The Joyful Revolution has gained momentum, and the 2010 Joyful Heart Gala was a testament to the promise, growth and evolution of how a community can respond to the issues of sexual assault, domestic violence and child abuse.
Skylight, the expansive SoHo event space, was awash in this year's bold color scheme of pink and black. A bright pink carpet—provided by Karastan—awaited Founder and President Mariska Hargitay and her husband and Joyful Heart Board Member Peter Hermann, as well as many other Joyful Hearts who have given their inspired support: Alec Baldwin, Hilary Swank, George Stephanopoulos, Debra Messing, Christopher and Sherman Meloni, Maria Bello, Marcia Gay Harden, Matthew Morrison, Jill Hennessy, Stephanie March, Mario Batali, Moby, Cyndi Lauper, Tamara Tuni, B.D. Wong, Dann Florek, Catherine Pierce, Darlene Johnson, Colonel Deborah Campbell, Bea Hanson, Lynn Rosenthal, and many others, including Joyful Heart's fearless Board of Directors.
The evening was also made possible by a long list of visionary sponsors: The Entertainment Industry Foundation, Wolf Films, Liz Claiborne, Paradigm, philosophy, Maguy Maccario-Doyle and the Monaco Government Tourist Office, Michael Stars, Me & Ro, NBC Universal, TransPerfect and Verizon.
Arriving guests stepped into a spacious hall, where they enjoyed cocktails and hors d'oeuvres, provided by Godiva Liqueur and Creative Edge Parties, while snapping photos in the Apple Photo Booth and writing on Joyful Heart's "Gratitude Wall," a canvas covered by evening's end with words of hope, thanks, possibility—and, of course, joy.
The evening's dress code—jeans—paid tribute to the outrage that ensued after a woman was raped in Italy in 1992 and her convicted rapist was subsequently acquitted. The Italian Supreme Court overturned the rapist's conviction because, as the Chief Judge expressed in his statement, "the victim wore very, very tight jeans, [so] she had to help him remove them, and by removing the jeans it was no longer rape but consensual sex." In protest, women legislators wore jeans to parliament. Women and men around the globe followed suit and Denim Day was born. Joyful Heart asked guests to wear jeans not only to come together in support of survivors of sexual violence everywhere, but to create a picture of a community that thinks differently, behaves differently and responds differently around these issues.
After cocktails, guests moved in for dinner in the space's main room, also lit up in pink and featuring a hand-painted backdrop collaboratively designed by Michael Stars and Mariska Hargitay for the Michael Stars limited-edition charity tee. The enormous gold and silver heart—comprised of words like "heal", "survival", "empower" and "love"—shimmered throughout the evening, a silent but powerful reminder of what is possible.
In the room's center, a white grand piano awaited the incandescently gifted Eric Lewis, who, with his signature intensity, performed songs from his latest album, "RockJazz Vol.1". He brought the crowd to its feet and ushered in the evening in a spirit of freedom and celebration.
Slated to be hosted by Christopher Meloni and Ali Wentworth, the evening benefited from the spirit of community as Maria Bello stepped in for Ms. Wentworth, who was unable to attend.
After a welcome from Ms. Bello and Mr. Meloni, Joyful Heart Executive Director, Maile Zambuto, and Board Chair, Tom Nunan, took the stage to outline Joyful Heart's accomplishments over the past year. There was much to report: Joyful Heart participated in the development of the new New York State rape-kit training program; responded to a gang rape and the ensuing needs of the community in Richmond, California; brought attention and pursued funding and legislation for the testing of the rape kit backlog; expanded collaboration with the Office on Violence Against Women at the U.S. Department of Justice; expanded programming for survivors and those who have dedicated themselves to helping them; and launched Reunion, a magazine dedicated to the issues of sexual assault, domestic violence and child abuse.
Ms. Hargitay then had the opportunity to introduce the evening's honoree, Lisa Paulsen, President and Chief Executive Officer of Entertainment Industry Foundation (EIF). Ms. Paulsen was one of the very first individuals to believe in Joyful Heart's vision, and, with the weight of EIF behind her, she stepped forward to raise funds and awareness for Joyful Heart's pilot retreat programs. Ms. Hargitay offered words of gratitude:
"I think you all saw on the invitation our categories of giving: Joyful Revolutionary, Compassionate Revolutionary, Courageous Revolutionary.
Lisa, you're in your own category: Reckless Revolutionary. Thank you for your glorious recklessness.
Another great revolutionary, Albert Einstein, said "If at first the idea is not absurd, then there is no hope for it."
You and EIF are such a huge part of why this little idea, this little, crazy idea that was born in the water off the coast of Hawaii has become what Joyful Heart is today, and why we are able to serve survivors and help them heal.
My dad always told me he believed in me, so those words have very special meaning for me. You and I were sitting on a playground together a couple of years ago, and you told me that. Thank you.
So to you, and all of you at EIF, you totally Reckless Revolutionaries who have made Joyful Heart's heartbeat so strong: the Heart of Gold Award."
Ms. Paulsen offered words of appreciation and encouragement to Ms. Hargitay, and to Joyful Heart and survivors.
Joyful Heart sheds light into the darkness that survivors of assault have been thrust into, and sends the message they need to hear the most—that they are not alone. The Entertainment Industry Foundation is proud to stand with Mariska and support her foundation. Your success brings joy not only to all those with whom you work—it brings joy to our hearts as well.
The evening's Honorary Chair and Joyful Heart Board Vice-Chair, Linda Fairstein, shared the stage with George Stephanopoulos, former senior political advisor to President Clinton and current chief political correspondent for ABC News. Ms. Fairstein and Mr. Stephanopoulos offered a powerful tribute honoring the 15th Anniversary of the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA). Mr. Stephanopoulos outlined our country's legislative history surrounding violence against women:
"Create a timeline of the Revolution's evolution, and you'll include 1871, when Alabama became the first state in the union to rescind the legal right of men to beat their wives. Later, you'd include the 1970's, when the first domestic violence shelters appeared in Los Angeles, Pittsburgh, and St. Paul. There's 1976, which saw the creation of the Pennsylvania Coalition Against Domestic Violence, the first state coalition of its kind in the country. You'd include a setback in 1982, when the California Supreme Court ruled that a woman could not sue her husband for damages resulting from abuse, because it would destroy the "peace and harmony" of the home.
Yet nothing on that timeline would deserve as prominent a place as the Violence Against Women Act of 1994, the landmark piece of legislation whose initial passage and ongoing impact we are so pleased to celebrate tonight.
VAWA, as it has come to be called, revolutionized the way violent crimes against women are prosecuted and prevented, and the way communities respond to survivors. VAWA marked the first time the federal government spoke to issues of violence against women."
After the tribute came a truly joyful, deeply soulful and entirely unforgettable performance by Cyndi Lauper. Moving through a silent and rapt crowd, she sang a haunting a cappella version of her hit "True Colors".
Afterwards, guests watched an original spoken word piece entitled "Voices of the Revolution," featuring the fearless Katie Hnida, Colonel Deborah Campbell and Helena Lazaro, who gave voice to their encounters with sexual violence, both as survivors or healers. Actors Marcia Gay Harden, Peter Hermann, Christopher Meloni, Debra Messing and Hilary Swank also lent their voices, sharing words from survivors, healers, journalists and others, compiled to produce a verbal patchwork of the revolution.
This year's live auction was overseen by Jamie Niven of Sotheby's, and featured a long list of fabulous items that raised an incredible $693,500.
Joyful Heart is deeply grateful to everyone who made such a significant contribution to the evening's spirit of commitment and community. From the corporate sponsors to the indomitably joyful volunteers—the revolution would not be possible without you. Together, we are creating a community that says to a survivor, "We hear you, we believe you, and your healing is our priority." Because of you, possibility is becoming reality.
Ms. Hargitay summed up the evening when she said:
"The word, "gala", comes from an Old French word that means "to rejoice." That's exactly what tonight is for me: a night of rejoicing. For me, it's about changed lives. That's what I rejoice in most.
I rejoice in the moment the lights come back on, the moment the doors of the heart swing open again, the moment a soul takes a step, or makes a turn, or even just throws a little glance in the direction of possibility.
I have heard so many survivors say how much it means that someone out there knows about them and cares and is on their side.
I rejoice in our ability—and our calling—to be those people, to be the brave ones, the ones on their side, willing to dedicate our intellect, our resources, our passion to this cause, willing to model the kind of community we all know is possible."
On behalf of the Board of Directors, the staff and the thousands of survivors we serve, we are deeply grateful for your revolutionary spirit and your commitment to this cause.