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Mariska and Vice President Joe Biden visits advocates at the headquarters of the National Domestic Violence Hotline in Texas to help commemorate National Domestic Violence Awareness Month. Pictures are in the gallery.

National Domestic Violence Hotline
October 30, 2013

Mariska Hargitay, who for 14 years has played New York City sex crimes Detective Olivia Benson on the NBC television drama “Law & Order: Special Victims Unit,” will join Vice President Joe Biden on his visit to the National Domestic Violence Hotline in Austin on Wednesday, the vice president’s office confirmed today.

In a statement, Hargitay, the president and founder of the Joyful Heart Foundation, said, “I am deeply honored to join Vice President Biden in shining a light on the tremendous work being done by the National Domestic Violence Hotline, a longtime partner of the Joyful Heart Foundation.”

“The Hotline stands as an indispensable resource to help break the isolation that so many victims of domestic violence feel,” said Hargitay. “I am eager not only to see new innovations and resources made possible through Verizon’s ongoing support, but also to celebrate the commitment and care the Hotline’s advocates bring to their work every day. And I will of course never stop celebrating Vice President Biden’s vision and leadership that allowed the Hotline to be created.”

The mission of Joyful Heart, with service hubs in New York, Los Angeles and Honolulu, is to heal, educate and empower survivors of sexual assault, domestic violence and child abuse.


Known to millions of viewers as Detective Olivia Benson on Law and Order: SVU, TV star Mariska Hargitay has just recently amped up her own “real life” activism with her involvement in the NO MORE campaign. The new campaign raises awareness about domestic violence and sexual assault through celebrity PSAs, social media strategy, and perhaps most importantly, offers resources for survivors.

Although the NO MORE campaign has just launched, Hargitay is no stranger to the world of anti-violence organizing: nearly ten years ago, inspired by her role on SVU, Mariska formed her own organization, the Joyful Heart Foundation, which works to support sexual assault survivors.

And now, without further ado, the Feministing Five with Mariska Hargitay.

Suzanna Bobadilla: Can you describe how your acting career has influenced your anti-gender violence activism? It’s really emotionally tough stuff; what strategies do you use to help you stay engaged in this work?

Mariska Hargitay: When I first did research for my role on SVU, I couldn’t believe the stats I was finding. Then the letters started coming to me from viewers. First a few, then more, then hundreds, and thousands since then. The women and men writing the letters didn’t ask for an autograph or a headshot. They disclosed their stories of abuse. I held in my hands the stories behind the statistics that I had learned. And they just made a very deep impression on me.

So I educated myself about these issues. I trained to become a rape crisis advocate, I joined Boards, I got involved. I was proud to be on a show that was brave enough to go into territory that no one was talking about, but I also knew I wanted to do more and play a larger role to help survivors heal and reclaim their lives.

The Joyful Heart Foundation was my answer, which I started in 2004. We’ve raised more than 14 million dollars in private funds, directly served over 13,000 survivors and the professionals who care for them, and connected with over a million individuals through education and awareness initiatives. We’ve also championed critical legislation and policy reforms to pursue justice for survivors, including the All-Crimes DNA law in New York State, the first of its kind in the country. And we’re at the forefront of the movement to test the hundreds of thousands of untested sexual assault evidence collection kits – known as rape kits – sitting in police storage and crime lab facilities across the country. For more information of the rape kit backlog, go to www.endthebacklog.org.

As far as staying engaged in this work goes, sometimes I find that it actually takes conscious effort to disengage from it. I’ve heard that from a lot of advocates. For example, I find myself always asking about the crime rate whenever I visit a place I haven’t been before. A friend told me once that she was on a family vacation on a beach in Hawaii, and all she could think about was how far away the nearest Level 1 Trauma Center was in case of an emergency. So a big part of being able to stay in this work is having strategies for stepping off the field and taking the time to catch your breath, so that when you step back on the field, you can continue to do your best work.

One tried and true strategy for me is laughter. It’s a cliché, but it really is the best medicine. When I’m cracking up about something, it’s almost like I can feel my brain getting rewired. Another thing that can really shift my thinking is to find my way back to gratitude. I say “find my way back” because it’s really easy to lose sight of the fact that it’s a privilege to do this work. I’m blessed to have the opportunity to be engaged like this, and I feel myself let go a little when I get back in touch with that truth. And lastly, a nice hot bath is high on my list too. Sometimes just a little self care goes a long way. It’s a good way to send a signal to yourself that you also have an important place among the people you’re caring for and about.

SB: What makes NO MORE different from other anti-gender violence campaigns? Can you share partnerships/innovations that make you particularly proud?

MH: For the first time in history, the domestic violence and sexual assault movements are coming together under one symbol and one unifying message: “NO MORE. Together we can end domestic violence and sexual assault.”

The significance of that unity is not to be underestimated. Because these issues have been so underfunded, organizations have had to stand out to receive support, which, by definition, means that they have had to stand alone. But that is going to change. It’s not a coincidence that the first word in the NO MORE declaration is “Together.” It’s great news for those working to end this violence, bad news for perpetrators who will surely experience the power of that unity.

And it isn’t only the movement coming together. NO MORE engages and invites all sectors of society committed to ending this violence. As the collective of people willing to take a stand grows, the weight of these heavy issues, the weight of having these difficult conversations, the weight of bringing enormous social and cultural change, will begin to be more evenly distributed. With more people doing what they can, advocates and survivors will no longer have to shoulder so much of the burden of bringing attention to this cause.

And NO MORE doesn’t aim to compete with the field for funding. Instead, the goal of NO MORE is to lift up the entire movement and push forward its many advocate partners so that they can reap the benefits of greater awareness – and increased funding that will become available as these issues move towards the center of public and institutional concern. And the research that will be done. And the public policies that could change. That’s a real turning point in this movement.

Another remarkable aspect of NO MORE is the top-down, bottom up approach. There are those participating at the highest levels of government, those working to engage more corporate involvement and forge high-level media partnerships and, at the same time, those individual advocates across the country gaining strength from this unified effort. Just to name one example, one friend who works in the Midwest for a domestic violence organization, the only one covering an enormous area, told me she always felt so isolated in her work. She said what’s even more isolating is the conversations – or non-conversations – she has about her line of work. “People just really don’t want to hear about it,” she told me. “But I can’t tell you how empowering it is to be able to point to the NO MORE symbol and know that I’m part of a bigger movement. And I’m so proud to be able to point to it and say, ‘Look at that. That’s what I do. That’s what I stand for.’ It’s a real gift to those of us out in the field.”

On a personal note, directing the NO MORE PSAs was a dream come true. What we saw during the filming, brave and strong and authentic person after person, was people standing up for each other, for the people they love, for their partners, wives, husbands, children, friends, mothers and fathers, for people they’ve never met, for themselves. I was just moved beyond words.

Society still misplaces the shame and stigma on survivors – it’s embedded in the way we think and talk about these issues – and it has to end. A vital goal of NO MORE is to lift that shame and stigma, to liberate the conversation from the attitudes that have suppressed it for so long. Once the conversation begins, the actual depth of people’s concern about sexual assault and domestic violence often comes out. But those same people haven’t had a way to demonstrate publicly that these are issues they think about. That’s where the NO MORE symbol comes in. It’s the simplest, most eloquent way to say, “This matters to me.”

Simply put, NO MORE is a commitment, a vision, a line drawn – and most of all, a call to action. Like the red ribbon for AIDS or the pink ribbon for breast cancer our hope is that NO MORE will break down the barriers that prevent people from talking about the issues and taking action to prevent them. I have to say, I look at how people have shown up for this effort – corporations, artists, marketing and advertising geniuses, volunteers – and it fills me with so much confidence and renewed hope.

SB: What would you say to someone who thinks they might be/have experienced domestic violence and/or sexual assault?

MH: Before I answer more completely, let me say that first and most importantly, if you’re in an emergency situation, always call 911. Emergency situations can include a recent threat of violence, a recent act of violence, or if your safety or someone else’s is in imminent danger.

The next most important point: you’re not alone. The experience of sexual assault and/or domestic violence can be extremely isolating. Some might even say these acts cannot exist without isolation, that perpetrators depend on it. So I would speak against that very clearly and say, emphatically: you’re not alone.

At Joyful Heart, we talk about a society that says, “We hear you. We believe you. And your healing is our priority.” Unfortunately, that’s not society’s central message. Society tends to question, doubt and assign blame. So that’s the next thing I would say: “Tell me what happened. I want to hear.” And then I would listen. Simply listen. Without judgment.

And then I would say to the person how deeply sorry I am for what happened, and I would talk about the resources I think would serve that person best. I always remind myself that I don’t have to be an expert, I just have to care. A lot. If the first organization isn’t the right fit, I’d make sure to stay in the person’s life enough so that I can follow up and try another organization.

So if you think you might have experienced domestic violence and/or a sexual assault, and if there is someone in your life whom you trust and who can listen to you in the way you want to be listened to, that could be a good place to begin. It is often good to talk about options together. If there is no such person – and it’s not your fault that there isn’t, because those people aren’t necessarily easy to come by – or if you feel more comfortable or safer contacting a service, there are many available, including:

National Domestic Violence Hotline: 1-800-799-SAFE (7233) or 1-800-787-3224, www.thehotline.org
Rape, Abuse and Incest National Hotline: 1-800-656-HOPE (4673), www.rainn.org

And when you evaluate what happened to you, when you’re trying to make a judgment about whether something was sexual abuse or domestic violence, trust your inner voice. Survivors often say that there is a voice in them that tries to minimize what happened, a part of them that wants the abuse not to be true. But there is another voice that says: “This is not okay. This could escalate. I’m not being respected here. He just said it won’t happen again, but he said that last time.” And that’s the important voice to listen to in this situation. Sometimes being in danger starts with a subtle shift around respect. Tearing down how you look, how you talk, how you dress, what you think, what you say is not okay, and no one has the right to treat you that way.

No one action step is right for every person – but every person should know that they are supported in their individual choices. And one last time: you’re not alone.

SB: What are ways our readers can support the campaign?

MH: Perpetrators of violence have relied on the fact that the movement to stop them would not come together. They depend on our silence to keep doing what they do. And so we say to them in one collective voice: NO MORE. We will not be silent any longer.

SAY IT. Learn about these issues and talk openly about them. Break the silence. Speak out.

We’re not saying these issues are easy to talk about. They’re not. But for that very reason, we have to talk about them. And the more we talk, the easier the conversation will get.

SHARE IT. Help raise awareness about domestic violence and sexual assault by sharing NO MORE. Share the PSAs. Facebook it. Tweet it. Instagram it. Pin it.

We are examining and challenging longstanding societal and cultural attitudes. Have the courage to examine your own, then let your commitment to NO MORE encourage those around to do the same.

SHOW IT. Show NO MORE by wearing your NO MORE gear everyday, supporting partner groups working to end domestic violence and sexual assault and volunteering in your community.

Visibility will change the landscape for sexual assault and domestic violence. Don’t underestimate the light you can shed on these issues with these simple actions.

SB: And finally, a Feminsting Five tradition: you’re going to a desert island and get to take one food, one drink, and one feminist. What do you pick?

Food would be prosciutto. I know it’s salty and would make me crazy thirsty, but it’s totally worth it. Drink would be coconut water, to stay hydrated after all that prosciutto. And as for one feminist: Gloria Steinem. And we’d read her essay “If Men Could Menstruate” over and over again for entertainment.


Thanks to my good friend Linda for the heads up on this! OK! interviewed Mariska and other celebrities that were part of the No More PSA at the Joy Rocks event. You can watch the video below.

The event: Mariska Hargitay, who stars as Det. Olivia Benson on “Law & Order: Special Victims Unit” and is founder of the Joyful Heart Foundation, hosted a fundraiser on Thursday for the nonprofit — which assists survivors of domestic violence and sexual assault and child abuse — and celebrated the actress’ public service announcements for the No More campaign.

The vibe: The invitations for Joy Rocks read “casual chic,” and Hargitay dressed the part in a bejeweled blouse by Dana Lorenz of the punk-glam jewelry lines Fenton and Fallon, J Brand jeans, an Yves St. Laurent tuxedo jacket and Lanvin shoes. Actor Peter Hermann, Hargitay’s husband and the evening’s emcee, wore a three-piece suit, sans tie. The mood was celebratory, and tables were decorated with bowls of tissue paper confetti, which Hargitay instructed the partygoers to throw in the air. Though the cause is deadly serious, Hargitay, who has testified before Congress on such crucial issues as unblocking the backlog of untested rape kits, had a lighter moment: “It was very eye-opening,” she said of her work so enthusiastically that she quickly acknowledged: “Oh, my God, I just sounded like Christopher Walken.”

Familiar faces: “SVU” alums, big- and small-screen stars, industry figures and Joyful Heart supporters, including actors Chris Meloni, Hilary Swank, Maria Bello, Marcia Gay Harden, Rosanna and Patricia Arquette, Joely Fisher, Christa Miller, Nia Vardalos, Ian Gomez, Orlando Jones, Camryn Manheim, Aubrey Plaza and Kiernan Shipka. Tatooed “Top Chef” brothers Bryan and Michael Voltaggio of the L.A. restaurant Ink auctioned off two private dinners for $75,000.

Also in the house: Photographer Timothy White, Joyful Heart CEO Maile Zambuto, “Law & Order” creator Dick Wolf and former “SVU” producer Neal Baer, who is now executive producer of “Under the Dome,” and Pat Loud, author and original reality TV mom. Samantha Ronson spun the tunes and singer-songwriter Elle King played a short set, accompanying herself on a matte black folk guitar and banjo. (“I’m obsessed with ‘SVU,’ ” said King, “so when I was asked I said yes, yes, yes.”)

The venue: Hollywood’s Milk Studios, where earlier this year first-time director Hargitay created the powerful No More spots with a cast of more than 50 public figures including Amy Poehler, Ice-T, Katie Couric and Tim Gunn.

Quote of note: “Our goal tonight,” said host Peter Hermann, “is to leave you informed, deeply inspired and a little less rich.” Mission accomplished: Joyful Heart raised $700,000.

And a side note: “My mom was a therapist who dealt with a lot of traumatized people,” said supporter Patricia Arquette, after pledging funds to a Joyful Heart program that provides support to caseworkers. “I love the idea of helping to heal the healers.”


Actors and industry leaders gathered alongside actress Mariska Hargitay and the Joyful Heart Foundation at Milk Studios on Thursday night to spread awareness and raise funding to end domestic violence at the actress’ JoyRocks event.

“Our goal is that we would leave you informed, deeply inspired and a little less rich,” host Peter Hermann said as he welcomed hundreds of guests to his wife’s benefit dinner.

The Law and Order: SVU actress, whose season 15 premiere bested its rivals and drew in 9.5 million viewers on Wednesday, welcomed the likes of Hilary Swank, Christopher Meloni, Maria Bello, Marcia Gay Harden, Dick Wolf, Bob Greenblatt, Jennifer Salke and many more to her Joyful Heart Foundation’s benefit dinner and the launch of the “NO MORE” public service announcement.

“Tonight is about brave souls, fearlessness, stepping up, being engaged and no more bystanding. No more. Here’s a room full of courage, and it just inspires the shit out of me. Yeah, I said it,” Hargitay told The Hollywood Reporter about her foundation’s goals: healing, empowering survivors and shedding light.

Joyful Heart Foundation was founded in 2004 by Hargitay, who was inspired by the plethora of thank-you fan mail she received from domestic violence victims and SVU fans who felt connected to her character on the NBC show. The foundation partnered with major organizations to launch the “NO MORE” PSA, a campaign designed to galvanize greater awareness to end domestic violence.

“Any time [actors] can use their voices to raise awareness for something that needs a bright light to shine on it, it’s an honor to be a part of it. Mariska is my best friend, and she has done extraordinary work in creating the Joyful Heart Foundation and now the ‘NO MORE’ PSA,” Swank said. “[Hargitay] is giving [victims] a place to go to heal and to say ‘No more excuses, no more violence, no more ignorance.’ I’m just so proud of her.”

The Milk Studios hangar (where the PSAs were also filmed) displayed banners with varying celebrity faces and the words “NO MORE” preceding commonly used excuses from assault victims. Forty-five actors, including Amy Poehler, Courteney Cox, Tim Gunn and Ice-T, joined the NO MORE campaign to use their star power in spreading awareness of the issue.

“All of these show business people have a name. They are famous, and whatever they say people do. They look up to them and will follow them,” Grimm actress Shohreh Aghdashloo said. “All of these people, the victims, don’t have a voice and don’t have a name. We don’t know their faces. But we know that there are a lot of them.”

Taking effect in September 2013, the three-year campaign will be dispersed nationwide via print, broadcast and online media and displayed in movie theaters, major airports and medical facilities.

The benefit dinner and open auction ended with a vocal performance by singer Elle King and a set from DJ Samantha Ronson, raising $700,000.

“I’m feeling high, I’m feeling invigorated, I’m feeling hopeful, and I know that we can do this,” Hargitay shared with THR. “I’m profoundly grateful to be with like-minded people who are fearless enough to step into their God-given power. Here we are, and we’re going to change the world.”

To find out more about Joyful Heart Foundation and the NO MORE campaign, and to get involved, go to joyfulheartfoundation.org and nomore.org.


You can find over 20 photos of Mariska from the Joy Rocks event in the gallery below.

“Joy Rocks” Photo Booth
September 26, 2013

I uploaded over 50 photos of Mariska attending the Joy Rocks: An Evening to Celebrate the NO MORE PSA Launch at Milk Studios in Los Angeles.

Joy Rocks: An Evening to Celebrate the NO MORE PSA Launch
September 26, 2013

I just uploaded 22 pictures of Mariska at the Bloomingdale’s meet and greet to support the No More campaign. Keep checking back as I’ll be adding more as I find them!

Bloomingdale’s Hosts Joyful Heart Foundation & No More Campaign
September 25, 2013

2013-09-23-ScreenShot20130923at5.05.07PM.pngAfter writing almost a year ago about the need for a major public campaign around sexual violence prevention, I was overjoyed to hear that The Joyful Heart Foundation (headed by Mariska Hargitay of SVU fame) and No More were joining forces to create a nationwide (nationwide!) PSA campaign to address domestic violence and sexual assault. They have designed a three-year campaign that will run in local and national markets including print, broadcast, online and outdoor ads. But there’s more: You’ll also be seeing these PSA videos in movie theaters, major airports and medical facilities. This is no blip on the map — it’s the real deal. It’s actually happening.

More than 40 celebrities and public figures appear in the ads, which are designed specifically to urge bystanders to get involved. Why this approach? A major reason is the findings of the “NO MORE Study” conducted by GfK Public Affairs & Corporate Communications, and funded by the Avon Foundation for Women, which reveal that silence and bystander inaction are what stand in the way of effecting any real change. While this doesn’t come as a surprise, seeing the data in black and white is sobering. According to the report:

  • 60 percent of Americans know a victim of domestic violence or sexual assault.
  • 73 percent of parents with children under the age of 18 said that they have not had a conversation about domestic violence or sexual assault with their children.
  • 67 percent of Americans say they have not talked about domestic violence with their friends, and 73 percent have not discussed sexual assault.
  • 80 percent believe domestic violence is a problem in our society, but only 15 percent think it is a problem among their friends.
  • 75 percent of Americans say they would step in and help if they saw even a stranger being abused, but in reality, most people do not help.

Clearly, the general public isn’t talking much about this issue. One reason for this is that the reporting on domestic violence and sexual assault is usually episodic, meaning we periodically hear about dramatic “newsworthy” incidents like the Steubenville and Vanderbilt University cases without much discussion of the greater societal reasons these things keep happening. In response to individual incidents, we easily revert to comforting, self-protective (and often victim-blaming) thoughts like, “I would never have let that happen to me,” or, “I would never let anybody treat me or anybody else like that,” or, “if I had been there, I would never have let that happen.”

As the research findings above indicate, we still have a long way to go before our silent/inactive reality catches up to our swoop-in-and-do-something intentions. Campaigns focused on bystander intervention are crucial, as they break this pattern by helping us move away from an individual framework that fosters victim-blaming, to a community framework that fosters connection and intervention.

Here are some examples of the excuses for inaction that the No More campaign highlights:

NO MORE: “He comes from such a good family.”
NO MORE: “She was flirting with him.”
NO MORE: “It’s none of my business.”
NO MORE: “Why didn’t she tell anyone?”
NO MORE: “She seems fine to me.”
NO MORE: “I’m sure they will work it out.”
NO MORE: “Boys will be boys.”
NO MORE: “Well, what was she wearing?”
NO MORE: “Hey, he said he was sorry.”
NO MORE: “But he goes to my church.”
NO MORE: “Well, he was drunk.”
NO MORE: “She was asking for it.”
NO MORE: “But he’s such a nice guy.”
NO MORE: “It’s just a misunderstanding.”
NO MORE: “She’s too smart to let that happen.”
NO MORE: “Why doesn’t she just leave?”
NO MORE: “She was drunk.”

Hearing these messages said out loud in the TV commercials by both male and female celebrities gives me goosebumps.

I still have a lot of burning questions about this campaign, which I hope will be answered as the launch progresses over the next few days. I wonder what the reasoning is behind using the phrase, “no more bystanding” instead of, “no more standing by.” I have only ever heard, “bystanding,” used in a positive light, so this sounds a little strange to my ears. I would love to know more about the process, and what other words and messages the team considered and discarded as they carefully crafted this campaign. I’m also curious about distribution: What magazines will be carrying the print ads? Will any major TV networks will be running the No More commercials during the highly-anticipated season premieres happening over the next few weeks? Will there be ads on Hulu to reach the huge audience who now consume their TV shows exclusively online? What about radio ads? This campaign seems like it would translate perfectly into radio ads, and I would love nothing more than to hear my Pandora stream interrupted by these messages.

Lastly, I’m curious to know what the evaluation process will look like. It’s not an easy task to determine whether a PSA campaign is effective, and it very much depends on what you are trying to measure. Since so much domestic and sexual violence goes unreported, it’s very likely that this campaign could cause an uptick in reports instead of a decrease, as some might expect. It’s possible that the metrics for success will focus on whether peoples’ answers to the “No More” Study survey questions start shifting to reflect an increase in bystander behaviors.

But aside from all the burning questions, I’m just really, really happy this is happening.

[Side Note: I can’t stop thinking about this possibility: It has recently been reported that so many advertisers have pulled out of Rush Limbaugh’s radio show that only PSA ads are left to fill the ad space. Maybe if this campaign creates a radio ad, it will choose to stay away from that show entirely (I wouldn’t blame them) but imagine the glory of hearing Rush Limbaugh’s misogynistic ranting broken up periodically by messages of strength and solidarity against sexual and domestic violence.]


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