Mariska Hargitay Advocates for Sexual Assault Survivors During DNC Speech

Mariska Hargitay speaks at DNC
Handout/DNCC via Getty Images

Mariska Hargitay is supporting sexual assault survivors onscreen and off. The 56-year-old Law and Order: SVU star gave an impassioned speech during the 2020 Democratic National Convention on Wednesday, in which she explained why her work supporting survivors influenced her decision to endorse Joe Biden in the presidential election.

"When I started doing research to play Detective Olivia Benson on Law and Order: SVU over 20 years ago, I was shocked to find out how many people, including children, experience physical or sexual abuse," Hargitay said of her detective character, who investigates crimes of a sexual nature. "The statistics fueled my resolve and I committed myself to the movement to end this violence."

"I created the Joyful Heart Foundation to help survivors heal, and to change the way our society responds to sexual violence," she continued. "The Vice President has worked tirelessly by our side to end the backlog of hundreds of thousands of untested rape kits. And our work will continue because testing kits not only make our country safer, but it sends a vital message to survivors that what happened to them matters."

Hargitay concluded her remarks by citing her children with husband Peter Hermann -- August, 14, Amaya, 9, and Andrew, 8 -- as her reason for voting for Biden.

"I'm voting for Joe Biden for my daughter, for my sons, for all of our children," she said.

Hargitay has long supported Biden thanks in large part to the Violence Against Women Act, a bill that the 77-year-old politician co-sponsored in 1994 and one that the actress has campaigned for. 

The support goes both ways, as the former vice president appeared in a season 18 episode of SVU as himself, in which he spoke about the backlog of untested rape kits.

"When SVU started, a significant number of police departments didn’t have sexual violence units in their departments. It began to change the whole culture of policing. It’s not the only reason, but it was really important,"  Biden told the press ahead of his appearance. "When I came out publicly and said you should be able to marry who you love, I had no doubt that the public was already there because of Will & Grace and a number of other programs. Entertainment changes culture. Responsible entertainment can have a phenomenal, positive impact. SVU is one of those programs."

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