Founder & President, Joyful Heart Foundation
As an actress, activist, and victims advocate, Mariska Hargitay has dedicated her time, talent and resources to be an inspiration and force for change. Putting her passion for healing, education and community involvement to use, Ms. Hargitay works to help not only survivors of sexual assault, domestic violence and child abuse but other causes she is passionate about.
Through her role as Detective Olivia Benson on NBC's "Law & Order: Special Victims Unit", Ms. Hargitay has become more conscious of just how difficult the healing process can be after experiencing a trauma such as sexual assault. Trained as a rape crisis counselor, she has seen first hand how an assault of this nature can destroy one's soul.
Ms. Hargitay has been a part of multiple education and awareness campaigns around these issues for Safe Horizon, the nation's leading victim-assistance organization. She has also made public service announcements (PSA's) for NBC's "The More You Know" campaign and Got Milk. Ms. Hargitay has also lent her time and voice to other victim-assistance organizations, such as The Santa Monica Rape Crisis Center, in hopes of raising awareness and much needed financial support for their programs. Her dedication to providing assistance to sexual assault, domestic violence and child abuse survivors speaks to her depth of character and generosity of spirit. Committed to ending sexual violence and caring for those who have survived it, Ms. Hargitay spends as much time on screen dealing with these crimes as she does off.
In 2002, Ms. Hargitay took her commitment to a higher and more personal level by founding the Joyful Heart Foundation. By working hand-in-hand with crisis centers nationwide, the Joyful Heart Foundation synthesizes all of the components of the healing process (mind, body and spirit) into one therapeutic experience and is dedicated to introducing these alternative healing therapies to survivors.
In addition to her work with crisis center's and advocates on both coasts, Ms. Hargitay has also lent her time, talent and resources to many other worthy organizations including: Lee National Denim Day for which she was the 2007 Ambassador; The Girl Scouts of America, for whom she provided talks for young women; Project ALS; and The James Redford Institute for Transplant Awareness (JRI).
Mariksa Hargitay won the 2006 Emmy for Outstanding Actress in a Drama for her role as Olivia Benson, the ambitious and emotionally driven detective on NBC's "Law & Order: Special Victims Unit." The role earned her a fifth Emmy Nomination in 2008, a 2004 Golden Globe Award, three SAG Award nominations and a Gracie Allen Award for American Women in Radio and Television. In 2005, Ms. Hargitay was also honored with The Good Sister Award for Advocacy at The Children's Advocacy Center of Manhattan's "100 Women Against Child Abuse" Gala Benefit and received the New York State Coalition Against Sexual Assault Special Ally Award for her public support of rape crises programs and their work.
Hargitay is married to actor Peter Hermann, who starred most recently in Universal/Working Title's "United 93" and has a recurring role on "SVU" as attorney Trevor Langan. The couple also have two children, August and Amaya.