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‘SVU’ star Mariska Hargitay exemplifies the potential of celebrity advocacy

Graphic by Audrey Garcia

Mariska Hargitay, known for her role as Capt. Olivia Benson in “Law & Order: SVU,” had the honor of lighting the Empire State Building on April 5.

When Hargitay began working on “SVU” in 1999, she was shocked by the statistics of sexual assaults in America. This influenced her decision to partner with the Joyful Heart Foundation in 2004. With it, she continued Capt. Benson’s endeavors in the real world.

Hargitay has worked on multiple sexual assault campaigns, raising money and using her platform to voice important concerns. This includes the fight to end the rape kit backlog and passing critical legislation for survivors. All with the ferocity and emotion she displays as Capt. Benson.

That’s just it. 

She embodies a strong woman fighting to make the world a better place for women and victims of sexual assault, on and off-screen.

The opportunity to light the Empire State Building wasn’t for the 25th anniversary of “SVU,” but in cooperation with the Joyful Heart Foundation in honor of Sexual Assault Awareness Month. 

Each April, individuals and organizations work to increase awareness and prevention of sexual abuse, harassment and violence. What better way to shine a light on it, literally, than with Hargitay?

In the current landscape, celebrities are frequently accused of sex crimes. Most recently, Homeland Security raided Sean “Diddy” Combs’ home as part of an ongoing sex trafficking investigation.

Combs is facing six lawsuits of alleged trafficking, sexual abuse and physical violence. This is just another cog in the “celebrities using their fame and power dynamic to abuse or manipulate others” machine.

This can happen in any field but seems oddly common in media industries, where those in power use their position to harm others. Combs, Conor McGregor, Dream, Jamie Foxx and dozens of others harbor similar allegations.

Hargitay is setting a great example as someone who has worked against sexual violence for decades.

In this case, maybe you don’t need to separate the art from the artist. You don’t need to worry about telling people you like her. You can be a loud and proud Hargitay fan.

Hearing Hargitay at the lighting was a great reminder of her motivations and that celebrities can and should use their platforms to make a difference. You can watch the entire ceremony, including her incredibly moving speech, here, and then kickback and watch some “SVU.”

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