The 2015 Joyful Revolution Gala: The Conversation Is Now in Session

Wednesday, 6 May 2015
New York, NY

On Wednesday, May 6, Joyful Heart more than 500 members of our community came together for our annual Joyful Revolution Gala: The Conversation Is Now in Session. Since we last gathered in New York City for our annual gala, it has been a remarkable, challenging, surprising, energizing year that saw sexual assault, domestic violence and child abuse dominating headlines and capturing the public’s attention like never before.

We know that conversation—inspired dialogue, thoughtful debate—is key to ending sexual assault, domestic violence and child abuse. We know that talking interrupts isolation, raises much-needed awareness, and breaks the stigma and shame that so many survivors experience. This is why the theme of our evening was about conversation. 

We celebrated the extraordinary progress that made headlines over the past year: Congress Poised to Dedicate $41 Million to Help End Backlog of Rape Kits; Public Service Announcements on Domestic Violence to Air During All NFL Games; DA Hailed after Pledging $35 Million to Eliminate Rape Kit Backlog; Joe Biden and Mariska Hargitay Team Up against Campus Rape. At the same time, we examined how far we have to go to realize our vision of a word without sexual assault, domestic violence and child abuse. As Mariska said that evening:

We want more than just a sense that things are different—not just a feeling that change is in the air. I love that feeling and I welcome it, but just like all of you do, we want measurable change leading to the end of this violence. 

As guests arrived in the beautiful stark space of Spring Studios in New York City, the first thing they saw was a sound booth. Inside, they recorded messages that extend the hope, compassion and embrace of the evening—heartfelt sentiments survivors have shared with us that they have found helpful. The audio from the project, called “Let Them Hear You,” will soon be available on our website and social media to all survivors who wish to hear supportive words.

Among the evening’s guests were some of the visionaries who have supported our work—some new to our community, others who have supported it from the very beginning. They include our board of directors; event chairs Lorraine Kirke, Sukey Novogratz and Carrie Shumway; dinner chairs Lauran and Myrna Bromley, Glenn Close and David Evans, Shaw Deborah and Philippe Dauman, Linda Fairstein and Michael Goldberg, Deborra-Lee Furness and Hugh Jackman, Sonia and Paul Jones, Debra Messing, Lily and Danny Pino, Hilary Swank, and Ali Wentworth and George Stephanopoulos; and our corporate sponsors, Wolf Films, Viacom, GT Events, Bloomberg, Bloomingdale's, USA Network, Verizon, Y&R, Michael Stars and Pura Vida; and the many members of our event leadership and benefit committee who supported the event.

After cocktails and the flashing cameras on the red carpet, guests transitioned to the evening’s program against the backdrop of a New York City sunset. Ice-T welcomed guests to dinner and Patti Smith, who gave three performances that evening, played her first song. 

After her performance, Debra Messing kicked off a series of speeches, starting first with SVU co-stars Danny Pino and Raul Esparza. Danny and Raul, spoke about Joyful Heart’s work and our three program areas: Healing, Education and Advocacy, and introduced Joyful Heart’s Chief Executive Officer, Maile Zambuto, who got to the heart of the evening’s theme of conversation. She said:

We are always telling you that it matters deeply how you respond to these issues.  The same goes for us—even more so. And we are hard of at work on perhaps the most important question of all: How do we transform the headlines, the news coverage, the individual acts of courage and protest, into measurable and permanent change? How does all of it bring an end to this violence? How to rise to meet the opposition, more and more vocal, that resists this change, that defends the status quo?

And as we are called to respond with expertise, intelligence and abiding compassion, as we are working to seize—and organize, and understand, and deepen, and harness—this moment, as we work to refine our message, what we are always most grateful for, and what this year has brought us, in a way that moves me so deeply, is new messengers.

She welcomed Mark Herzlich, linebacker of the New York Giants, to accept the evening’s first honor on behalf of the NFL players—23 strong—who participated in the NFL Players Say NO MORE PSA campaign. They are men who helped raise the volume of the conversation at a time when it could have been easier to stay silent. Mark spoke beautifully about his role as a man, and about how “being a man” isn’t about being the strongest or fastest, but about doing the right thing for those you care about—and who care about and look up to you.

After some words from Tate Donovan, who directed the NO MORE PSA shoot with the NFL players in Dallas, Mariska took to the podium to introduce the 2015 Heart of Gold Award Recipient, Wayne County Prosecutor Kym Worthy, who has been a champion not only in ending Detroit’s backlog of over 11,000 untested rape kits—but in inspiring change throughout the country on the rape kit backlog. Mariska was joined in her introduction by another fan of Kym’s passion and dedication—Vice President Joe Biden—who sent a video message commending Kym for her work and celebrating how far we have come in moving the needle on the backlog and advocating for justice for survivors. Mariska then went on to share how Kym has inspired all of us in the mission to end the backlog.  

I first met Kym five years ago in Washington, D.C. when I sat next to her as we both testified before Congress about the backlog. Detroit had just discovered 11,341 untested rape kits in a warehouse. Kym’s testimony that day inspired me so deeply that I promised her that we would do everything we could to test every last kit in Detroit. 

Our work on the backlog takes the Joyful Heart team across the country. But, we have never seen anything like the work in Detroit. And that work has been a wake-up call to the nation…. Cleveland, Memphis, Salt Lake City, Seattle and so on. The momentum coming out of Detroit was also in large part responsible for inspiring the largest investment to date in rape kit reform: $35 million from Manhattan District Attorney Cy Vance, and served as fuel as Joyful Heart advocated in D.C. for $41 million from the federal government, passed by Congress and signed by President Obama. 

Today, the rape kit backlog and progress to end it is making headlines across the country. But it wasn’t always that way. When Prosecutor Worthy’s office discovered those kits years ago, the rape kit backlog wasn’t high on the public agenda, let alone Congress. Yet she continued talking—relentlessly pushing for justice for the survivors that those rape kits represent—even when it felt like no one was listening. She is a powerful example of the change that one person’s voice can bring. 

Following Kym’s extraordinary and moving remarks, Hugh Jackman introduced the auction portion of the evening. Guests generously bid on 11 experiential packages—everything from tropical getaways to awards show tickets, to private lessons with some of the best in music, entertainment and sports—all generously donated so that 100% of proceeds go directly to our work. The Joyful Heart staff also took the stage to raise funds for our programs, including our TALK series, Heal the Healers work and advocacy to end the rape kit backlog. By the end of the evening, we raised $2 million dollars to fund our work—a record in seven years of hosting our gala.

We thank all who joined us and gave that evening to sustain our work. We thank the brilliant team who made our evening possible: the Joyful Heart board, leadership and fundraising team; Innovative Philanthropy, the event design team of Perception, Kadan Design and Motofumi Okumura; event producers Production Glue and World Stage, and caterer Creative Edge; and friends of Mariska and Joyful Heart who hosted our event and who always show up in beautiful ways: Ice-T, Danny Pino, Raul Esparza, Debra Messing, Tate Donovan and Hugh Jackman.

The conversation is indeed in session. You—our community—have contributed to it in very real, tangible ways. Thank you for your commitment to shaping, refining and guiding it in a way that will bring this violence to an end. 

The current volume of the conversation is encouraging. But there is still much more to be done. The opportunities to engage in that work are, as always, all around you. Talk with friends, family, coworkers and neighbors. Be the one person in a survivor’s life who listens. If we are able to communicate only one thing about a survivor’s journey, it is this: never ever underestimate your power to affect its course.

At Joyful Heart, we will continue to provide healing opportunities to survivors and those who care for them, to raise awareness about sexual assault, domestic violence and child abuse, and to advocate for policies that ensure justice for survivors. The volume is already up—and the louder we get, the more people we have talking about these issues, the nearer we are to lifting the shame and stigma that not only lock so many survivors in silence, but also create the conditions for these crimes to persist. Together, we are moving the conversation forward, outward and upward, getting closer every day to realizing our vision of a community without this violence.

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