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When Mariska Hargitay landed the role of Detective Olivia Benson on “Law & Order: Special Victims Unit,” she had no idea that it would turn her into an activist for victims of sexual assault, domestic violence, and child abuse. But in 2017, almost two decades after the long-running show began, she’s helped spearhead a mission to eliminate the rape-kit backlog in the U.S. — and has produced a documentary with HBO and her former SVU coworker Trish Adlesic called “I Am Evidence” that helps bring the issue to light.
After the post-Thanksgiving shopping days of Black Friday and Cyber Monday comes Giving Tuesday, which kicks off the season of charitable giving.
As The New York Times continues its Neediest Cases Fund campaign, we reached out to some prominent New Yorkers to ask them to name an organization to which they devote their resources.
For Mariska Hargitay, playing Olivia Benson on Law & Order: SVU is more than just a job, it's a calling.
"Every day I get on my knees and thank God for this opportunity. It's not lost on me that God gave me this opportunity, this platform to speak about these issues. I really feel like it was a calling, it's not an accident I came on this show," Hargitay told E! News at The Joyful Heart Foundation gala. "I always wanted to be on service, but it's hard. You say, ‘What do I do? How do I be of service?' and this was an opportunity."
If you were to watch almost any episode of “Law and Order: Special Victims Unit,” it’s likely that some form of sexual assault would take place, the victim would be given a rape kit at the hospital, and the dedicated detectives investigating would send the kit off to be tested for DNA evidence.
After 18 years of starring in Law & Order: SVU, Mariska Hargitay is taking on sexual assault offscreen.
The star of NBC’s long-running procedural series is a producer of I Am Evidence, a new documentary highlighting the hundreds of thousands of untested rape kits in the United States. The dormant status of these kits, some of which have been left in police evidence storage rooms for decades, mirrors the pattern of how the criminal justice system has historically treated sexual assault victims. Meanwhile, perpetrators are never held accountable for their crimes.