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When Mariska Hargitay started playing Olivia Benson on Law & Order: Special Victims’ Unit, the content of the scripts, as well as the work she did to prepare for the role, opened her eyes to the staggering statistics about sexual assault, domestic violence, and child abuse in the United States. She received hundreds, then thousands of letters and emails from survivors disclosing their stories of abuse, many for the first time. She wanted to answer those letters, to address the suffering and isolation they described, and honor the acts of courage they represented.
Her response was Joyful Heart. Inspired by her deep connection and love for ‘Hawai‘i, Mariska founded Joyful Heart in Kona in 2004 to help sexual assault survivors heal and reclaim a sense of joy in their lives. Today, Joyful Heart is a leading national organization with a mission to transform society’s response to sexual assault, domestic violence, and child abuse, support survivors’ healing, and end this violence forever.
Joyful Heart carries out its mission through an integrated program portfolio of healing, education, and advocacy. Our work 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 legislation to ensure justice for survivors.