Actress Mariska Hargitay is well recognized for her role as special victims investigator Olivia Benson on the TV show Law and Order: SVU, but she's just as passionate about advocating for survivors of sexual and domestic violence in real life.
Hargitay founded the Joyful Heart Foundation, which has become a leading organization to help change societal responses to child abuse, domestic violence, and sexual assault while supporting survivors through the healing process. Just this week, Hargitay sat at a national government round-table discussion to address rape kit backlogs, and she did not hold her tongue.
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"These are not kits sitting on a shelf. These are people’s lives sitting on a shelf," she said. "And we have been letting perpetrators go by not testing these kits and saying we don’t care about this issue. This is about a revolution. This is about facing these issue head on."
Hargitay has been working to minimize the number of rape kits that go untested. She attended the Bipartisan Task Force to End Sexual Violence's first round-table to bring this issue to light.
"Today, only eight states have laws requiring testing in both current or backlogged kits. That means in most states, the decision to send kits for testing is left up to the discretion of an individual. We must reverse that trend to ensure that every kit connected to a reported case is tested," she said. "The numbers don’t lie—testing all kits solves crimes and saves lives. A survivor’s legislative district should not determine the outcome of their case or their right to information."
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The round-table also discussed the lack of specialty trained sexual assault nurse examiners (SANE nurses).
The SVU actress's passion for helping survivors in real life has not gone unnoticed. This week, she was honored at the Elly Awards, which recognizes female leaders.
Considering how much good Hargitay has brought to the world through her activism and advocacy, we think "leader" is the perfect word for her.