More than a Marathon

March 4, 2016 | BY Maile Zambuto, Chief Executive Officer | FILED UNDER JHF BLOG >

This Sunday marks our eighth marathon of Law & Order: SVU with USA Network. We know the power that television has to shape attitudes, even to change them. SVU is one of the few far-reaching platforms that bring sexual assault, domestic violence and child abuse into the light, through televisions in living rooms across the world. A study released this past fall—adding to previous ones—found that watching Law & Order promotes healthy ideas around sexual assault: less victim-blaming, an increased understanding that anyone can be a survivor, that there is no "perfect victim. And the show's platform to reach survivors is something we have long known. It is why Joyful Heart is here today—because when our Founder & President, Mariska Hargitay, first started playing Olivia Benson, she heard from thousands and thousands of survivors, sharing their stories, many for the first time. 

Why? Because when storylines handle sexual assault, domestic violence and child abuse with care, compassion and purpose, it can dispel myths about these issues and help break down the shame and stigma that have kept these issues hidden, and kept survivors silent for so long.

"Watching the #NOMORE marathon of Law & Order SVU.  From a survivor of DV, thanks."
– Twitter user during October 2015 marathon

USA, the highest-rated cable television channel in the United States, has been a leading champion of our efforts to shed light on sexual assault and domestic violence, support survivors and galvanize change, teaming with Joyful Heart nearly two years ago for the #NOMOREexcuses” SVU marathons. As we celebrate our eighth marathon with USA on Sunday, March 6, it’s a moment to reflect on what we have accomplished together.

Throughout the seven marathons held since April 2014, we’ve raised visibility about sexual assault and domestic violence and bridged viewers to hotlines and organizations that can provide further support and information. More than 25 million (and counting) viewers have tuned in, and tens of thousands more have joined the conversation online, generating more than 170 million impressions on social media—an important way to reduce isolation and stigma and connect individuals to support, information and community.

"I’ve been watching most of the day. By watching, I decided to go to your website and your Facebook page. This is a very serious matter and there has to be an end to rape."

- Facebook user during April 2015 marathon

Through the marathons, USA has provided a platform to raise the visibility of the first-responders and service providers that reach survivors directly. Videos we have produced with USA for the marathon—featuring SVU cast members, athletes, even the Vice President of the United States—have introduced viewers to Joyful Heart's work and that of organizations in this movement that address many facets of these issues. Some point viewers to NO MORE to get involved and take action, where thousands of people have added their voice and photo to the NO MORE gallery, and thousands have pledged to help end violence. But more often, they direct viewers elsewhere: to websites of organizations, like our own, that provide deep and clinically-sound content on the issues, that are service-providers or first-responders. Viewers have learned about consent (from the National Sexual Violence Resource Center), Title IX and campus sexual assault (from Know Your IX), and expressing healthy masculinity (from A CALL TO MEN) And those who need help have accessed life-changing, life-saving help and resources from organizations like the National Domestic Violence Hotline, the Rape, Abuse and Incest National Network (which operates the National Sexual Assault Helpline and the DoD Safe Helpline), the loveisrespect National Teen Dating Abuse Helpline (operated by the National Domestic Violence Hotline), 1in6, and Joyful Heart. For example:

  • During the first two marathons, special videos filmed with Chris Meloni and Ice-T directing viewers to 1in6, a leading organization providing information and support to men who have had unwanted or abusive sexual experiences, drove the two biggest days of website traffic in its history to 1in6

  • The day of our most recent marathon in October, in honor of Domestic Violence Awareness Month, the National Domestic Violence Hotline reported a 12 percent increase in calls and 32 percent increase in website traffic. Loveisrepect, the Teen Dating Abuse Helpline reported a 40 percent increase in calls and 19 percent increase in chats that day.

  • During October 2014, Domestic Violence Awareness Month, we worked with USA to produce a series of videos featuring Vice President Biden and Mariska Hargitay, calling on viewers to get off the sidelines to get involved in ending domestic violence through the White House’s #1is2many initiative. The marathon propelled #1is2many to Twitter’s trending topics that day to a potential audience of more than 11.5 million. 

  • In April 2015, during Sexual Assault Awareness Month, we saw a traffic increase of 148 percent to our own website when a video message from SVU cast members Raul Esparza and Peter Scanavino urged viewers to visit our website for ways to support someone who shares their experience to our website, where they were met with an easy-to-digest, trauma-informed list of suggested ways to respond.

"These are words I would have loved to hear after my rape. What I did hear from a Pastor that I turned to was, "don't tell anyone. You don't know what they might think of you." Or even this one, "why did you let  him in?" If you know a survivor please be kind. If you don't know what  to say just say, "I'm sorry." The betrayal of an acquaintance rape was enough. The betrayal of others with unkind statements hurt deep."
- Joyful Heart Facebook user

"This evening is the first time I've even entertained the idea that maybe I was abusive. I want to handle all this before starting a new relationship."
- National Domestic Violence Hotline online chatter who saw the Hotline contact information during the October 2014 marathon

We are so grateful to USA for their courage, vision and generosity in joining us to end this violence.

The Law & Order: SVU NO MORE Excuses Marathonour eighth—on Sunday, March 6, comes at a very meaningful time for us. 

Earlier this week, Joyful Heart, in partnership with 1in6 and Viacom, released a new series in our groundbreaking, celebrity-driven NO MORE PSA campaign addressing the myths and excuses surrounding males who have experienced childhood sexual abuse, and inviting viewers to seek help at The new PSAs will be the highlight of this ten-hour marathon to kick of the 2016 NO MORE’s Week of Action. 

Please join us on Sunday. Watch the new video spots during the marathon, as well as our other videos from the cast. Join us on Twitter to follow along with the conversation (at #NOMOREexcuses). Share the new series in the PSA campaign on social media to help deliver a message to the 21 million men who are survivors of childhood sexual abuse—to all survivors of violence and abuse: you are not alone.  

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