Mariska Hargitay is fighting for sexual abuse victims beyond her role on TV.
The “Law & Order: SVU” star is on the new cover of magazine, and in the issue she talks about how the series led her to activism.
“So many of them said, ‘I’ve never told anyone this before,’” she says of women who have told her their stories of abuse.
“Having the character, Olivia Benson, listen — that was so powerful,” she adds. “People used to call me the accidental activist. I didn’t take this job on ‘SVU’ to do this work. But I think I was meant to do this.”
Since “SVU” premiered, Hargitay has trained as a rape crisis counsellor. In 2004 she started the Joyful Heart Foundation to support survivors of domestic violence and sexual assault.
One of the organization’s top priorities has been ending the backlog of untested rape kits in the United States.
“I couldn’t believe that this could happen,” Hargitay says of the backlog. “This is a crystal clear microcosm of what is wrong with our society.”
In 2018, Hargitay produced the documentary “I Am Evidence”, spotlighting the stories of four women having their rape kits tested years after they were collected.
“That’s all these women need is to be believed,” she says. “They need to be respected and seen and heard, and have somebody go, ‘I’m so sorry.’ And that person needs to be held accountable.”
Hargitay has hope, though.
“Eradicating the rape kit backlog is no longer , it’s now,” she says. “I know that.”