"I started the Joyful Heart Foundation in 2004 to help survivors of sexual assault heal their minds, bodies and spirits and reclaim their lives. Since then, we have expanded Joyful Heart's mission and vision. We have had thousands of people participate in our pioneering retreats and wellness programs and have reached millions more through national public awareness campaigns, as well as our website. I couldn't be prouder of the staff and board of directors who are working to move Joyful Heart forward each and every day.
When I started playing Detective Olivia Benson on Law & Order: Special Victims Unit a decade ago, my eyes were opened to the silenced epidemics of sexual assault, domestic violence and child abuse in this country. It wasn't just in the scripts for the show, but in the many emails I received from viewers disclosing their stories of abuse, many for the first time.
I felt a great responsibility to these brave men and women and wanted them to know that they had been heard and that they could have hope. I studied the subject, trained to become a crisis counselor, and used my visibility as an actress to become an advocate. The result was the Joyful Heart Foundation, an organization dedicated to providing support and encouragement for survivors.
In creating programs for our participants, we quickly realized that everyone heals differently. We choose treatments that engage the mind, body and spirit for healing purposes and try to discover the strategies that work for each individual. We provide an extensive network of resources and our own groundbreaking retreats that complement traditional counseling and therapy.
When people are abused and assaulted, it is like the doors to their souls slam shut. The goal of Joyful Heart is to let the light, and the life, back in--to banish the darkness and let the healing begin."
- Mariska Hargitay, President & Founder, Joyful Heart Foundation