(Gray News/TMX) – “Law & Order: SVU” star Mariska Hargitay revealed in a powerful essay for People magazine that she was raped in her 30s.
The Emmy winner, who plays a cop dedicated to getting justice for victims of rape and sexual assault, got candid about her own experience in the essay, saying the man who raped her “was a friend. Then he wasn’t.”
“I tried all the ways I knew to get out of it. I tried to make jokes, to be charming, to set a boundary, to reason, to say no. He grabbed me by the arms and held me down. I was terrified,” Hargitay wrote.
Hargitay, 59, said it was so difficult to process what had happened that she “cut it out,” saying she did what she had to do to survive.
“I now have so much empathy for the part of me that made that choice because that part got me through it. It never happened,” she wrote.
She wrote about minimizing the experience when she shared it with those close to her, who in turn helped her understand the gravity of what she went through.
“They were gentle and kind and careful, but their naming it was important. It wasn’t a confrontation, like ‘You need to deal with what happened,’ it was like looking at it in the light of day,” she said. “Then I had my own realization. My own reckoning.”
Hargitay created the Joyful Heart Foundation in 2004 to “help survivors of abuse and sexual violence heal.”
“I was building Joyful Heart on the outside so I could do the work on the inside. I think I also needed to see what healing could look like,” she said.
Hargitay also reflected on how portraying Olivia Benson on “SVU” helped her. She said survivors of sexual assault have told her how the show has helped them and “given them strength.” Hargitay said they were the ones who really were “a source of strength” to her.
“They’ve experienced darkness and cruelty, an utter disregard for another human being, and they’ve done what they needed to survive. For some, that means making Olivia Benson a big part of their lives — which is an honor beyond measure—for others, it means building a foundation,” she wrote.
Hargitay said she used to hope for a shift in attitudes, so that survivors of sexual violence might be “celebrated,” like those who’ve survived cancer, rather than shamed. Now, she has “renewed determination” to end the violence that only exists “because power structures are in place that allow it to happen.”
“This is a painful part of my story,” she wrote. “I’m turning 60, and I’m so deeply grateful for where I am. I’m renewed and I’m flooded with compassion for all of us who have suffered.”
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