’s inception. For the last 21 seasons, she has fought for victims and taken down the perps. She gets justice for survivors and does whatever she has to, even at the expense of a life outside the office. She is the epitome of a good person fighting against the odds. The people working beside her know her dedication and never question her loyalty to the job.

Mariska Hargitay is an advocate off-screen as well

Mariska Hargitay
Mariska Hargitay filming for ‘Law & Order: SVU’ | Jose Perez/Bauer-Griffin/GC Images

It probably won’t surprise fans of the series to know that Hargitay isn’t just an advocate for victims on the show, but she’s also very active in her off-time as well. Hargitay never seems to take a break from the work she has committed to seeing through. She learned the reality that victims of assault and violence must endure during her years on SVU. She wanted to help them in any way she could.

Hargitay started the Joyful Heart Foundation

Mariska Hargitay started to receive letters from fans of the show who were also survivors. They told her their stories in an attempt to heal. Hargitay wanted to answer these people and help them, as is her nature. Her response to the letters was to start her foundation, Joyful Heart. Her answer seeks to help victims of abuse heal and end the violence. Hargitay created the Joyful Heart Foundation in 2004. Its mission is “to transform society’s response to sexual assault, domestic violence, and child abuse, support survivors’ healing, and end this violence forever.”

She’s a producer on ‘I Am Evidence’

Hargitay has also tried to help victims in other ways as well. She’s a producer on the highly-acclaimed documentary, I Am Evidence. The production is eye-opening and quite shocking. It follows the stories of four survivors whose rape kits sit on police shelves untested. The survivors must wade through the waters of a broken system in hopes of finding justice at the end of it all.

Hargitay’s foundation heads End the Backlog

Mariska Hargitay
Mariska Hargitay | Dimitrios Kambouris/Getty Images

End the Backlog is a program through the Joyful Heart Foundation. End the Backlog hopes to bring awareness to the extreme backlog of untested rape kits in this country. The goal according to the website is to “end this injustice by conducting groundbreaking research identifying the extent of the nation’s backlog and best practices for eliminating it; expanding the national dialogue on rape kit testing through increased public awareness, engaging communities and government agencies and officials; and advocating for comprehensive rape kit reform legislation and policies at the local, state and federal levels.”

The website allows viewers to see by state how many untested rape kits each state may have, as well as news related to the state specifically. The results are truly jaw-dropping. Some states don’t currently have data, but many do.

Mariska Hargitay is so much more than an actress on a hit series. She is participating in groundbreaking work helping victims heal and move on from horrible situations. She uses her celebrity for good and is a unique role model.