Mariska Hargitay Says Playing Olivia Benson in 'Law & Order: SVU' Led Her to Become Advocate for Real-Life Survivors

With 21 years of investigating sex crime scenes as Olivia Benson on “Law & Order: SVU,” Mariska Hargitay has been able to offer help to her fans when they needed it.

Mariska Hargitay was recently named one of People Magazine’s “Women Changing the World” issue and with it came an in-depth interview.

Mariska Hargitay from the serie "Law & Order : SVU" attends a photocall during the 58th Monte Carlo TV Festival on June 17, 2018 | Photo: Getty Images

Mariska Hargitay from the serie "Law & Order : SVU" attends a photocall during the 58th Monte Carlo TV Festival on June 17, 2018 | Photo: Getty Images

Mariska took things up a notch when she trained as a rape crisis counselor and then in 2004, started her own nonprofit organization, the Joyful Heart Foundation.

During the chat with People, the actress revealed that fans had started reaching out to her about their sex crime experiences.

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It was then that the 56-year-old realized that her role as Olivia Benson on “Law & Order: SVU” had given her the tool she needed to help her fans.

According to Mariska, who won the Golden Globe award for “ Best Performance by an Actress in a Drama TV Series,” in 2005:

 “Having the character, Olvia Benson, listen — that was so powerful. People used to call me the accidental activist. I didn’t take this job on SVU to do this work. But I think I was meant to do this.”

Mariska took things up a notch when she trained as a rape crisis counselor and then in 2004, started her own nonprofit organization, the Joyful Heart Foundation.

She created the foundation to offer support to survivors of domestic violence and sexual assault.

Then in 2009, when she found out about the number of untested rape kits in the States, the actress made the foundation’s End the Backlog initiative, a top priority.

However, that wasn’t enough for the “ER” star who went on to produce and star in “I Am Evidence.”

According to The New York Times, the show was an HBO documentary that focused on how authorities handled sexual assault cases in the United States.

Her work on the documentary was so good that she took home an Emmy for it in September 2019.

Through her involvement in “I Am Evidence,” the mother-of-three discovered that in Wayne County, Michigan, prosecutor Kym Worthy had supervised the testing of 10,000 of Detroit’s 11,341 backlogged kits.

That supervision resulted in the naming of 817 suspected serial rapists.

Actress Mariska Hargitay attends a luncheon hosted by Marie Claire honoring Sheila Nevins, president of HBO documentary films at Hearst Tower on May 2, 2017 | Photo: Getty Images

Actress Mariska Hargitay attends a luncheon hosted by Marie Claire honoring Sheila Nevins, president of HBO documentary films at Hearst Tower on May 2, 2017 | Photo: Getty Images

Mariska’s next goal, according to People, was to make it mandatory for all 50 states to ask for kits to be counted, tested, and acted upon.

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