Joyful Heart is paving the way for innovative approaches to treating trauma; igniting shifts in the way the public views and responds to sexual assault, domestic violence, and child abuse; and reforming and advancing policies and legislation to ensure access to justice for survivors.

This is a snapshot of Joyful Heart’s journey.

2004 | Reclaiming joy

Mariska Hargitay is the Joyful Heart Foundation founder

While doing her research for the role of Olivia Benson on Law & Order: Special Victims Unit, Mariska Hargitay encountered staggering statistics about sexual assault, domestic violence, and child abuse. She wanted to know why everyone wasn’t talking about these issues and why they weren’t dominating the headlines and the evening news. She received letters and emails from survivors disclosing their stories of abuse, many for the first time. She wanted to answer—really answer—those letters, to address the suffering they described, and honor acts of courage they represented. 

Her answer was Joyful Heart.

Inspired by her deep connection and love for Hawai‘i, Mariska establishes Joyful Heart in Kona-Kailua in Hawai‘i to help survivors heal and reclaim a sense of joy in their lives.

2005 | Retreats: For the mind, body, and spirit

Joyful Heart develops its signature retreat program to help survivors heal in mind, body, and spirit. During the four-day survivor retreats, participants have engaged in activities to address the effects of trauma and learn how to better cope without having to discuss their experiences.

The retreats have a holistic approach, integrating traditional healing methods with creative expression, breathwork, yoga, movement, and experiencing nature. They address how the mind, body, and spirit can help with survivors’ healing process.

2007 | A path to healing

Nearly 800 survivors have participated in Joyful Heart’s programs during its first three years.

2008 | Transformation

Joyful Heart begins a formal strategic planning process, expanding its mission to include domestic violence and child abuse and further developing Joyful Heart’s philosophy and vision.

October 2008 | Growing leadership

Maile M. Zambuto is Joyful Heart Foundation's CEO

Maile M. Zambuto joins Joyful Heart as its Executive Director. She later becomes Joyful Heart’s first Chief Executive Officer in 2011.

More than 18,000 survivors and healers have benefitted from Joyful Heart’s transformative programs under Maile’s leadership through 2017. Joyful Heart has also raised $180 million in private funds and in-kind contributions and pro bono services from the start of Maile's tenure through 2017.


2009 | Namelehuapono© project

Joyful Heart establishes Namelehuapono©, a culturally-based group intervention using Hawai‘ian values, beliefs, traditions, and practices to address intimate partner, sexual, and family violence. Namelehuapono© was founded by Joyful Heart Board Member Dr. Valli Kalei Kanuha and developed under the guidance of Hawai‘ian cultural practitioners, elders, and gender violence experts. 


2010 | Reunion magazine

Mariska Hargitay is the Joyful Heart Foundation founder

Joyful Heart publishes the first issue of Reunion, a magazine to keep retreat participants and supporters connected to the organization.

After four print issues, Reunion transitioned its name to Reunion Online before becoming Our Blog. In addition to blog posts, this space is home to news items related to Joyful Heart’s work and current events, and it gives supporters ideas on how to get involved.

2010 | Heal the Healers

The first group of field professionals participate in the Heal the Healers program. The initiative was created to address the vicarious trauma professionals often deal with while regularly working with survivors. More than 12,000 healers across more than 450 organizations have taken part in the program since its establishment through 2017.

2010 | Untested rape kits

The untested rape kit backlog across the United States becomes Joyful Heart’s top advocacy priority. Hundreds of thousands of rape kits remain untested in police evidence storage. Joyful Heart continues to advocate for rape kit reform and raise awareness.

2010 | One Strong ‘Ohana Child Abuse Prevention PSA

Joyful Heart partners with the Hawai‘i Children’s Trust Fund to develop a comprehensive child abuse prevention public awareness campaign in Hawai‘i.

May 18, 2010 | Telling Amy's Story

Telling Amy's Story debuts at the Newseum in Washington, D.C. The documentary tells the story of Amy Homan McGee, who was murdered by her husband in November 2001 at their Pennsylvania home after years of abuse. Joyful Heart partnered with Verizon Foundation, PBS, and Penn State Public Broadcasting on the film.


September 2010 | The rape kit backlog brought to light on Law & Order: SVU

More than 11 million viewers tune in to “Behave,” a Law & Order: SVU episode about the consequences of the backlog of untested rape kits. The episode was inspired by the story of Helena, a survivor whose rape kit in Los Angeles was untested for years. When Neal Baer, a Joyful Heart Board Member and Executive Producer of SVU, heard about Helena’s 13-year wait for her rape kit to be tested, he was moved to create this episode dedicated to elevating the national dialogue about this problem.

September 2011 | Engaging Men campaign

The Law & Order: SVU episode “Personal Fouls” kicks off the Engaging Men campaign. The episode, which drew in more than 15 million viewers, was the show’s first focusing on sexual abuse of male children and adolescents by a trusted coach. Joyful Heart partnered with 1in6 and A CALL TO MEN to produce a public service announcement and make resources available for viewers to find information, support, and ways to get involved in efforts to end this violence.


March 13, 2013 | NO MORE

The NO MORE public awareness campaign launches. Joyful Heart is a leading partner in NO MORE, creating and producing the groundbreaking NO MORE PSA campaign. The print and video PSAs, which include more than 75 celebrities, athletes, and public figures, encourage the public to be part of the solution of ending sexual assault and domestic violence.

The campaign started with the “Excuses” and “Anthem” series highlighting the common myths people often use to blame victims and excuse perpetrators’ behaviors. This campaign marked Mariska’s directorial debut. Rachel Howald of Y&R developed the ads, and renowned celebrity photographer Timothy White shot the print ads.

The NO MORE print ads have appeared in publications from The Wall Street Journal to Vogue and Vanity Fair, and the spots have aired in all 210 U.S. media markets. As of May 2017, an audience of more than 4.5 billion online, in print, and on television have seen the campaign.

Former Vice President Joe Biden, who has tirelessly worked to help survivors of domestic violence and sexual assault, is pictured above wearing a NO MORE blue pin with Maile and Mariska.

November 8, 2013 | EndTheBacklog.org

The fully revamped EndTheBacklog.org website launches. The site is the nationally recognized online hub for up-to-date information about the untested rape kit backlog and efforts to eradicate the backlog in jurisdictions around the country. It includes an interactive map displaying information about backlogs, an extensive media and resource archive, and an integrated blog with updates and commentary.  


2014 | Joyful Heart turns 10

Joyful Heart celebrates its 10th anniversary. In its first decade, Joyful Heart evolved into a national organization paving the way for integrating holistic approaches in treating trauma; transforming the way people think about, talk about, and behave around the issues of sexual assault, domestic violence, and child abuse; and advancing public policies to ensure justice for survivors.

The 2014 Joyful Revolution Gala highlighted Joyful Heart’s journey to end this violence and the work that still needs to be done in the future. The event honored this milestone by recognizing national media conglomerate Viacom for its strong commitment to elevating awareness of sexual assault and domestic violence. The 2014 Joyful Mele celebration in Hawai‘i also celebrated Joyful Heart’s path during its first 10 years. The event included songs and stories about Joyful Heart’s origins, roots, and deep love of Hawai‘i. Joyful Heart acknowledged the support of the Hawai‘i community to move Joyful Heart’s mission and vision forward. Hawai‘i supporters invested more than $5 million in its programs and partnerships, which served about 5,000 survivors, professionals, and community members around the state.

May 2014 | Viacom Says NO MORE PSA

Viacom, along with its social responsibility umbrella, Viacommunity, becomes a major media partner of the NO MORE campaign. The Viacom Says NO MORE campaign, a series of videos directed by Mariska and produced by Viacom’s Niels Schuurmans, feature several celebrities. Print ads have been on display in the heart of Times Square—one of the busiest intersections in the world.


September 2014 | TALK STORY

Joyful Heart hosts its first TALK STORY event in Hawai‘i in collaboration with A CALL TO MEN, a leading organization working to get men involved in ending violence against women. The series was designed to educate and engage our community in Hawai‘i on men’s role in ending violence. Sessions included topics like the roots of gender oppression, how parents can start conversations about these issues with their children, faith and spiritual abuse, and dismantling the myths and excuses surrounding sexual assault, domestic violence, and child abuse.

October 2014 | The Accountability Project

Joyful Heart launches The Accountability Project. Through a pro bono partnership with Goodwin Procter LLP and Weil, Gotshal & Manges LLP, the initiative—featured on EndTheBacklog.org—uses public records requests to ascertain the number of untested kits at police departments around the country. As of spring 2017, The Accountability Project has uncovered about 39,000 untested rape kits in more than 40 jurisdictions.

Fall 2014 | NFL Players Say NO MORE

Sexual assault and domestic violence dominate the news, bringing unprecedented attention to these issues. Joyful Heart’s NO MORE PSAs begin airing during all televised NFL games. When the PSAs first aired on the NFL broadcasts, players started reaching out, wanting to be involved and speak out. Within weeks, Joyful Heart organized PSA shoots in Dallas, Los Angeles, and New York, bringing together a team from NO MORE, Joyful Heart, and Viacom Velocity, as well as photographer Timothy White, to engage 23 players in this campaign. Mariska directed in New York, while Tate Donovan and Blair Underwood directed in Dallas and Los Angeles, respectively.

By October, more than 16.6 million fans each week were watching the NFL Players Say NO MORE PSAs. The campaign garnered significant attention—more than 100 stories—from USA Today to Access Hollywood to ESPN to men’s magazines and business and advertising media.


November 12, 2014 | Manhattan District Attorney's Office commits $35 million to end the backlog

Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus Vance, Jr.

Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus Vance, Jr. announces his office is partnering with Joyful Heart to help end the rape kit backlog. The District Attorney’s Office committed $35 million in funding for grants to jurisdictions across the country to test thousands of backlogged rape kits sitting in storage facilities.

This commitment—the single largest financial contribution toward ending the rape kit backlog at that time—was a watershed moment in the national movement to end the backlog. Through this investment more than 56,000 kits in 32 jurisdictions in 20 states are being tested as of 2017.

November 2014 | “Speechless”

On Thanksgiving Day, when millions of Americans watch football, the “Speechless” series of NO MORE PSAs featuring NFL players debuts and airs during all NFL broadcasts. The following Wednesday night, the NO MORE “Speechless” PSAs featuring more than a dozen celebrities premieres on NBC during Law & Order: Special Victims Unit.

“Speechless” was not in the producers’ plans. These spots weren’t scripted. They were what happened between takes while filming related PSAs. “Speechless” shows the compelling, unrehearsed moments behind the scenes on how deeply those featured in the videos were moved. The videos are candid responses of these men and women as they attempt to talk about sexual assault and domestic violence. They were rendered speechless—and that’s where the inspiration for these PSAs was born. The spots were voted the top commercial for the week of December 12, 2014 by Adweek.


December 2014 | The White House and Congress allocate funding for rape kit backlog

Congress passes and President Barack Obama signs into law a spending bill for the 2015 fiscal year that includes—for the first time ever—$41 million to address the nation’s backlog. This program provides local communities resources to support multidisciplinary response teams to reform their approach to sexual assault cases. This includes testing backlogged kits; investigating and prosecuting cases connected to the backlog; and notifying and re-engaging survivors with the criminal justice system.

2015 | $80 million in funding awarded to address the backlog

Mariska stands with Vice President Joe Biden, Attorney General Loretta Lynch, and Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus Vance, Jr. as they award nearly $80 million in funding to law enforcement agencies around the country to address their backlogs of untested rape kits. 

March 2016 | The Male Survivors NO MORE PSAs

Joyful Heart and 1in6 release a new series of NO MORE PSAs to address the myths and excuses surrounding males who have experienced childhood sexual abuse, and to invite male survivors to seek help through 1in6.org. Although this campaign was created specifically to focus on the one in six male survivors of unwanted or abusive sexual experiences of childhood, it acknowledges that men experience sexual and domestic violence in all its forms.  This campaign was designed to alter cultural norms that keep men silent and turn away from their experiences, their emotions, and their vulnerability. 


May 2016 | 2016 Joyful Revolution Gala

Joyful Heart holds its 2016 Joyful Revolution Gala bringing together a broader group of supporters to celebrate the organization’s progress to end this violence. The event held at Lincoln Center, one of the greatest institutions in the world, honored Vice President Joe Biden for his commitment to end violence against women and girls.

Guests were encouraged to finish the question of the evening’s theme: “Wouldn’t it be great if…” to spark hope, vision, and aspiration. A number of well-known faces, including Tina Fey, Queen Latifah, and George Stephanopolous were in attendance.

2016 | Enough

Joyful Heart launches the Enough campaign, a series of videos designed to challenge the societal attitudes that have long excused, minimized, and helped perpetuate violence against women and girls. In the spots, male stars, including Raúl Esparza, Blair Underwood, and Danny Pino, address the violence and abuse other men perpetrate.

The videos were directed by Mariska; co-produced by Joyful Heart and Viacom Velocity; developed by creative director Rachel Howald from Invisible Man; edited by Jean Taylor at Wax; and distributed by Boom Broadcast.

The Enough campaign urges men to be an active part of the movement to address, prevent, and—one day—end this violence.


October 2016 | #NOMOREexcuses Law & Order: SVU marathons on USA Network

USA Network and Joyful Heart partner on the 12th #NOMOREexcuses Law & Order: Special Victims Unit marathon. More than 30 million viewers have tuned in since the first marathon on April 24, 2014, and tens of thousands more have joined the conversation online, generating more than 170 million impressions on social media. It becomes an important way to reduce isolation and stigma and connect individuals to support, information, and community. A dozen #NOMOREexcuses Law & Order: SVU marathons have been held on the network between April 2014 and October 2016.

During every marathon, videos featuring current and former cast members air, pointing viewers to resources like the National Domestic Violence Hotline, 1in6.org, the Teen Dating Abuse Helpline, the National Sexual Assault Hotline, and Know Your IX. This exposure increases awareness of these services for survivors and those looking for support.

November 2016 | Hawai‘i Says NO MORE Campaign

The Hawai‘i Says NO MORE PSA campaign launches on Hawai‘i News Now (HNN). Modeled after the national NO MORE PSAs and directed by Mariska, the spots feature 23 locally and nationally recognized musicians, television personalities, athletes, cultural practitioners, and community leaders.

Joyful Heart partnered with Hawai‘i News Now, Wall-to-Wall Studios, and a local team of creatives, including Maui photographer Tony Novak-Clifford. National support came from photographer Timothy White, Gus Constantine Philippas, Rachel Howald of Invisible Man and Creative Director of the national NO MORE PSA campaign, graphic designer Molly Runge, Viacom, Wolf Films, Wax, and Boom Broadcasting.


April 24, 2017 | I AM EVIDENCE

The HBO documentary I AM EVIDENCE premieres at the Tribeca Film Festival. Joyful Heart is the social action campaign partner of the film directed by Academy Award-nominated filmmaker Trish Adlesic and Geeta Gandbhir and produced by Mariska. I AM EVIDENCE follows the stories of four survivors whose rape kits remained untested for years, revealing a broken criminal justice system that has left a startling number of rape kits with DNA evidence sitting on police storage shelves.

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